I work with the knowledge that collaborating in a group setting is hardly ever a smooth process, free of conflict. Add to the mix cultural differences, uncharted territory for all of the people involved, and demanding personal lives, conflict is sure to rear its head. The women’s group in El Pital is no exception to this. As the women in the group become more involved and their one year plan is becoming solid, problems have begun to arise that I am at times unsure how to navigate. Some members of the group feel that they have carrying the bulk of the work load because others, as others in important roles have slowly but surely stopped attending meetings and sharing the responsibilities that come with being a part of a cooperative. To me this is normal, to be expected, the difficult part is working to get everyone back on the same page again. After lengthy conversations with many of the members, I have observed that a large part of the problem is cyclical. As members pull away from the group, tension arises and is openly spoken about throughout the women. This in turn makes the people who have been pulling away for various reasons feel judged and unsupported so they continue to be distant from the group.
To remedy this situation, I am going to facilitate and tried and true conflict resolution workshop meant to target the underlying tensions in groups, discuss the feelings openly, constructively find a solution as well as create a system for dealing with conflict in the future. The hope is that this will not only get everyone back on the same page but also teach useful skills in how to deal with problems that often come up in groups. To my great pleasure, most everyone in the women’s group is extremely open to having this workshop and breed acceptance as well forgiveness. In October I need to go back to the States for a couple of months and these new skills will become more important without a mediator present. This morning I had a conversation with the President about my leaving for a couple of months and she was more than supportive and helpful. It was reassuring to hear that spark of passion and motivation from her. This group of women and friends never ceases to teach and inspire me.