An NVC-based collaborative approach to child custody legislation in MN

We are reopening our Appeal to raise $13,000 for a significant social change project. $5,000 already raised. Our gratitude to all who already gave.

For the last several months Miki Kashtan of BayNVC has been working with a group of legislators, lobbyists, and advocates in Minnesota to support a possible collaborative solution to a multi-year debate about child custody legislation. In Minnesota in January she facilitated a daylong meeting of nineteen of the stakeholders to begin the process. She applied Convergent Facilitation, the process she has created and refined in the last few years, to arrive at a list of 25 principles and criteria that everyone in the room could accept as guidelines for the rest of the project (as pictured below, with some of the participants).

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In February Miki wrote about this successful first stage of the process: “I celebrate this profoundly. The transformation from the total hopelessness about any solution, other than a win-lose fight with opponents, to an amicable agreement by all was truly miraculous. This is such an amazing opportunity to bring the gifts of NVC to practical applications, and yet the project is now on hold as the sponsors are seeking funding.”

The feedback from participants was so positive that by April three lawyer organizations had committed $1,000 each to fund the next part of the project, and some of the advocacy groups raised more funds through their constituencies. Later in the year, a new bill was passed in MN that would allocate funds for supporting various conflict resolution processes in the state. During the deliberations, several legislators spoke in favor of the bill based on their experience of the process of working with the group.

Despite not having raised sufficient funds for this project, Miki continues to work on it. Phase two is now complete. The absence of funding led Miki to forego intensive involvement with small groups and focus, instead, on supporting a few volunteers who stepped forward to convene small-group discussions. That turned out to be a fantastic turn of events. The ongoing conversations with the convenors have supported them with facilitation and process tips. The result was nothing short of magic taking place in the small groups. All four of the groups have organically coalesced around a particular aspect of the task of moving from principles to actual proposals. Each group had a full diversity of opinions within it, and they have all found paths to true collaboration.

At the end of October, Miki facilitated the whole group again for two days of intensive deliberation and dialogue to hear the proposals generated by the small groups, and to aim for breaking out of the mutually suspicious years-long debate that prevailed before.

At the end of the meeting, the group agreed on a number of elements to be reviewed, again, by the constituencies represented in the room. The overall atmosphere was entirely different from the initial meeting. There was a palpable sense of caring for the whole, reaching out to care for people with opposing positions, and an incredible persistent with challenges.

The group reconvenes on the phone in January in the hopes of ratifying the agreements from phase 3 and creating small groups for phase 4.

Meanwhile,the list of 26 principles that have been agreed upon in January is now official, and can be read here.

We anticipate continuing to update you on the unfolding of this process

We had hoped to receive funding from the state of MN based on the new bill that was passed. This possibility remains very uncertain, so we are re-opening our earlier fundraising efforts to make this work possible without compromising our sustainability. We are still seeking at least $13,000, as the previous round of this campaign yielded about $5,000 of the total $18,000 that are needed for completion.

You can contribute by credit card here, and please put “MN child custody project” in the memo line. Or send a check to BayNVC, 55 Santa Clara Avenue #203, Oakland, CA 94610.