Mediation, Global Development, and Community Dialogue. Member Spotlight: Chantelle Doerksen

Chantelle Doerksen works on the Policy Development Support Team at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the organization which coordinates the Internet’s system of unique identifiers. She is interested in international relations and community-based peacebuilding and ensures that she creates equitable environments for dialogue in her work. She sees equity as vital to the process of conversation and feels that mediation is an important next step in fostering a more peaceful world.

International Education

Chantelle’s interests have always been in the field of international relations. At a young age, she and her family moved to the US and to different parts across the country while she was growing up, meaning she was often the newest student in school. Because of this, she noticed that it was typically easiest to make friends with other new students who were just as eager for connection. Many times, these new students were also immigrants. “As a child, there was this natural curiosity to get to know others because I wanted to make friends and this allowed me to experience other cultures early on—including the chance to try different foods,” Chantelle says. This early experience sparked her study of other cultures and led her to study international relations at university. During this time, she participated in a diplomacy seminar and spent time with former US Ambassador Genta Holmes (who had received five presidential appointments).

The experience affirmed her desire to one day work in diplomacy. Holmes earned Chantelle’s admiration and provided her with a role model in her preferred line of work. “On our first day of class, she asked us to introduce ourselves and say what our plans were for after graduation.  Some students said to go to law school or to pursue their MBA. I replied that I was thinking of joining the Peace Corps. Holmes stopped and replied, ‘you know, some of the best diplomats I’ve ever worked with were former Peace Corps volunteers.’ At that moment, something clicked in my mind in terms of a career path.” After graduation, Chantelle joined the U.S. Peace Corps and spent nearly three years in Paraguay working with community leaders on various community projects. This included a seven-month extension with Plan International, an international non-profit that works with various communities around the world. She saw how donors’ funds were managed for local initiatives in health and community development projects. She began reflecting on sustainability, how international projects are carried out, and how international funds are allocated at the local level. The importance of considering local needs when creating frameworks for sustainable international and community development became more apparent than ever.

Journey into Mediation

Her time in Paraguay inspired Chantelle to apply for scholarships to pursue a Master’s degree in Spanish and remain in South America to build on her experience working with women and local communities. She ultimately received an offer from the Rotary International Peace Fellowship that led her to a different part of the world: Australia. Chantelle was accepted to the Rotary Peace Center at the University of Queensland (Australia), which had a strong emphasis on mediation. While in Australia, Chantelle and her colleagues used their mediation skills to facilitate dialogue between immigrants, refugees, local police liaisons, and other members of the community. The aim of these conversations was to foster mutual understanding and unity at a community level. She applied this training during her field experience with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s regional office for the Pacific (Fiji), where she looked at the role of women in decision-making structures and community governance. 

When Chantelle returned to the United States, local Rotarians introduced her to MBBI. She began working with MBBI’s Rotary Working Group as a Peace Synergist and later as chair of the MBBI Los Angeles chapter. Her experience included facilitating dialogues between minority groups and police officers in communities north of Los Angeles. This type of work is incredibly important in creating a cohesive community that embraces immigrants, who “often come to a new country and realize they may still have to face people who seem threatened by their presence because of cultural or religious differences. We collaborated with communities to hold dialogues to help them build relationships and identify community resources together with the police. The aim with these dialogues was to build relationships where they would see the police as a partner, rather than as a force to be feared.”

Mediation, Global Development, and Community Dialogue

Chantelle is interested in what culturally- and locally-specific work can be done before a conflict escalates so that mediation in a post-conflict environment will already have mechanisms in place to reach consensus. She sees MBBI’s skilled facilitators as valuable resources in this process. This involves ensuring that all parties’ needs are taken care of, down to even minute details such as logistical considerations. Doing this, she explains, helps shift the environment from one of suspicion to one where participants can feel secure and have their needs met. “If we even take a step back, what are we doing to make sure the basic needs are met so that mediators might help facilitate a framework for disagreements to be sorted out rather than through conflict? I was interested in how do you create systems and frameworks, and I realized that it’s sometimes a lot of little details that aren’t very glamorous,” she says.

To this end, Chantelle thinks a lot about creating frameworks and facilitation processes that are equitable for all parties, including down ensuring availability, such as the timing of meetings across time zones. Taking care of these concerns is increasingly important in our interconnected world, as we rely on technologies to connect. There are also trends for groups of people to become more closed to different opinions in order to find a sense of community amid globalization. Though this has made us “better at not making these blank assumptions about other parts of the world,” it also necessitates the need for community-based and inter-community dialogue. As this becomes more important, Chantelle sees mediation as becoming an integral piece of ensuring the cohesion of both local and international communities. 

Article by Tess Hargarten, MBBI Writer