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.

Are You as Open-Minded as You Think?

A student listens and smiles.

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.

Challenging Linguistic Prejudice

Three teen girls talk in a small group.

What assumptions do you have about language diversity? Participants will be asked to reflect on how linguistic prejudice is still largely accepted in society (demonstrated with several current media examples) whereas other types of discrimination are not. The workshop will end with discussing real world consequences of linguistic prejudice, and how this form of prejudice impacts our lives today.

Making Sense of Challenging Decisions

A panel of religious representatives speak.

We are often faced with choosing between seeming opposites, some not as clear as others. Using whole and small group activities, we will explore what the Hindu text, the Bhagavad Gita, says about moving towards equanimity and mindfulness. Hopefully, this text will give participants concrete take-aways when faced with having to make challenging decisions.

Social Justice? Intersectionality? Say What?

Students sit in a circle and discuss.

This workshop is an introduction to what social justice means and how to use intersectionality as a framework for understanding and dismantling forms of oppression. We’ll discuss how to accurately use terms; learn exactly what racism, sexism, cissexism, heterosexism, classism, ableism, etc. mean; and how -isms are not a two-way street. There will also be dialogue around the concept of ally-ship and what each of you can do to make a difference. There will be a lot of pictures, some videos, fun activities, and plenty of time to share.

Stress 101: Stay Calm and Carry On

A group of Latinx students sits on the stairs and smiles.

Stress—it’s something teens deal with every day, and it doesn’t go away when we become adults. From the pressure of getting good grades in school to dealing with difficult times in our families, it helps to have tools that help us stay calm in the midst of chaos. Participants in this workshop will generate discussion about this topic and gain insight from shared experience. We will also learn hands-on strategies to take better care of ourselves on a daily basis so that when life gets tough, we can get through it and carry on.

Transforming Conflict into Peace

A student smiles in the middle of a conversation.

How do we resolve conflict—in ourselves, with others, and in the systems and structures we have to engage with every day? Attendees will turn their lens inward to feel what might be happening in their bodies and mind, as well as outward to check-in with where the big conflicts are in their personal and collective landscapes.  Then, we’ll collectively build a foundational approach to transforming conflict into peace.

Using Kindness to Create Community

Two students smile.

How do you bring your community together? How do you create opportunities to talk to one another? Learn how you can inspire relationships through Kindness Clubs challenges and activities. Experience the 1,000 Thank Yous CHALLENGE, the Community Gratitude Tree, the We All Have a Voice! DREAM Wall. Participants will personally experience each activity. They will learn the step-by-step process to use each to connect and celebrate the diverse voices in their own community.

Using Personal Narrative to Decolonize Our Hearts and Minds

Students listen as another person talks.

Participants will share and breakdown the personal narratives that we all hold, starting with our names (where it comes from, what it means) and moving outward to how we talk about ourselves. Finally, we look at how institutions like media, schools, politics, etc. create narratives about young people. This workshop is an exercise in how to identify, deconstruct, and rebuild narratives for truth, power, and decolonization.

Breaking the Chains: Engaging Young Men of Color in School

One student speaks while another looks at him intently.

In this student-led workshop, the Student Board of Education/5280 Challenge team from the Denver Center for International Studies will help participants reflect upon the status of young men of color in schools, as well as share and develop strategies to engage them. Young men of color, particularly African American and Raza male students, are often absent from leadership roles in school, find themselves alienated in classes, and are targeted for harsh disciplinary practices. Each group of participants will develop ways to address this problem in schools. All of us means ALL of us.

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

Marissa Molina speaks to the audience.

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.

Disability, Advocacy, and Building Power

A student in a wheelchair watches as two other students write on a paper in the hallway.

Join two advocates from the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition in exploring how to become an advocate for disability rights or an ally for students with disabilities. We’ll explore the intersection of disability and white privilege. We will give you concrete ideas on how to disrupt disability oppression.

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.

Gun Violence Prevention and Student Action

Student smile and make peace signs for the camera.

