We believe in the power of young people to peacefully and effectively resolve social conflicts.

We partner with community leaders to provide training for students to lead and facilitate discussion groups among their peers, and connect teachers and students to organizations that will help them lead change within their communities.

If you or your school are facing conflict along racial, gender, or other lines, look to the resources and organizations below for guidance and opportunities to hone your conflict resolution skills.

Conflict Resolution

Conflicts arise daily in teens’ lives, whether among family members, peers, with teachers or school administrators, neighbors and others.  How we approach that conflict — the actions we take to escalate or de-escalate the situation — is our choice.  Often with a little training and self-awareness, teens can resolve conflicts so they can excel in school.  YCD works to empower teens for exactly this situation.

Conflict resolution trainings often focus on negotiation and mediation where a third-party helps the two in conflict engage in positive dialogue and come to a mutual understanding. This includes training to become a “facilitator,” meaning you are not a direct party to the conflict or dialogue but rather are there to ensure that every party understands each other, with the ultimate goal that those conflict will collectively reach a mutually agreed solution.

Note that facilitators may not be charged with resolving conflict per se, but may also serve to simply ensure a group of individuals engages in discussion without coming to full resolution.  This model, similar to the one YCD employs at the Cherry Creek Diversity Conference and the Mountain West Diversity Conference, values having a group of people from different backgrounds talk with one another to break down stereotypes and misunderstandings, without requiring a specific outcome of the discussion.

You may be asking yourself: can students or teens play a facilitation role?  Absolutely!  YCD has been successfully training teens to be discussion leaders/facilitators for over 25 years.  We can provide guidance and support to any school or youth organization that would like to have its students trained in this discipline.  Contact us to discuss your project or need.

The following is adapted from materials provided by Paula Brown of GJD Coaching and Consulting.

The Role of a Dynamic Facilitator or Discussion Leader

A good discussion leader is vital to the success of the discussion circle.  It is not necessary to have training or experience in facilitating group discussions as long as you are enthusiastic, friendly, a good listener and able to think on your feet.

You must be able to create a safe, respectful, and friendly atmosphere of cooperation and trust where participants are comfortable sharing their opinions, ideas and experiences.

A good facilitator will:

  • Maintain focus – to keep the participants on track with the topic/information.
  • Enhance participation – to encourage all participants to engage in the process.
  • Maintain the environment – to create a safe, respectful, positive environment.
  • Be neutral – to treat all contributions from participants fairly and equally, ensuring participants are not favored or ignored and that the information they present is correct.
  • Offer encouragement – to ensure all participants can engage and contribute.

A good facilitator is:

  • Friendly
  • Enthusiastic
  • Flexible
  • Enjoys facilitating
  • Gives clear explanations
  • Able to troubleshoot and relieve tension
  • Treats participants with respect
  • Maintains confidentiality
  • Manages time well

Also, don’t be afraid to have a little fun!  Dynamic discussion leaders are also entertainers – they know when people are enjoying themselves they are much more receptive and participatory.

Questions to Facilitate Discussion and Dialogue

Start the Discussion

  • What experiences have you or people you know had with this issue/topic?
  • How is this topic/issue a problem in your school or community?
  • Why do you think this issue is a problem?

Encourage the Expression of Diverse Opinions

  • What do people who disagree with that view say?
  • Could you help me understand the reasons behind your opinion?
  • Does anyone have a different point of view or opinion?
  • Does anyone want to add to or support or challenge that point of view?

Promote Reflection and Deliberation

  • What seems to be the key point here?
  • Are there any points on which most of us would agree?
  • What have we learned about this issue?
  • What is the core of your disagreement?
  • Could you give us an example to illustrate your point?

Sum Up the Discussion

  • Did any common concerns emerge?
  • In what ways do you see the issue differently as a result of considering others’ views, opinions and experiences?
  • What is already being done to address this issue or topic?
  • What might we do moving forward to address this issue or topic?

Conflict Resolution Organizations in Colorado

Building Bridges creates a safe space for young people to meet face-to-face with those they have been taught to fear. Together, they develop personal connections based on empathy and respect and the confidence to transform divisive attitudes in their communities.  The organization offers summer intensive programs as well as opportunities for trainings and events during the school year.

The Conflict Center‘s programs give young people opportunities and a platform for their voices to be heard and the skills to turn conflict into opportunity. They believe in equipping all with the skills to navigate conflict productively whether in classrooms or interpersonally, using the principles of restorative practices. Through their Social Norming program, young people drive the effort of creating campaigns around healthy relationship norms and via Hot Spot Mapping take part in presenting data to school staff around “hot” and “cool” safety areas in and around their schools.

