December 7, 2018

Seasonal ConRes Shopping Thoughts

firefightersEKG braceletIt’s that time of year again – the time when gift lists abound. You’ll see lists of ideas for teachers, doctors, or firefighters, for 40-something women, hipsters, and wine/beer/coffee/fill-in-the-blank aficionados… But there are very few lists focused on conflict resolution.

And so, once again, I’m inspired to make a few suggestions for both the conflict resolution professionals in your life and for conflict resolution professionals to offer as gifts to others.

Temporary Tattoos

Motivational tattoosPerhaps it’s the nature of selective social media feeds, but I’ve been seeing more and more research on the mental health benefits of temporary tattoos! Permanent tattoos have been described as a form of art therapy: they might affirm survival of  traumatic experiences, honour loved ones, help to connect with others and de-stigmatize mental health concerns. It turns out that temporary tattoos can serve these purposes, too. Research explores the use of temporary tattoos in treating teen self-injury, as signals to loved ones that a little extra TLC might be needed, and their potential as medical monitors. Imagine temporary tattoos (and similar products, like unicorn bandaids) as mood signals or mood changers in conflict. How would you use them?

Mood Indicators


In a similar vein, I came across The Daily Mood flipbook last year while browsing my local bookstore. My family received a clear indication on entering my home office to expect “snarky”, “antisocial”, or just as challenging “fabulous” responses. I am now imagining its possibilities in working with clients individually and in groups: no need to verbalize feelings with a tool that makes it easy to signal current states. And, of course, signalling has the benefit of requiring self-assessments amongst participants. While I might choose “snarky” intending to give myself permission to be rude, posting it forces me to be conscious that I may be the cause of some tension if someone else is “misunderstood”.

Mood ringsThinking about the flipbook leads me to query whether there is untapped potential for old trend products like mood rings, mood nail polish, or mood make-ups? Anything that opens up a conversation about mood offers a chance to prevent or manage conflict. Perhaps something to add to some team-building toolkits? Our GISH team* might just be getting mood rings to test out…

(* GISH = Greatest International Scavenger Hunt. Team Brown(Trench)Coats is team made up a high proportion of conflict resolution professionals who all insist it’s an amazing way to practice ALL of the skills! NOTE: We were runners up for the first time this year, so gifts might just be in order.)

Collaborative Games

It will be no surprise to anyone who knows me or reads this blog from time to time that I’m a huge advocate of collaborative games. Finding ways to compete together rather than exclusively viewing competition as win/lose offers an opportunity to shift our unconscious biases. We learn through games like Monopoly (the game that leads to the most fights and even launched a holiday mediation helpline!) that the thrill of winning comes only through defeating others, rather than succeeding in a common task (e.g. creating the perfect fireworks show) or battling against a common enemy (e.g. an epidemic or the zombie apocalypse).

Zombie 1Rather than spending holiday time calling mediation hotlines to resolve disputes created by family game play, let’s consider playing something that helps families enjoy a team win – and maybe just instil a lesson about collaborative approaches to problem solving.

A few possibilities:

  • Zombie Fight or Flight (Yes, the game we developed at a CoRe Jolts Game Jam in 2016. Designed by conflict resolution professionals specifically to meet the need for quick play collaborative games in families, with school and work groups, and other settings where it might just be helpful to practice working together.)
  • Spirit Island is on my wish list this year. Collaborative play to block invaders/settlers from colonizing the island is something I need to test out.
  • Hanabi. There’s always a time when a silent game is especially desirable, and this silent, cooperative card game is easy to learn and a great prompt for discussions of communication styles.


Enjoy the holiday season!

For more ideas, see these previous posts:

September 4, 2018

Join CoRe and Mediate BC at the Vancouver Fringe Festival!

For several years, I’ve encouraged conflict resolution professionals to seek opportunities to view live theatre, and to engage in reflection on the conflict resolution elements these shows offer. In particular, Fringe Festivals offer an incredible opportunity to see new theatre and hear new voices inexpensively. This year, I’ve taken on a new role with the Vancouver Fringe Festival – president of the Board of Directors – and so am enthusiastically encouraging friends and colleagues to join me at the Festival!

