Session 4: Attending to Power Differences as Liberation for All

Thursday, December 21st

The prevalence of conflict is a symptom of the degree of separation that has been normalized in most human societies to the point where it appears as if this is our true nature. In this session we plan to focus on what we can do, when facilitating conflict processes, to counter the separation that exists beyond the individual level and is built into how our societies function at the systemic level, where all patriarchal societies include group divisions. The initial divisions at the onset of patriarchy were between men and women, between adults and children, and between those who control access to resources and those who do not. Over time, additional divisions arose and continue to plague us, pitting people against each other in relation to race, language, religion, culture, and whatever other dimensions may exist in any given geographic location. Such divisions shape and constrain almost all relationships and are present in most conflicts. Engaging with conflict as if it’s only an interpersonal event without seeing the impact of power differences often leads to solutions that are at cost to those with less power and sometimes can prevent solutions from arising in the first place. Instead, we can integrate these insights into our understanding of how conflict functions and how power differences also shape conflict processes. This can support us in being able to offer pathways towards liberation for all that otherwise may remain hidden.

This session covers a vast territory that we can only touch on as we begin to explore difficult questions such as:

  • How can we maintain trust all around while still questioning and destabilizing norms of facilitation that invisibly benefit those with more power? 
  • How can we support expanding the range of "allowed" expression and bridging gaps of access? 
  • How can we bring a systemic lens into the conversation when likely some people may not see it? 
  • How can we support everyone to bring forth the fullness of information that is needed to address the conflict when systemic barriers may exist? 
  • In what ways does understanding of cultural differences support us to bring people together? 
  • What can we do so that our questions bring about connection rather than defensiveness from everyone?