“To bring people together with good will” is the simple framework in which Maxim Schrogin conducts his work as a community organizer and mediator in Berkeley, California.
After studying architecture at UC Berkeley, Maxim spent the majority of his career working in architectural design, construction management, and real estate. Today, he channels lessons from these ventures, along with his natural enthusiasm for interacting with people, to help forge common ground among diverse individuals and community groups. Maxim has served as a board member of the Jewish Community Center and as Chairman for Berkeley Organized Congregations for Action. He is currently Chair of the Peace Committee for Berkeley Rotary and a member of MBBI.
After earning his Master of Architecture in 1974, Maxim held numerous roles in architectural design and construction management where he learned how to run a successful business. With fifteen years under his belt, he started his own companies as a general contractor in design-build and as a residential real estate investor and syndicator, which required him to spend a significant amount of time traveling to other states. “The business world is mostly about relating to people; I found that the more straightforward and open I was with the people I worked with, the better my results were,” Maxim commented.
Additionally, regarding his travels, he said, “I have always been a person who draws energy from human connection, and I enjoyed having the opportunity to work with and learn from people whose cultural normals and world views differ from my own.” Although unplanned, these personal exchanges informed Maxim’s understanding of conflict dynamics throughout the United States as well as his approaches to community organizing and mediation in Berkeley.
Mediation and Community Organizing
After volunteering as an organizer with a faith-based community group in the Bay Area, Maxim found his way to Berkeley Rotary. Their core mission of “service above self,” as well as the methods in which members were conducting their work as “people of action,” resonated with him and moved him to take on the responsibility of becoming Chair of the Peace Committee. Through this participation, Maxim was connected to MBBI by a fellow Californian and long-time MBBI member, Steve Goldsmith. “Eventually, I knew I wanted to learn more about mediation, so I took some courses and fell in love with the method,” Maxim said.
There are many organizations today that are trying to promote peacebuilding. “It is an uphill battle, and I am a little cynical about using the word ‘peace.’ However, my idea of peace is the way MBBI does it.” He asserts that community organizing and mediation go hand-in-hand, since “both allow for communication across difference,” which is productive in itself. To this end, Maxim has recently made it his prerogative to help the Rotary become known as “the place you go in order to make peace.”
Conflict Can Be Productive
While there is a slew of world conflicts that demand serious attention, Maxim thinks that, as a citizen of the United States, it is important to “look at ourselves and work to restore democracy.” He is particularly interested in helping mediate concrete discussions and problem-solving for local issues. “Conflict can be productive as long as it is handled in a productive way,” he said in closing. Conflict transformation is an important way forward towards a more peaceful world.
Article by Juliana Heffern, MBBI Writer