The Conflict Resolution Institute at the University of Denver is the university’s hub for the study of theory, research, and practice of conflict resolution. The Academic Program offers an Masters degree, while the Center for Conflict Engagement coordinates conferences, visiting scholars, joint projects, and community partnerships.

PeaceJam creates young leaders committed to positive change in themselves, their communities, and the world through the inspiration of Nobel Peace Laureates who pass on the spirit, skills, and wisdom they embody.  In general, PeaceJam has a global focus compared to some of the more local organizations listed above.

Youth Leadership

While schools and other organizations provide opportunities for youth leadership, all too often these roles aren’t available to marginalized students.

YCD supports the training of youth leaders from all communities, notably students of color, disabled students, LGBTQ+ students, and those from low-income families.  By intentionally creating young leaders in these spaces, we are creating a pipeline of young adults who are equipped to lead their communities in the future.

Most notably, YCD creates opportunities for youth leadership through our Executive Committee model, whereby a group of students from participating schools meet regularly to determine all the content, workshops and topics to be discussed at one of our conferences.  Within the Committee, individual students are provided leadership roles in putting on the event, with adult support and supervision.  Check out our Programs if you’re interested in joining one of our conference’s Executive Committees.

Youth Leadership Organizations in Colorado

The African American Youth Leadership Conference (AAYLC), based in Colorado Springs, educates, empowers, and enlightens youth of color to become critical thinkers, responsible citizens, and embrace the traditions, histories, and cultures of their communities.

Colorado Young Leaders guides students through a four-stage program named after Colorado’s Decalibron Loop – 4 nearby peaks with elevations over 14,000 ft. Their program helps young people grow their confidence, identify their skills and passions, and directly impact their community.

Colorado Youth Congress organizes high school students across the state to build community, knowledge and solutions through policy and advocacy efforts supported by mentors.  Groups meet monthly to advance a shared agenda or goal toward policy changes.

Youth Global Leadership, a program of the Philanthropiece Foundation, provides an opportunity for youth in Boulder County to become changemakers in their local and global communities. It is a program for youth who are passionate about service-learning, social entrepreneurship, and building community.

YCD Workshops on Conflict Resolution and Youth Leadership

Below is a sampling of workshops YCD has offered at prior conferences and events around the issues of conflict resolution and youth leadership.  Click on any workshop title to read more about the session, the presenter, and reviews from our participants.

Building a Strong Diversity Club at Your School

Are you interested in creating a diversity club at your own school? Do you already have a diversity club and are looking for ways to recruit students and host events? This workshop will allow you to engage in an open dialogue, provide you with tools, tricks, and ideas to grow and nurture your own diversity club, and create space for future collaboration with educators and students from many schools.

Character Counts: Not Judging People

Let’s have a discussion about students who may be “different” than their peers. Using a hands-on demonstration, we will also talk about not labeling ourselves or one another. Not judging people is harder than it may seem; do you have what it takes?

Deconstructing Identity

What are the components of your identity?  How does this compare to others, and what can we learn by understanding the different components of our identities?  Join this workshop to explore these questions and more in an interactive format.

The Good, the Bad, and the Bias

Join local youth advisers in an exploration of biases, acknowledging both positive and negative aspects of our bias. Small groups will unfold everyday examples of conscious and unconscious bias and stereotypes, and strategies to address them. Participants will engage in activities to learn how to support equity, inclusion and open-mindedness.

Honest and Compassionate Dialogue with Self and Others

A group of students stand in a circle.

We rely on our dynamic personal history to inform our perception of the world, others, and ourselves. Experiences such as suffering, joy, gender, culture, religion, and so much more distinguish how we learned to be versus how we would rather be in our day-to-day lives and through our interactions with others.  This workshop will provide strategies to help you become a more informed reader of physical signs in others and to become more aware of your own physical and psychological tendencies in order to interact authentically with others.

How to Interrupt Bias and Bullying

One student looks at another.

Have you ever heard someone say something prejudiced but weren’t sure how to respond? Or tried to intervene in bullying but aren’t sure you were effective? Or gotten angry at a family member who said biased things, but froze up when you tried to respond? This workshop will focus on identifying practical skills and strategies to help prepare you to interrupt name-calling and challenge biased and bullying behaviors.

Know Your Rights

All people in the United States enjoy the same constitutional protections, regardless of nationality, religion, immigration status, sexual identity, disability and gender.

The best way to protect your rights is to know your rights. In this workshop, the ACLU of Colorado will share information on how to handle a police interaction to keep students safe and help de-escalate a tense encounter while not giving away their rights.

