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John Helie: ACR Award and Words of Wisdom

John Helie receives the ACR Mary Parker Follett award. The introduction discusses the history of the mediation field and the part that John Helie played. In his acceptance speech, John shares his wisdom with those just entering the field and those who are long-term mediators.

Chris Carlson Presenting Mary Parker Follett Award to John Helie:

Well, i’d like to say a word for Mary Parker Follett. Many of you may not know about Mary Parker Follett. She lived from 1868 to 1933 and she was a pioneer in many fields, among them in business management, but she was also an early advocate of resolving conflict by encouraging parties to integrate their interests through negotiations, and she was responsible for the development of many of the key concepts in the field that have become part of our contemporary lexicon, like win-win solutions.

ACR has a Mary Parker Follett Award because of Albie Davis, and some of you in this room will know of Albie Davis who was long involved in community mediation. I want to acknowledge Albie who brought the attention of our field to Mary Parker Follett.

Many of you have probably not had the pleasure of knowing Albie. She used to dress up as Mary Parker Follett and come to our meetings and entertain us with quotations and stories about Mary Parker Follett so, when I was asked about the award this year, I called Albie up in Maine to find out how her garden was growing and how she was and to tell her who the Award is going to this year. There were several outstanding candidates and our choice was difficult, but the time seemed right to make this particular award to an individual who has shown a passion and willingness to take risks is tackling a contemporary problem or opportunity in the field of dispute resolution that has used innovative and experimental techniques and draws upon the talents and ideas of others.

I’m very pleased to announce that the 2005 Mary Parker Follett award goes to John Helie, and when I told Albie that John Helie was the winner, she was very pleased and, of course, she immediately thought of a quote from Mary Parker Follett. She said “at one time wrote a lot of my best ideas came to me by the wireless.”

That’s how most of us got to know John, because John founded ConflictNet in 1988, and he came to innumerable meetings and conferences to tell us what was coming and to demonstrate first the net and then later the web. He says he often felt like a traveling salesman selling something people didn’t really need. Whatever part of the field we were from, John held our hands and patiently explained over and over what a modem was and how it all worked and helped us try it out and many of us had, and some still have, email addresses that end in, because that was the net provider John set up for us for more than two decades.

John has shown a passion and willingness to take risks by putting his own time energy and resources into developing the technical infrastructure for the field. He has also made a huge contribution to building public understanding about dispute resolution through making information available online. He has been a pioneer in online conflict resolution, but the technology alone is not John’s greatest accomplishment. It is his intelligence, good will and the relationships he built over the years, and the openness and generosity with which he shared his knowledge with us in the field. So, it’s my great pleasure to make this award to John Helie.

Receipt of Award By John Helie:

I’m deeply honored by this award. First, let me thank the power of networks. I had ideas, but none of them would have worked without the people, the core people who worked directly with me to build the infrastructure, and the people who joined ConflictNet, and the clients and all the thousands of viewers who log onto, thank you

One of the great benefits of receiving this award has been a renewed and deeper awareness of Mark Parker Follett. In her book Creative Experience, which was probably edited from a more appropriate title The Creative Use of Experience, she describes the problems of applying past experiences to new situations, assuming that, if it worked before, it should work again. But situations are never the same, and experience never really fits. We must use what we know, but we must use that information to create new responses to ever-changing situations.

There are two things that have contributed to my success. I created networks and I chose the conflict resolution field. Both were hell-bent to have lots and lots of situations where was no lack of situation points to creatively apply experience.

Telecommunication networking moves so fast that often we have no experience to apply to the situation. It was almost pure creativity, very exciting times. The field of conflict resolution is in its adolescence, and is rapidly growing through changes, and we are often making it up as we go. An experience that worked there would get applied over here and, very creatively, we are still generating lots of situations to find creative opportunities. It’s a great field to be part of.

To people entering the field, I have just one thing to say: be creative in the application of your experiences. There are many ways to have a positive impact in the world of conflict and make a career of it too. The concept of our work is very broad. We are undefined and ripe for creative uses of our experiences. I hope that the field is never really defined and remains a highly creative endeavor. Let’s keep making it up as we go.

Being visionary is no mystical thing. It is simply looking over horizons and anticipating how things clearly on the horizon are going to impact us. We do that on a daily basis. We can anticipate the future. The future in this field, we’re each a node in a network and we play a role. Make time to sit and talk and begin setting them up to participate, become a leader and find a mentor.

John Helie on Our Future as Seniors:

Develop your end of life wishes. Sounds kind of off, but do it even down to agreeing to mediation of any end-of-life conflicts. When you’ve done that work, distribute it to all of your adult family members and friends and be sure they understand what it means, then go out to the community and train people to go through the process of dealing with their futures conflicts as large as the Schiavo case, or a situation that is trivial, but very painful, in a time of grief can be avoided.

Look at the conflicts families are going through and try to imagine how that conflict could have been prevented. Design programs our future in disasters. Understand your own personal responses to disasters. Do your disaster preparedness plan. Anticipate possible conflicts and prepare. There are so many conflicts in a disaster area right now that could have been avoided with some preparation. I don’t think it is wise to rely on government safety nets for disaster or retirement

And finally, I want to acknowledge and thank the efforts that went into Model Standards of Conduct for this field. Now, let’s get it out there. Let’s get the public aware of what these things mean and educate the public. The best protection of the process and the profession is an informed consumer.

Thank you. I’m deeply honored. Namaste


John Helie

As a co-founder of (1996), John Helie extended his commitment to dispute resolution and the Internet. John earlier founded ConflictNet in 1988 as a communication forum and information sharing network for the Conflict Resolution Practitioners community. A trained mediator and facilitator, John pioneered work with online conflict and communication from the… MORE >

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