Networking in the Field of Conflict Resolution by Paul Wahrhaftig
A giant in the field of conflict resolution, Paul Wahrhaftig has finished a new book entitled “Networking in the Field of Conflict Resolution” and has offered MBBI the opportunity to showcase and sell his book at a discounted rate to MBBI’s global network. Furthermore, a longtime supporter and friend of Paul Wahrhaftig’s and member of MBBI, Martha Harty, wrote the foreword to his book below. Beneath the foreword are the first 15 pages of this book and if intersted in purchasing the PDF version of the full book, here is the link.
My good friend Paul Wahrhaftig is one of the most respected elders in the field of conflict resolution and peacemaking, yet this book represents a perspective on “networking” that will be completely new to many readers. Paul’s long career coincided with the birth and growth of the field, and this is no coincidence since he helped very much to build it. More detail about the growth of the field may be found in Wahrhaftig, Community Dispute Resolution (2004). How he did this is the story recounted here, and it contains many valuable lessons for readers who aspire to understand and change their professions, societies, or world.
Google results for searches related to “networking” even with search terms such as “building the field,” go on for pages before diverging from the central point, one that we have heard a million times: Networking is good for your career! Who, how, when and where to do it, top ten tips—so many articles urge us to chat with strangers to see how they can help us get ahead.
While Paul chatted up a lot of strangers, it was not about his own needs or trajectory. It was always about how that stranger was working for peace in their particular difficult context, how he could help them, and with whom he could connect them to further their work. He did often ask them to write up their work for his newsletter, but this request was also for the benefit of the writer and the reader rather than some aspiration of Paul’s.
This is a case study in how “networking” can be used for altruistic, even idealistic purposes as well as individual career advancement. A person can decide to help build a field intentionally through working to increase the quality and quantity of connections among network nodes—that is, among people toiling in the field, perhaps feeling isolated and lonely. The person can crisscross countries, continents and oceans, compile lists (‘databases’) knock on doors, and drink coffee with hundreds of strangers, turning them into friends, colleagues and better practitioners.
This book is packed with stories, examples, and invaluable lessons about how to deploy the tools of the network builder. One such lesson concerns the importance of being perceived as ‘non-aligned,’ for example, when people from very different cultural backgrounds are trying to put on a first-ever event.
Another mission-critical lesson Paul illustrates is the need to let go of any preconceived norms about who is important or where or how they are working. He found the peacemakers in all kinds of places, watched them bond in unlikely ways (shopping!, road trips!), and learned that components he considered necessary for success were not.
I discovered the field of conflict resolution in the late 80’s, and Paul was one of the first mediators I got to know (he was good at that). I am grateful he befriended and mentored me from the beginning of my career. It was thanks to him that I presented at the fourth National Conference on Peacemaking and Conflict Resolution (NCPCR) in Montreal in 1989 and the second European Conference on Peacemaking and Conflict Resolution in San Sebastian, Spain in 1994. (Both are discussed in this book.) Through these experiences I met mediators from all over the country and the world. Paul was the reason I co-chaired the 1997 NCPCR in Pittsburgh, which was the learning experience of a lifetime. He taught me about the practicalities of divorce and family mediation, published my articles in his newsletter when there were few outlets for them, and later invited me to join the board of his organization, the Conflict Resolution International.
I owe many of the highlights of my career to Paul. I am pleased and honored to introduce his latest work to you. I hope it will open your eyes to an extraordinary individual who has had a huge impact on the world’s capacity for peacemaking, a capacity we all need now more than ever.