Ideal Traits

Andrea Strimling

Commissioner, International ADR, Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service; also a founder of ACRON (the Applied Conflict Resolution Organizations Network)

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 ???).

A: Well, I actually think, getting back to our earlier discussion that it's probably realistic-optimism or grounded idealism, something like that. I mean I think that one of the real values or sources of value that we bring to this work, which is often understated, is idealism. I actually think there is an incredible value of bringing grounded hope. Not naive hope, but grounded hope to situations of protracted conflict. You can see the change in individuals and groups when you have confidence that their current horrible situation can change, that they have the capabilities to change their situation for the better and you have stories and examples to back that up, so its really grounded. So, I think that's one quality. But there is also the related quality of rigor. We in this field are more effected to the extent that our work is grounded, that it's strategic and it's based on careful analysis and in-depth understanding of knowledge of the situations in the regions in which were working. Careful strategic planning, you know, implementation that is informed by other experiences and careful follow up. Sometimes we do better than the other times, its not just idealism obviously; it really has to be backed up.

Q: Rigor.

A: Rigor.

Q: You are the first person to have said that.

A: And let me add another word that isn't used very often, discipline. I don't mean disciplining children. I mean discipline that you know, this work really requires disciplined analysis, disciplined design, disciplined involvement, disciplined follow-up, to be at it's most effective. It's a very interesting combination and I think the people that are the most successful and the organizations that are most effective are those that combine these two aspects.