The Vancouver Fringe runs September 6 – 16 at venues on Granville Island and in East Vancouver. With 99 shows to choose from, there really is something for everyone: but it can be tough to choose! For that reason, I’m encouraging as many conflict resolution professionals as possible to join me for one specific show that I expect to be of broad interest:

Rocko and Nakota: Tales from the Land

Saturday, September 8th, 3:00 pm. at the Waterfront Theatre, Granville Island

ConRes folx who come out that day are invited to join me for drinks and debrief at the Vancouver Fish Company following the show.

Why Rocko and Nakota?

One of the great strengths of live theatre is its ability to offer a glimpse into others’ perspectives – something that, of course, can increase empathy, and may well increase understanding. Similarly, live theatre offers us the opportunity to experience storytelling traditions outside the oddly linear and adversarial storytelling tradition that often develops in a mediation or litigation practice.

Josh-Languedoc-presents-Rocko-and-Nakota-at-the-Victoria-Fringe Written and performed by Josh Languedoc, Rocko and Nakota has been described as bringing Anishinaabe stories to life “with respect and passion”. Languedoc describes his show as “ideal for anyone who has battled with their own health or cultural identity, or anyone interested in indigenous issues”*. During its run at the Winnipeg Fringe in June, Francis Concan of the Winnipeg Free Press wrote: For those who are intimidated by theatre that doesn’t centre on whiteness, here is a moving show that invites you to learn more about Indigenous culture and storytelling

What else should I see?

When you buy one ticket ($15) to a Fringe show, you’ll also buy a membership (a one time fee of $7). So you may just want to make use of that membership to see more than one show! Here’s a few others you might want to think about seeing:

I’m booked to see at least 35 plays over the course of the Fringe, so I’ll be able to speak to lots of shows if you’re curious and looking for advice. And one of the joys of Fringe theatre everywhere is the chance to get incredibly helpful reviews from fellow Festival goers in each and every line-up. Many of the folx around you will be seeing even more shows than me, and will be more than happy to share ideas about what you might like: fringe festivals are definitely places that invites their audiences to share and engage!

See you at the Fringe!

April 10, 2018

Soul Jumpers Playtesters Wanted!

29872864_10155517493612151_7208946950759324405_oIt’s taken us some time to move from Game Jam excitement to development with this one, but … Soul Jumpers is finally at a stage to be playtested! We plan to piggyback on the CoRe Speed Geeking event on June 4th, 2018 to find some folks to join us.

Join Dan Williams, Darsey Meredith, and Sharon Sutherland to play a mocked-up prototype and provide us with input on game play.

  • WHEN: June 4th at 6:00pm
  • WHERE: KPMG, 11th floor, 777 Dunsmuir Street, Vancouver, BC

We will also bring additional collaborative board games and light refreshments for those who would like to stay and play a few “rounds”.

Check out the original concept!

While the game has undergone some tweaking since then – including a naming decision – the core concept remains the same: everyone must work together to search the macabre house that is slowly (or not so slowly) consuming bodies. If we can’t reach the portal with all the elements required to carry out the ritual to re-possess our bodies, we are doomed to haunt the halls forever!


*The original Soul Jumpers creative team (2014) is Dan Williams, Darsey Meredith, Sharon Sutherland, Ben Ziegler, Bob Wilson, and Mike Lakusta. We acknowledge considerable contributions from Rowan Meredith during the 2017 Game Jam.

This event is free to all. Access to KPMG is restricted so registration is essential. Please email

March 14, 2018

Scavenger Hunts for Professional Development

“Brain research tells us that when the fun stops, learning often stops too.” – Dr. Judy Willis, M.D., M.Ed.

DopamineScience tells us that making learning fun improves retention of information, maintains curiosity and engagement, and encourages learners to try out new ideas. As Dr. Judy Willis notes, “when classroom activities are pleasurable, the brain releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that stimulates the memory centers and promotes the release of acetylcholinem, which increases focused attention.”

© Can Stock Photo : jacklooser

© Can Stock Photo / jacklooser

And yet, how often do we face an uphill struggle to introduce fun learning activities in “serious”, “professional” environments like conferences, professional schools, workplace training, and continuing professional development activities? Somehow there’s a stigma attached to anything that’s fun – after all, why would we have all suffered through endless hours of excruciatingly boring lectures if that wasn’t somehow the best way to take in information?