This workshop, led by a few select students from Team Enough and Students Demand Action, will inform students about the history and complexities of gun violence in America, the student activism movement focused around gun violence prevention, counter arguments, and solutions being advocated for federally and in Colorado. Students who have made a name for themselves in this movement will provide personal experiences, expertise, opportunities and ways for other students to get involved nationally, statewide, and in their own communities. This workshop will give students access to gun violence prevention tools and groups, and will inspire students to stand up for what they believe in.

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.

Inclusion, Identity and Belonging

A diverse group of students smile for the camera.

Starting with a spirited and interactive conversation—joining participant ideas and definitions regarding difference and inclusivity with common, current best practices—this workshop moves into a fun and dynamic small group activity surrounding identity, membership, and belonging, including associated challenges. Together, we will then define our vision for a perfectly inclusive world and work toward ideas and commitments to bring this vision to light. Wrapping up, we will reveal a specific commitment from each participant that is conceived in a very special format, bringing the workshop to a very comprehensive pin point of knowledge, ideas, and realistic future action steps.

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.

Left versus Right: Politics and Diversity

Corey Jones smiles and points his finger in front of a screen about left versus right.

Have you have ever had a debate, conversation or argument with someone with different political views? Maybe you feel uncomfortable sharing your views with others, for fear of being judged or criticized. If so, then you’ll want to attend this fun and interactive workshop to learn how to respectfully engage others in meaningful conversations about the issues that affect our world.

Lessons Learned from Home: 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.

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 Faces of Privilege

A group of teachers put post-it notes on the wall.

During this session participants will generate a common understanding of privilege, and the many ways it impacts our lives. We will discuss multiple ways in which we all have some privilege, and which privileges have the most impact in our lives. Finally, we will consider what it might mean to give up some privilege we have.

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.

Mindfulness for Teens

A group of students stand in a line thinking and listening.

We can’t change our biases until we know what they are, and mindfulness can serve as a tool to interact differently with other people, especially across social differences.

We will start out talking about what mindfulness is, its roots in Eastern/Buddhist philosophy, and how it can be used not only for self-care, but to minimize implicit bias and create cultural inclusion. We will interactively discuss each of these topics, ask participants to bring their whole selves into the room (not just their intellects) to mindfully check in to their own bodies as they consider their own biases and embodied reactions to stereotypes, and offer solutions and strategies for culturally inclusive behavior.

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!

Navigating Healthy Relationships: It’s Complicated

A student smiles as the group around him navigates a human knot.

Teen dating is hard. Texting, social media, and navigating the school environment make romantic relationships really hard. What are healthy and unhealthy qualities in a relationship? How do I kindly and respectfully break up with someone? This workshop will discuss what to look for in a healthy relationship and how to communicate better with your partner.

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.

Resolving Conflict: What I Wish I Knew in High School

A student speaks while others listen.

Have you experienced conflict in school, at work, or with family and friends? Of course, everyone has! Everyone can also learn how to deal with that conflict more constructively. We will discuss conflicts that you are experiencing and effective ways to deal with them. We will use small-group discussion and role playing to explore tools to help you address conflict in positive ways.

Restorative Practices in Schools: Closing the Equity Gap

Students sit in a circle talking.

We will practice a community building circle, and discuss the unique and dynamic ways circles are used in schools to change climate and culture. You will then do a brief activity that demonstrates the influence of perspective. You will learn how restorative practices eliminate the power differential between people, which creates equity in conflict and discipline situations. The training is interactive, relevant, and fun.

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.

Shifting Your Perception

A group of students listens intently.

This transformative workshop consists of brain teaser exercises, illusions, videos and activities to explore how we see and what choices we make because of those beliefs. During this interactive experience we uncover origins that shaped our perceptions of race, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, religion, ability and appearance. We depict how the factors shaping our beliefs from our experiences and environment to the media influences choices with detrimental or beneficial results. In this heightening self-awareness session you will receive empowerment strategies to heal from harmful experiences and rid yourself of destructive conditioning in order to break unhealthy habits, attain self-love and build empathy and sincere relationships. Leave feeling stronger and uplifted with a newly evolved approach toward the treatment of self and others.

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.

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.

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.