Archive for ‘Jolts for Mediation’

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!


February 24, 2017

Game Jam 3 – Open for registration!

CoRe-Jolts-Game-JamWe had so much fun at our second Collaborative Game Jam in June 2016 – and even more as we brought one of the games created there to production – that we decided to make the CoRe Jolts Game Jam an annual event!

If you’d like to spend a weekend with a group of creative and collaborative individuals exploring ways to solve any number of problems through game design, join us at Game Jam 3, May 5-7, 2017.

What to expect from a Game Jam?

We’ll spend our first evening together getting to know each other, discussing the kinds of games we are each interested in creating or playing, and developing a shared understanding of collaborative games and their potential. We’ll play a few games to get a feel for them.

Game JamOn Saturday morning, we’ll form teams to begin work on games. Teams are self-selected based on shared interests or objectives. Groups will spend Saturday developing their idea, and building a prototype. We’ll take breaks throughout the day for refreshments and chances to discuss what is happening in different groups. Occasionally, that leads to some mixing and matching of groups – bringing new skills and ideas to the task.

Sunday morning is typically devoted to readying a game for presentation to other teams, while Sunday afternoon will be used to share creations, ideas, observations, and any future plans.

Whether or not your team creates a complete game during the weekend, you’ll have fun, learn a lot about collaborative games, and come away with new ideas about how to work together!

What if we create a game that we want to produce?

cards-in-handEveryone attending our Game Jams agrees in advance that games and ideas arising form the Game Jam can be developed further, however, all participants in a game’s creation will be consulted about future production. No one is committed to take the game further than the Game Jam.

We have taken one game from Game Jam to Kickstarter and commercial sales – Zombie Fight or Flight. Our experience of doing so was incredibly positive. We had a group of 7 people committed to working through the full development process, and we collaborated in the process. We learned a HUGE amount about everything connected to game development, and are happy to work with teams or other groups of participants in supporting development of the next great thing, too!


Check out our Game Jam page for further information, and register soon if you want to be sure to attend in May. If you have additional questions, email us at


March 19, 2016

2nd Collaborative Game Jam – June 17-19, 2016!

Version 2CoRe Jolts is excited to be hosting the second Bi-Annual Collaborative Game Jam  aimed at the creation of collaborative tabletop games on June 17th-19th, 2016 in Tsawwassen!

We are gathering a group of individuals interested in getting together to form teams and create collaborative games! We will form teams based on shared objectives for the games.  One group might choose to create a short game that can be played during a mediation to refocus participants on problem solving approaches.  Another group might choose to develop a game that allows all members of a family – no matter what age – to participate equally in group decision-making. Or perhaps a few individuals will choose to create a game that requires different forms of communication for a group to successfully manage a task.  The possibilities are only limited by the imaginations of the participants!

Island teamGame JamAt our first Game Jam, participants came from a wide variety of professional backgrounds and interests in collaboration: mediators (in commercial, child protection, labour, family and civil practices), tax lawyers, teachers, university administrators, and students in fine arts, digital games, engineering and law.   The broad range of backgrounds (and game experience) led to fascinating discussions about what sorts of games we’d like to create and why.

In the end, we produced two very different games:  Eruption and Soul Jumpers/Hotel California/Macabre Mansion (name yet to be finalized).

The Eruption team developed a complex negotiation game that required individuals to develop multiple alliances to manage an entire society. The Eruption team seemed to have a great deal of fun with the entire concept, but perhaps this short excerpt of the team explaining the rules about “breeding” amongst families captures the spirit of their game.

The Soul Jumpers group focused on creating a game that could not give rise to the dreaded “Alpha Player”! By limiting the exchange of information, no one player was able to dominate decision-making by asserting greater gaming knowledge.  In the following video clip, Bob Wilson shares the background story for Soul Jumpers.


Ben Ziegler was a member of the Soul Jumpers creation team and he provided a great description of the event on his blog, Collaborative Journeys.

If you’d like to try out some commercially available collaborative games in advance of the Game Jam, check out the list Emily Martin and I collected for a CoRe Speaker Series event last fall.

You don’t need to be some combination of mediator/gamer/designer to join us.  If you think it would be fun to develop a game like this, and you can commit the time to work with your team, then you are welcome. There is no fee to attend, but we will collect $50 from each participant to contribute to the costs of refreshments, lunches on Saturday and Sunday, and game materials.

If you’d like to join us, check out additional details at or email us at Register here.

You can read more of my observations about collaborative games here!  And check out Emily’s and my presentation for CoRe here.

March 22, 2014

Game Jam Registration Open Now!

CoRe-Jolts-Game-JamCoRe Jolts is hosting a weekend Game Jam focused on Collaborative Tabletop Game development on May 9-11th.  Anyone interested in collaborative gaming is welcome to attend, but numbers will be restricted to 36 participants.  Register your interest by completing the registration form.

Additional details are available at or by email to


January 27, 2014

Plans for 2014

bmanscientistlab“I have always been more interested in experiment, than in accomplishment.” Orson Welles

2014 looks to be a very exciting year around my house.  Professionally, I’m poised to make a big change in order to tackle some long contemplated goals.  I will be leaving UBC Faculty of Law after 14-1/2 years in June 2014, and am looking forward both to the next 5 months of transition time which will allow me to complete some long term projects and to the 6 months of new projects that will follow.  In personal terms, the year might best be characterized simply by saying that all three of my daughters will be travelling to their own new adventures in the far corners of the world (Poland, Ghana and Philadelphia!).  And with my own transition happening at just the right time …  I may just get the chance to visit them there.