Happily, more and more fun has been making its way into professional development: Applied Improvisation, LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® Facilitation, Gamification, and an increasingly varied list of corporate “team building” activities are becoming common in larger workplaces. And yet, there’s considerable scope for continuing development!

yes and

Attendees at a CoRe Speaker event spell out “Yes, and”.

 The Scavenger Hunt

Most recently, I’ve been especially interested in the possibilities for Scavenger Hunts and the ways in which they promote the skills and attitudes necessary for excellent conflict resolution practice. My interest grew out of a family-driven Scavenger Hunt experience that just happened to include several mediators – GISHWHES 2015 (the “Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen”).

GISHWHES calls for teams of 15, so in pulling together a team to allow my daughters and me to play, I reached out to colleagues and friends and just happened to get “Yes, ands…” from 5 mediators. That first year was a huge learning curve for our team, but what the ConRes folks amongst us quickly recognized  was that large-scale, team Scavenger Hunts caused us to practice skills we use all the time in mediations, but in different and challenging ways that stretched us to learn. (And what the competitive Scavenger Hunters amongst us noticed was that we have improved our results every year as we add more conflict resolution professionals to the team. Hmmmm… Probably not the whole reason for improvement…)

Item 66

Our team forms a “Bridge of Spies”.

LICRSH – Legendary International Conflict Resolution Scavenger Hunt

After three years of GISHWHES training, the conflict resolution folks on our team decided to host a scavenger hunt for conflict resolution professionals as part of Mediate BC’s Conflict Resolution Week 2017. Thus was LICRSH – the Legendary International Conflict Resolution Scavenger Hunt born!

And yes, we learned even more about the potential for Scavenger Hunts in the world of conflict resolution! They are an amazing way to bring together colleagues from across distances to have fun collaborating, problem solving and exploring new ideas together! And so, we are planning a second LICRSH at the Northwest Dispute Resolution Conference in Seattle next week.

#2 ConRes superhero

Wendy Lakusta of Team Resolutionaries takes her Conflict Resolution Superhero to the Surrey Provincial Courthouse.


What conflict resolution-related skills, knowledge, and attitudes do we develop through Scavenger Hunts?

Here’s 10 linkages between conflict resolution and scavenger hunts that I am planning to explore with the help of my colleagues (Emily Martin, Amanda Semenoff, Darsey Meredith and Rowan Meredith) over the next week as we plan for (and host) LICRSH Seattle!

  • Collaboration
  • Varieties of the Creative Process
  • Problem-solving
  • Movement/Physicality
  • The Power of Silly
  • Sharing the Silly
  • Risk-taking
  • Making “Asks”
  • Tapping into Memories
  • Kindness

I’ll be offering short posts on each of these topics between now and the end of the conference on March 24th. Watch for cross-posting here and at PignPotato Games.




August 31, 2017

VanFringe Plays for Conflict Resolution Practitioners

Earlier this month, I joined conflict resolution professionals Amanda Semenoff and C.D. Saint on their podcast – Overthinking Conflict – for two conversations about theatre and conflict resolution. In the second of these conversations, we talked about how simply watching theatre can be beneficial to one’s conflict resolution learning, and I began blogging on the topic shortly afterwards. I plan to write more on each of the ways in which one can learn from theatre, but am conscious that I promised Amanda and C.D. a list of recommendations (or best guesses!) of plays at the Vancouver Fringe Festival of interest to conflict resolution professionals – and the Fringe starts next week!

I’ve broken my suggestions down to match the categories in my recent post – “eight ways in which watching live theatre can serve a learning purpose for a conflict resolution professional”. I’ve tried to identify one or two plays that might fit each category, but do want to warn that I have not seen any of these plays yet! (One of the joys of Fringe theatre is the low risk involved in checking out plays you know nothing about: the plays are inexpensive and short, and you will almost certainly hear about something else that is amazing while standing in line. So be brave about trying several plays in an evening!)

