Workshop will teach the art of managing conflict

Practicing non-violence isn’t necessarily about being nice and peaceful and respecting the rights of others. At a deeper level, it’s about building community by getting real, showing your upsets and communicating what you want — and letting others do the same — then getting on track together to meet common visions.
That’s the message of a two-day workshop, “A Lived Practice of Nonviolence,” set for Sept. 9 and 10 at Southern Oregon University. Presenters are Kitt Miller, director of the MK Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, and Dominic Barter, who has worked for 20 years with Shantytown youth in Rio de Janeiro and developed the restorative circle process for conflict resolution.
The nonviolence conclave will address social action, creative partnerships and spiritual engagement, says organizer Joanna Niemann of Ashland, and is the foundation for the practices of non-violent communication and restorative circles, now used around the world.
“What it’s done for me,” said Niemann, “is allowed me to settle down to a deeper understanding of what my life is about ... What excites me most about our time together is the opportunity for a diverse group of people to come together to learn and build on skills we have, to live and work for a world on her way.”
The workshop has some lecture time but is rich in processes, using the practices of nonviolence, she notes.
“It’s a place to have a fight among equals, community members whose conflicts affect others in classes, neighborhoods and workplaces,” said Niemann. “It’s about what works when the question is human relationships and the world we want to live in. It’s an exploration to go off-road and experience a little inspired disorientation.”
Niemann says there’s a widespread misconception that nonviolence doesn’t work in the real world — or that those who see themselves as nonviolent don’t need such training.
“The big question we’ll be asking ourselves is ‘what works?’ What works when it comes to relationships with ourselves and with our partners? What works when we are aligned with the kind of world our hearts tell us is possible, where everyone’s needs matter and the needs of all that supports life matter? The quick and easy answer,” she said, “is — nonviolence works, but we want more than that, and we will get it.”
Longtime Ashland nonviolence activist Dot Fisher-Smith, plans to attend the workshop, said, “Underneath, everyone wants the same thing, but we’re not getting our needs met, so we get madder and create enemies. But we’re interdependent. We all want food, clothing, shelter and meaning in life. We want to love.”
To that end, she added, “people need ways to come together and find common ground and work from the point of view of harmlessness — to be open and vulnerable. This is the most important work on the planet. We can’t have peace till we see we’re all the same and that the world is based on reciprocity.”
For the last decade, Miller and Barter have run the annual Nonviolence Intensive program at the Findhorn Community in Scotland. Miller is director of the Gandhi Peace Institute, in Rochester, N.Y., and brings nonviolence training to youth through projects.
Barter works on the development of Restorative Circles worldwide. He works with schools, police and social movements in Brazil.
The workshop is by donation, with no fixed fee. To register, go to For more information, go to or or Joanna Neimann, 541 482 5940,
John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at

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