Listening with the Heart: Non-Violent Communication

How often do you really feel HEARD? Learn how to listen with an open heart; and be heard in the same way. Do you find that counting to ten when you’re mad isn’t that helpful? Learn some non-violent communication techniques to get the results you desire in your relationships. Discover powerful, effective communication skills in this interactive, fun workshop (then teach them to your parents!).

The Many Hats of Diversity

A speaker addresses the group.

Are we as open as we think? We claim there are those who are not open to the differences of people in our world. How do we react when we come face-to-face with them? In this interactive workshop, we encourage you to examine what you really believe and the Agreements that you may have made along the way. Come test what you think and then leave with actual tools you can use in your school community and life.

My Ethics versus Your Values

Effley Brooks addresses a room.

This interactive workshop will challenge students to explore their ethics and values that have been formed throughout their lives. They will face ethical dilemmas and practice communication techniques when faced with different thinking. There will be laughter!

The Psychology of Hate and What You Can Do

Students listen to a speaker.

This interactive workshop will explore the complexity around the different kind of ISMS that are out there in society today (i.e. racism, sexism, homophobia.) We will also discuss strategies on what you can do to help reduce intolerance within your school and community.

Put Down the Backpack

A student listens.

Every one of us walks around with a weight put there by the lives we lead. You can’t see my backpack and I can’t see yours. That doesn’t mean it’s not heavy, and full of what makes me – ME! In this workshop, we will examine how life experience, labels and privilege weigh us down, and impact our lives.

Rock the Boat: Identity, Conflict, and Change

A group of students sit in a circle.

What happens when we stop trying to just be nice and not rock the boat? If we get real about our own thoughts and feelings about the “other,” can we dig deeper and challenge assumptions? Building Bridges’ youth leaders will facilitate this interactive workshop where you’ll have space to explore identity, difference, and conflict based on your own experiences and practice communication skills for change.

Sharing Stories of Love, Struggle and Finding Ourselves

A student speaks.

We will use creative brainstorming activities and writing exercises in order to share our stories of love, struggle, and finding ourselves. Through peer support we can grow as writers while growing as a community. All writing levels are welcome and all genres are welcome.

Social Groups and Stereotypes

Paula Brown speaks

This colorful interactive session is designed to create awareness of how subtle beliefs and behaviors can affect social interactions in everyday life.  This workshop will evoke thought and reflection about social group membership and how stereotypes and attitudes can influence behavior.

Sports for Everyone

Stereotypes, socioeconomics, and gender equality are all factors that affect our social lives—including sports and athletics. What does acceptance look like in today’s world? We’ll have an engaging discussion on how we all play a role in making athletics and sports inclusive for everyone.

Subtle Forms of Exclusion

A student speaks.

With the best of intentions, we are sometimes unaware of how our language and behavior can exclude people. What are the underlying messages we might be sending unintentionally? Through personal reflection and discussion, this interactive workshop will provide ideas and strategies for creating an environment in which everyone feels like they belong.

You Must be Carefully Taught to Love or Hate

Alice Wirth leads a discussion of how family impacts our ability to love and hate.

How have the lessons from home, spoken or unspoken, shaped who you are? How has your family affected how you interact with people who are similar and different from you?

This interactive workshop will feature activities, panel discussions, and audience participation. Panelists/audience will share how lessons learned from home affect their everyday life choices and experiences. Basic tools required to become accepting of yourself and others will be provided.

A World of Difference

A student gives a thumbs up.

Participants will explore their personal biases and how they affect the world around them. We will use interactive lessons from the Anti-Defamation League’s World of Difference curriculum to promote discussion as well as positive interaction among students.

Theatre Games: Diversity of Perspectives

Ryan Foo works with students.

Diversity isn’t just about our upbringing, culture, and affluence—it’s also about our state of mind. Explore with Ryan Foo from the Black Actors Guild as you journey through improv games that are designed to push the very limits of your perspective and understanding. The workshop will help participants develop an understanding of perspective, relationship, and growth.

Understanding Culture through Communication

A teen male and female sit on the floor talking.

How do we bridge cultural divides and what communication strategies help us connect and relate to those who are different from us?  In this interactive workshop, participants will explore the link between culture and communication.

Understanding Internal, External and Social Diversity

A group of students.

Diversity is more complicated than it seems.  In this workshop we will explore internal diversity (those things we can’t change, such as age, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation), external diversity (those things that may change over time such as income, spiritual beliefs and education) and social diversity (those things that may change due to the social groups we associate with at various times in our lives.) After participating in activities to recognize these various aspects of diversity, we will examine the impact they may  have on our diversity of thought and how we can use this knowledge to solve problems.