Observing and analyzing a contained conflict text

Check out these plays if you’d like to leave the theatre and discuss (or reflect on) the way in which a conflict builds:

  • no big dealNo Big Deal – “A woman, her boyfriend, and the man who allegedly molested her.” Writer/director Gerald Williams created a thought-provoking and well-received piece in last year’s Fringe – The Dance Teacher – and this promises to carry on some of the themes explored there. A good bet for conflict analysis opportunities.
  • Sechs – Six characters with different beliefs about relationships. Coded as funny/intimate/musical.

Observing a dramatized conflict resolution process

While it’s easy to find courtroom dramas and scenes of negotiation in theatre (or in film, television, etc.), there are far fewer representations of other forms of conflict resolution. There is, however, one play at the Fringe this year that seems to offer just that:

i am for you

  • I Am For You – A student teacher uses stage fighting and Shakespeare as a conflict resolution tool.

Learning about other ways of viewing the world

Theatre offers a glimpse into others’ perspectives, can increase empathy, and may well increase understanding. There are so many possibilities in this category, but I’ve tried to narrow my selections down to just a few:

  • Dramatic Works Series – This series of five plays showcases playwrights of Asian descent.  (I Am For You is a part of this series). They all look interesting!
  • Setting Bones – I’ve recently spent some time with two of the three playwrights for this show in their work as diversity consultants, so it’s one I’m especially looking forward to seeing. I anticipate a thought-provoking show with multicultural themes. Fringe New Play Prize Project.

Engaging with metaphor

Metaphor can be a powerful tool for conflict resolution practitioners. It can illuminate ideas and situations; and it can provide distance from and perspective on a difficult topic.


  • Hyena Subpoena – A combination of spoken word poetry and projections of the animals within us. The description speaks of a meditation on predators and prey, so I am anticipating this will fit nicely within the conflict metaphor category.
  • Multiple Organism  – I may be way off base in where I’m placing this piece in my categories, but I am absolutely confident in recommending it. Mind of a Snail has created some truly amazing work in the past, and I have only heard great things about this production. Check it out just for the creativity and a whole new appreciation for shadow puppets!

Reading meaning through physical theatre

So much of our communication is physical, but we spend so little time focused on physical communication. Take a chance on some very physical theatre to stimulate thinking about physicality and conflict.


  • Bushel and Peck – Alastair Knowles is incredible at physical theatre. If you’ve had the pleasure of seeing his work as half of James and Jamesy, you won’t need to know more. If not, here’s a review from this show’s previous run.
  • Breath-Ahhh – Theatre Terrific approaches physicality differently than most plays – from its inclusive cast and focus on accessibility for audience members through its  exploration of breath, this show promises to challenge the audience to recognize and think about the physical.

Observing others’ skills in scripted or improvisational form

This is a tough category to predict in advance. In the past, I’ve been impressed by a wide array of performers with incredible skills directly applicable to the work of conflict resolution: Tonya Jone Miller’s empathy, active listening and spontaneity in The Story of Os and the incredible awareness of audience member needs by James and Jamesy stand out amongst recent Fringe shows. If I come across examples this year, I will certainly share them.  Please share any you see with me!

Explorations of historical conflict

Plays which reimagine historical conflicts or conflict set in past times can offer fresh insights into both those conflicts and contemporary problems.

  • An Arrangement of Shoes – This play is set in an Indian train station during the Gulf War, and also apparently references considerable Indian history over the past 70 years.

Explorations of neuroscience, mental health topics, and other content that enriches our practice

There are so many areas of study that inform conflict resolution practice, and many are well-represented in theatre. In particular, deeply personal stories of mental health topics can bring insights that help us improve our practices.

  • Periscope – Last year, Megan Phillips brought a fascinating study of anxiety to the Fringe – Not Enough.  This year, she is bringing another personal story to the stage – or rather to Ocean and Crow Yoga (likely to be an intimate venue).
  • Katharine Ferns Is in Stitches – A show about mental illness, domestic abuse, and drug addiction that had solid word-of-mouth (at least in the queues I was standing in) at the Edinburgh Fringe over the last few weeks.

Please do let me know if you stumble across other shows that should be shared with conflict resolution practitioners! And I hope to see you at the Fringe!


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