Speaker: Ken Cloke

From Conflict to Transcendence and Transformation

"Once we recognize that every conflict has emotional, energetic, and spiritual overtones, we can go deeper, and explore the subtle, invisible, vibratory lines along which it, and much of reality, runs. By paying attention to the music of ordinary communication we can discover a hidden fulcrum that can be used to nudge a conflict from impasse to resolution." -- Kenneth Cloke

Kenneth Cloke is Director of the Center for Dispute Resolution in Southern California.  He specializes in mediation, negotiation and resolution of complex organizational, interpersonal, and public policy disputes.  Ken also provides services in designing preventative conflict resolution systems. He is an internationally recognized speaker and author.  Ken’s practice includes work with leaders of public, private and non-profit organizations.

It is Ken's approach to conflict resolution that distinguishes him in the field. According to Ken, "conflict is overridingly spiritual, because every conflict presents us with a life choice, an opportunity for transformation, and an invitation to transcendence."  In order to attain transformation or transcendence, "we require a combination of inner and outer skills" -- of meditation techniques (which probe our inner frontiers) and mediation techniques (which probe our outer frontiers). Specifically, the mediator and the parties can access transcendence by employing both "meditation techniques that assist us in becoming more centered, compassionate, and aware of ourselves and others" and "mediation techniques that enable us to engage in authentic and committed listening, openhearted communication, empathetic dialogue, creative problem solving, collaborative negotiation, genuine forgiveness, and reconciliation."

Ken's work thus involves getting to the heart of a conflict, which by its nature can be a "powerful source of learning, development and growth," for all involved. Ken often calls this work "risky" and "dangerous" for the mediator or arbiter of the conflict, as it calls on him or her to embody the inner and outer qualities of true resolution and justice. Accordingly, Ken's advice to mediators is "to recognize that everything the parties do or experience in conflict already exists inside you, along with everything they need to know, feel, and learn to resolve their disputes. Therefore, you are the technique, and your capacity for empathy, awareness, and calming presence will resonate inside them, eliciting qualitatively different outcomes."

A 1963 graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, Ken Cloke initially gravitated toward the law because of the civil rights struggles that were taking place in America. After law school, Ken worked "as an active participant in civil rights, civil liberties, and anti-war movements." In time, however, Ken started feeling that this work often "increase[d] conflict" and resulted in a "failure of resolution and learning[,] as political adversaries became unable or unwilling to engage in open and honest dialogue."

Ken then worked as an Administrative Law Judge for the California Public Employment Relations Board, where he was assigned to settle unfair labor practice claims. For Ken, this work provided "a relief from the precise, narrow categories of juridical reasoning and arguments over legal entitlement." Ken observed: "Through mediation, I was able to help people learn how to talk to each other and solve their problems collaboratively without my having to decide the issues for them. I found not only that I loved the emotional engagement of mediation, but that its outcomes and processes revealed a truer form of justice than I had experienced in the law."

By happenstance, the Neighborhood Justice Center was conducting a mediation training, and within the first five minutes of taking the training Ken was "hooked." Ken was so hooked that he dedicated his life to mediation, arbitration, and other forms of conflict resolution that do not rely on the coercive apparatus of a top-down judicial system. An experienced arbitrator, mediator, consultant, and trainer, Ken has since become a nationally recognized leader in the field of conflict resolution. Notably, Ken specializes in resolving complex multi-party conflicts, which include: community, grievance and workplace disputes; collective bargaining negotiations; organizational and school conflicts; sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuits; and public policy disputes.

Ken has been an Arbitrator and Mediator for over thirty-three years in labor management disputes, has served as Judge Pro Tem for the Los Angeles municipal and superior courts (the "people's courts"), and is a member of a number of arbitration panels.  He has practiced conflict resolution at a number of different levels, including at an international scale. He is President and co-founder of Mediators Beyond Borders -- an organization that often focuses on systemic conflicts in dozens of nations. Ken believes that what's needed at the global level is a "conflict revolution," or a "revolutionary shift" "from adversarial to collaborative processes, methods, and techniques," "from debate to dialogue," and from a power- and rights-based approach to conflict to an interests-based one.

For Ken, it comes down to the following: "Whether our conflicts are intensely personal and between private individuals, or intensely political and between nations and cultures, three critical areas require ongoing improvement and transformation. These are: our personal capacity for introspection, integrity, and spiritual growth; our interpersonal capacity for egalitarian, collaborative, heartfelt communication and relationships; and our social, economic, and political capacity for designing preventative, systemic, strategic approaches to conflict resolution, community, and change."

Aside from his undergraduate and legal education at U.C. Berkeley, Ken has received a Ph.D. in History as well as an L.L.M. in Labor Law from U.C.L.A.  He has done post-doctoral work at Yale Law School and has extensive university teaching experience in the areas of law, mediation, history, political science, conflict studies, urban studies, and social sciences. Ken is an Adjunct Professor at Pepperdine University’s School of Law, Strauss Institute; Harvard University School of Law, Program on Negotiation, Insight Initiative; Albert Einstein College of Medicine Cape Cod Institute; and University of Amsterdam A.D.R. Institute.

A prolific author, Ken has published numerous books including Mediating Dangerously: The Frontiers of Conflict Resolution; The Crossroads of Conflict: A Journey Into the Heart of Dispute Resolution; Conflict Revolution: Mediating Evil, War, Injustice and Terrorism; Mediation: Revenge and the Magic of Forgiveness; Thank God It's Monday! 14 Values We Need to Humanize The Way We Work; Resolving Personal and Organizational Conflict: Stories of Transformation and Forgiveness; The End of Management and the Rise of Organizational Democracy; and The Art of Waking People Up: Cultivating Awareness and Authenticity at Work.

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