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Dispute Resolution: Disrupting & Connecting for Social Change
Start Date: 5/5/2022Start Time: 8:00 AM
End Date: 5/5/2022End Time: 10:00 AM

Event Description:

About the Program:

Jackie Font-Guzmán and Bernie Mayer will be discussing their new book, The Neutrality Trap, Disrupting and Connecting for Social Change, in which they explore the relationship between conflict work and social activism. They discuss how effective social movements require both communication across our differences and disruption of oppressive structures.  Mayer and Font-Guzmán challenge the instinctive response that many of us have in the face of social upheaval—such as to George Floyd’s murder or the invasion of the US Capital—to want to bring people together in dialogue.  They argue that if these well-intentioned efforts are disconnected from a commitment to disrupting the oppressive systems that underlie these crises, they can easily contribute to maintaining the status quo rather than changing it.

The Neutrality Trap addresses a foundational challenge for peacemakers and mediators, and for many other professionals as well—for example social scientists, journalists, lawyers, and psychotherapists, and that is one of identity. Is what we offer rooted in a self-identification as objective, dispassionate neutrals, with all the values and practice standards this implies or as transparent, authentic, and rounded participants in the struggles of our times?  This is not a new challenge, but it remains an important one and how we answer it is critical to the impact we have on social change efforts. 

They will discuss the relationship between chaotic and spontaneous efforts at system disruption and strategic and long-term approaches to change systems.  Jackie and Bernie bring to this effort a long history as students of conflict, activists, and conflict interveners and draw from their personal experiences and their observations of both small scale and global efforts at social change.

About the Speakers:

Bernie Mayer has provided conflict intervention services for families, schools, public interest groups, communities, NGO’s, unions, corporations, and governmental and agencies throughout North America and internationally for over 40 years. He is Professor Emeritus of Conflict Studies, Creighton University, and a founding partner of CDR Associates, a conflict intervention firm headquartered in Boulder, Colorado.

Before focusing on conflict intervention, Bernie was a child and family therapist in New York City and Boulder, Colorado. Bernie is a prolific author of books and articles, including The Dynamics of Conflict, Beyond Neutrality, Staying With Conflict, and The Conflict Paradox. His newest book, with Jacqueline Font- Guzmán, is the The Neutrality Trap  (2022). He received the 2015 John M. Haynes Distinguished Mediator Award, presented by the Association for Conflict Resolution, the 2013 President’s Award and the 2009 Meyer Elkin Award presented by the Association of Family Conciliation Courts, and has twice received the CPR International Institute for Conflict Prevention and Resolution’s Book of the Year Award.


Jacqueline (Jackie) N. Font-Guzmán, PhD, JD (she/her/ella), is a Fulbright scholar with vast experience in conflict, healthcare, academia, and the legal system. Her work has been internationally recognized. She has provided consulting and training to universities, government agencies, courts, healthcare institutions, and many other entities. She serves as the inaugural Executive Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Virginia and Professor in their Center for Justice and Peacebuilding. Jackie’s newest book (with Bernie Mayer, PhD) is The Neutrality Trap: from Constructive Engagement to Strategic Disruption in Social Conflict.


Jackie is the recipient of numerous professional awards, including the 2017 Nova Southeastern University Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award–highest and most prestigious honor that the University bestows upon its graduates. Her scholarship has been recognized at the national and international level. Her book, Experiencing Puerto Rican Citizenship and Cultural Nationalism, was selected as the Puerto Rico Bar Association 2015 Juridical Book of the Year in the category of ‘Essay Promoting Critical Thinking and Analysis of Juridical and Social Issues.’ She was also Corecipient of the 2012 Madrid Mediators Association Award for Best Publication in Mediation for Mediación y Resolución de Conflictos: Técnicas y Ámbitos.
Bernie Mayer and Jackie Font Guzman

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