Dearest friends and colleagues,
These past few months have held so much pain, loss, and heartache; and at the same time, unmistakable moments of tenderness, hope, and progress. These moments have brought home, once again, how inextricably interconnected we are—how our individual choices have a direct impact on the health and wellbeing of others. As we reckon with the catastrophic effects of the ongoing global health crisis of COVID-19 and the deeply rooted structural racism and white supremacy culture that permeate our society, we face a moment in which we are all needed. We are each called to show up, with all our gifts and limitations, and play our part.
In hospitals, in courtrooms, classrooms, communities, online, or our homes, there is work to be done. Some of us may be writing, others may be reading. Some may be standing up in the streets, others may be engaging tough conversations around the dinner table. Some may be volunteering, others may be working in the field. Some may be organizing, others may be donating. For some, self-care may be the best contribution to our collective wellbeing.
For those of us who work with conflict, our skills are in desperate demand. How do we help rethink dispute systems that can rise to the complexities of this moment? How can we bring people together in a way that honors their experiences and narratives and helps us to see each other with richness and complexity? How can we use our expertise in negotiation strategy to support movements for change? How do we avoid perpetuating the deep inequality that is embedded in our systems of power? We at the Harvard Negotiation & Mediation Clinical Program have been reflecting on these questions, alongside and inspired by all of you. We are working to stay open to the pain that accompanies growth and learning, and to continue to improve.
As we face these questions, we have never been more grateful for this community, and for each of you. When we faced the transition to online teaching, you immediately stepped forward with webinars and guidance. When we wrestled with the effects of the pandemic and how to step up, you offered brainstorming calls, and blog posts. When we wondered how to do more to engage and raise questions of structural racism more effectively in our courses, you offered resources, syllabi, and suggestions. In moments in which we’ve been working to keep distance from each other, I have never felt more connected or less alone. Though the road ahead is long and rough, we look forward to traveling it with you.
Please read on to learn what we’ve been up to this spring.
Director, Harvard Negotiation & Mediation Clinical Program
Spring 2020 News from HNMCP
In the midst of jarring changes on campus and in the world more broadly this spring, the Dispute Systems Design Clinic completed five meaningful and impactful projects. From assessing a university’s ombuds program, to evaluating a mediation program for domestic violence cases, to helping assess the effectiveness of remote mediation methods (an even more live and urgent inquiry than we had expected), our students worked across sectors and subject matters—and, for the second half of the semester, entirely remotely. Read about our spring projects here:
- Center for Conflict Resolution
- New Hampshire Judicial Branch
- Office of Special Counsel
- University of Cincinnati Ombuds Office
- Waukegan CUSD 650
We always love to spotlight our amazing students and this time around we’re shining the light on Sydnee Robinson ‘20. In a wide-ranging and powerful interview, Sydnee reflects on her experiences as a student in the Dispute Systems Design Clinic this spring and a board member on the Harvard Negotiation Law Review; how she is merging her interests in ADR, intersectionality, and city governance; and what inspires her to take on the “impossible.”
Ordinarily at the end of May, we have the chance to celebrate our soon-to-be graduates in person at the annual HNMCP graduation party. But this year, with graduation transformed into the University’s first remote Commencement ceremony in its history, our team instead recorded our wishes for the Clinic’s graduating students. View our tribute to this amazing class at the bottom of this letter.
Before the University closed its campus and our team started working from home, we enjoyed being surrounded by the winning entries of the most recent HNMCP Art Contest. You can explore these inspiring and thoughtful works and artists here.
We also encourage you to check out our blog, which this spring has explored a range of challenging questions around how the pandemic has and will impact dispute resolution and engagement across differences. We’re already hard at work on more new content!
Members of our team have been active in the ADR community outside of Harvard this winter and spring, attending conferences and events both in person and virtually. This past February, Harvard Negotiation & Mediation Clinical Program Director Prof. Rachel Viscomi participated in the “Experimental ADR Conference,” organized by University of Oregon School of Law’s Prof. Jennifer Reynolds in Portland. Prof. Viscomi also contributed to the online Theory of Change Symposium organized by the Indisputably blog, publishing “Engaging Deep Differences Online,” a vision for how online communication can facilitate connections between people who hold very different views. Also in February, Assistant Director and Clinical Instructor Sara del Nido Budish participated as a panelist on the “Leading Negotiations” panel of the 29th annual Dynamic Women in Business Conference, hosted by the Women’s Student Association at Harvard Business School. And most recently, in April, Clinical Instructor Neil McGaraghan served on a panel titled “Virtual tools: Inspiration for addressing division in your community” at this year’s online ABA Section of Dispute Resolution Conference. Read more about all of these events here.
Hosts of HNMCP’s podcast Thanks for Listening, Neil McGaraghan and Sara del Nido Budish continue their journey around the country, visiting people and organizations who are working to bridge political divides. In Episode 5 they speak with two participants in Hands Across the Hills, a program bringing together residents of Letcher County, KY, and Leverett, MA, after the 2016 election. Episode 6 features our incredible colleagues at the Divided Community Project, who work to proactively to build strong relationships before a crisis erupts in a community. Episode 7 examines the role social media plays in exacerbating divides, and how one site has created a safe and constructive space for kids to express themselves and connect. And most recently Episode 8 focuses on the challenges, and the powerful impact, of coalition building The work of all our guests to connect across differences feels more urgent than ever. You can find all of the episodes wherever you find podcasts and on our website. We’d love to hear your feedback!
We close with a picture that offers a fun and vivid reminder of the close connections between our current students, alums, and staff! This spring semester’s project with the New Hampshire Judicial Branch was our sixth with this client, and in this photo, Clinic students Sam Feigenbaum ’20 (top left) and Jessica Ljustina ’21 (second row left) are shown in their final Zoom call for their project with their client liaisons at the New Hampshire Judicial Branch‘s Office of Mediation and Arbitration—former HNMCP Clinical Instructor Heather Kulp (bottom) and former HNMCP student, Margaret Huang ‘19 (second row right). During her time in the Clinic, Margaret worked on our third project with the New Hampshire Judicial Branch, with the Office of Mediation and Arbitration. What a wonderful full circle moment for HNMCP!
We welcome your news and updates—we love to hear from you, and wish you good health and well-being in the coming months.