Conceptual Framework

John McDonald 

Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy

Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003

This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).

Ideally, if we had the money, which we don't have, but we have talked about it many times, we would have a focal point in our staff for each track so they could explore that and expand it and do the things that you are talking about. We don't have that and we have never had that. It costs time and money, but it is a good idea and we would love to do it at some point in the future. We don't follow through in that formal sense.

What we do do is to keep people who have taken the training connected to each other, and we try and develop institutions. We have developed new NGOs at the local level in Nepal, in Cyprus, and in Tanzania. We launched it last year in five countries simultaneously: Zimbabwe, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and the Congo. It is an international NGO with five offices in those five countries. We are trying to institutionalize the process, you know I mentioned Nepal earlier so we can leave behind a structure which will keep them connected and to keep them doing things that we have taught them how to do. That is an element that I really never formally put together, I am describing it to you basically for the first time. That really is a goal to try to leave behind systems and structures that will continue to work.

When I was at the Iowa Peace Institute I launched the first state-wide program on peer mediation. Peer mediation is training the teachers to train the kids in conflict resolution skills. We trained 3,000 teachers in 3 years because I reversed the system. This was done historically by Ray Shonholtz in ??? in San Francisco in a community boys' program in 1982. They learned that 90% of the teachers they were training around the country were rejected by their system when they went back home, they couldn't do it. I decided when I became president of the IOP I would set up a state-wide peer mediation system. I went the political route. I got the department of education and then we went to the legislator after six weeks after hearings before congressional committees, the legislature signed a law saying that the IOP and the department of education will put on a pilot project for peer mediation then report back to the state, at no cost to the state. I reversed the order of things.

We had our first training, we brought in our experts from California, Ray Shonholtz and Gale Sada?. They did a terrific job. We had 50 teachers from around the state, all of which we paid for. Then we had a model and we had 50 excited people who thought this was great and then we wrote the school superintendents and invited them. We said here is the law, here is what we have done, why don't you sign up and be that one pilot project? Thirty-two superintendents signed up, so suddenly we were across the state. We had the legislature behind us, we had a law signed by the governor that loved it, the department of education and what people don't realize is that every state provides money primary and secondary school teachers each year a little amount, but enough, to take our training to improve their selves. They flocked to us because suddenly it was politically acceptable. The superintendents loved it, the department of education loved it, and so it was ok now to take the training.

Then we institutionalized the process by getting the University of Northern Iowa, which was the old teachers college in the state, but provides half of the teachers every year to the state, to make it a requirement that student teachers had to take 40 hours of peer mediation so they graduated into the system with the skills. We weren't imposing anything on anybody.

Each teacher trained kids for ten hours after school, and they went out and solved the problems on the play ground themselves. That is why systems change is so critical. We did it the other way around then the way that they did in California they were just saying take a teacher here or there and so forth. I called them back and I said, "Why don't you try it?" They said that California is too big. We changed the system; that is the goal.