The SHM Foundation sponsored a design award at the RSA on conflict resolution in May 2011. The shortlisted entries varied in both their area of focus and their interpretation of conflict. The submissions took on subjects as diverse as intergenerational conflicts in local environments to building better relationships and stronger communities through information, education, and even food.
The top award went to a team from Northumbria University for their project called ‘Resolution Rug’ (Rinelle Villareal, Chris Wilson and Michael Siney). ‘Resolution Rug’ is a solution focused on building conflict-resolution skills in children aged 4-6. The idea is to change behavioural patterns around conflict by intervening earlier and making conflict resolution part of learning and development for children. By leveraging recognised academic research and developmental psychology, the team developed a simple but memorable experience for teachers to use with children engaged in arguments or conflicts in schools. ‘Resolution Rug’ takes children through a conflict-resolution process that not only resolves the conflict, but more importantly helps to build capabilities for the future. It has applications in diverse geographies and has the potential to be scaled up quickly. The idea has been tested in real situations in the UK, and qualitative feedback from the childcare professionals who have used it has been positive.
The jury also awarded ‘highly commended’ to Karim El-Salahi from London Metropolitan University for a project called ‘The Debatory’. ‘The Debatory’ is a semi-permanent, collectively assembled physical environment that small groups of people can use as a space for having difficult conversations around conflict. Inspired by the needs of housing associations and co-operatives, this solution presents a different environment and a different physical posture for the participants, creating the potential for a more open frame of mind when talking about conflict issues. ‘The Debatory’ focuses on changing the physical space surrounding a conflict by literally moving people out of a confrontational posture thereby lowering the ‘temperature’ of the conversation and opening the opportunity for a different kind of listening and understanding.