CoRe Jolts will be receiving a few jolts from a few projects connected to my transition plans, so you can expect:

  • Posts that reflect the work I am doing with Carrie Gallant at CreativityZone,
  • Development of Impasse Breaking Cards, and
  • A Game Jam!

Join me in any or all of these projects!

Blog posts – MBTI series

In late November, Carrie Gallant and I led a workshop on advanced applications of the MBTI to conflict resolution.  We focused on understanding possible uses of the Step II instrument for conflict resolution practitioners, and on exploring “Jungian functions” in more detail than one normally can in an introductory workshop.  In respect of the latter topic, we specifically looked at the different ways that we collect data and the different ways that we make decisions.  The discussion led me to spend some time over the vacation generating ideas for impasse breaking based entirely in each of these eight functions (e.g. I began with a list of impasse breaking ideas that reflect Extraverted Sensing, then generated a list of tools that reflect Introverted Sensing, etc.).  I plan to share these ideas in two ways: I will blog about each of the eight Jungian functions and ideas derived from an understanding of that function, and I will incorporate many more of the ideas into the first set of impasse breaking cards for the project immediately below.

Impasse Breaking Cards

I have been intending to collect impasse breaking ideas into cards specifically designed for use in mediation, and this is the year I intend to create that deck.  In fact, I have given myself a deadline of March 29th for completion of a prototype because I have committed to present the deck at the NWDR Conference in Seattle!  You can see more details about this project on the Impasse Cards page.  Check out the focus group sessions there and consider joining me in any of the testing sessions in the next two months.

Game Jam

I wrote about my interest in collaborative board games last summer.  And now I’m planning to hold a Game Jam for Collaborative Professionals in order to bring together like-minded, but differently skilled, folks to create more collaborative games.  I’ve set aside May 9th-11th for the event.  If you’re interested in a weekend of fun and creation, save the date!  And let me know that you’d like to attend.

horse_signJolt for Mediators and Mediations:

Since this is a planning-for-the-year post, I’ve decided to offer a New Year’s jolt despite the date.  (I will note that while my planning may have been triggered by the start of 2014, the post comes just before Chinese New Year, so still might pass as timely…)

#3Words Exercise

You may be familiar with the Three Words Concept.  Chris Brogan and C.C. Chapman have each contributed to the idea of coming up with three words as a focus for the new year, as opposed to resolutions.  It was Jason Dykstra’s 2014 post, however, that inspired me to finally take a stab at choosing and blogging about my own words.  I admit, I was particularly taken by Jason’s creativity in applying his words, as opposed to the words themselves.  His approach reminded me of exercises in the use of symbolism or combinational creativity to shake up one’s thinking.  Jason’s word descriptions made it easy to imagine using this exercise as a jolt for mediators and as a jolt for mediation.

For Mediators:

The #3Words exercise can be a jolt for mediators or other dispute resolution professionals in the same way that it is intended to be a New Year’s jolt for anyone looking to shift gears.  Wanting to improve your practice?  Use the #3Words technique for self-reflection to guide your progress.  You might focus on aspects of your work that you struggle with and wish to improve (e.g. self-reflection, listening, silence, etc.) or you might focus on business development and kickstarting an exploration of a new practice area (e.g. connect, system, leap, etc.)

And, of course, there’s no reason you can only think of focus words for the year.  Why not consider focus words for a single mediation?  If you’ve come from a difficult mediation, you’re probably already reflecting to some degree on whether there was something you might have done differently.  Or you’ve co-mediated with someone and observed an entirely different approach that you’d like to add to your toolbox.  And for that matter, what about those mediations where everything seems to happen without any effort on your part: are there aspects of those mediations that you want to carry forward into your next session? Why not think about three words immediately following one mediation that will be points of focus for your next mediation?

For Mediations:

Alternatively, in a mediation (and perhaps in a strategic planning session or when dealmaking), consider a #3Words list as a means of focusing parties on joint goals.  We often assist parties to generate lists of interests or criteria for settlement; why not consider instead a list of three words to guide the discussion, or three words that reflect for an individual party her goals for settlement or his hopes for the future, or three words that capture the type of process that parties wish to pursue in their discussions?  Such exercises might well assist parties to shift gears into a more reflective and problem-solving discussion, and might be easier to launch than a discussion of individual interests where parties are especially distrustful or uncomfortable with speaking directly about their own wishes.

My 3 Words for 2014

It seems appropriate to share my own three words for the year:  Experiment, Delve and Concatenate.  And yes, they are all verbs even if I had to force one of them to be.  For me, 2014 involves doing, so my words are doing words.

  • Experiment

I am not typically shy to experiment, so may not need this word to remind me to do so.  I have chosen it instead to reinforce that experimenting is a positive aspect of my current work life that I want to retain.  I may have to be more creative in developing opportunities to truly experiment outside of the academic world.

Clearly this will be a year to explore, and my list should include a word to recognize that fact.  But explore doesn’t resonate the way delve does.  Delve requires more digging, more extended effort.  I’ll be delving.

  • Concatenate

Much more commonly seen in the form “concatenation”, concatenate really is a verb – just one that doesn’t get much play.  But I love the notion of combining that it evokes.  My professional life has always concatenated a series of ideas, experiments, and explorations, and I am excited to continue concatenating this year!

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