Posted by AJ Johnson on Mar 02, 2018

Our speaker at the meeting of 3/2/2018 was Scott Martin. 

Scott Martin, a landscape architect-turned-peacebuilder, is a founding member of Mediators Beyond Borders International (MBBI) and a former chapter president of MBBI-LA and former co-leader of MBBI’s Rwanda project and is now working on the Cambodia Project, focused on using social entrepreneurship to build capacity for sustainable peace. Scott has been engaged with MBBI for about a decade...
In 2002, Scott served on the Board of Directors for Environmental Charter Schools which inspired him to become a Certified Mediator through the LA County Bar Association (2007), working also in Victim/Offender Restorative Justice youth programs and later specializing in Community Dialogue with local law enforcement.
In 2008, Scott founded the Living Christmas Company, a social benefit company which rents living Christmas tree as an alternative to cut or artificial trees.  The Company employs veterans and disadvantaged individuals to care for and deliver the trees.  Scott currently serves on the Board for the South Bay Business Environmental Coalition, connecting businesses, local government and community with the environment.
Scott was awarded the 2017 Rotary Peace Fellowship. He studied in the Rotary Peace Centers program at Chulalongkorn University, in Bangkok, Thailand, where he received training in peace and conflict resolution.  He is currently working as a senior mediator at Resologics, which focuses on building team resiliency and productivity, harnessing the power of conflict.
He presented us with many ideas for thought.  He spoke of how most people view peace efforts as just pursuing “lack of war” (a “negative absence” of something) rather than in a “positive sense” of “engaging with one another.”  Many times, humanitarian efforts give people stuff (blankets, food, etc.) but forget to address the dignity of the people involved.  He believes that mediation efforts should address “familiarization” of the disputing parties, getting the parties to know each other better.  The conflicting parties should pay more attention to how “similar” they are, rather than their differences.  For example, the Israelis and Palestinians are about 90% the same regarding the substance of their religious and cultural beliefs but they focus on the 10% of the issues in which they are different.
He emphasized that successful mediation efforts get the parties to listen better.  He then broke us up into pairs for an exercise.  Each of us chose a partner.  One person would tell the other things about himself/herself for one minute and the other partner was told that after that they would have to repeat what the other party had told them when the speaker finished.  Then the parties switched roles.  This was an eye-opening exercise. It was a lot of work to listen attentively enough to do this well.  Scott then pointed out to us that to do it successfully the listener had to ignore other distractions, listen without “judging” whether he/she agreed with the other party, and pay attention.  In our arguments with family members and friends, how many of us do this listening effectively?  When we did this exercise well, we found ourselves feeling more connected to our partners in just this one-minute exercise.  It really opened my eyes to the power of effective listening to form a connection to another person.  My partner was Phyllis, who I have known for years, but after the short one minute exercise, I felt much more connected to her
The job of a peace mediator is to listen to and be of service to the conflicted parties.  The mediator should help identify the key aspects of the disagreement, not to “solve the problem” for the disputing parties.
In an argument, when one of the parties is yelling, what is the message?  There are 2 messages being sent:  (1) The person “yelling” is passionate about the topic and (2) feels he isn’t being listened to (and, therefore, feels powerless?).  Many feel we don’t have to listen to terrorists, because they are terrorists.  But the lack of feeling listened to is what drives the terrorist to act violently.  On a more familiar level, how many of us have experienced this when we find ourselves in “yelling arguments” with our spouses or children?
Scott also mentioned that more Americans die of suicide than from homicides, terrorism, and armed conflict.  When we are in fear of not being heard, we become afraid to share, and then who are we left with to deal with our pain/frustration?:  ourselves.
How do we see conflict?  As something to avoid or something to engage in (in order to make things better)?
Violent societies tend to be deficient in alternative skills (other than violence) to resolve conflict.  Peaceful solutions require that we address those deficiencies in skills.
Scott is making an effort to get Rotarians engaged with one another in promoting “peace conversations” (rather than  silently avoiding conflict).  As Rotarians learn to be skilled in this, we could take this to our communities as a “service” to help resolve community conflict. 
As part of this effort, Geoff Nadler, is our Club’s “Peace Chair”.  He is undergoing training which he will eventually use to train our club members, for future service in the community.
Rotarians “eradicated” polio.  Can we “eradicate” violent conflict as our next project?