Although various issues may sometimes leave the community divided, Del Mar citizens have one thing in common: They care about their city.
In an effort to keep conversations civil — even when there’s conflict — community members are invited to participate in one of three upcoming courses.
“I’ve always noticed that when people care a lot and feel passionate, we can move into conflict, and that’s only natural,” said Gloria Sandvik, a Del Mar resident, who is funding the sessions, along with her longtime friend and fellow Del Mar resident Barbara Freeman. “So I was excited about doing something because of the amount of care people have for this community. People care so much about the community.”
The courses will take place just weeks after the City Council unanimously adopted a code of civil discourse. On April 4, Del Mar became the first city in the region to adopt such a code, which is based on the National Conflict Resolution Center’s Code of Civil Discourse.
“It’s very exciting for a community such as Del Mar to take a leadership role in adopting the code,” said Del Mar resident Steven Dinkin, president and CEO of NCRC. “We really envision the Code of Civil Discourse being a seminal document across the entire region, and hopefully, even beyond the region.”
An international leader in mediation instruction and conflict resolution, San Diego-based NCRC provides the resources, training and expertise to help people, organizations and communities around the world manage and solve conflicts with civility.
The University of San Diego Law Center and the San Diego County Bar Association founded the organization in 1983. Since then, NCRC has managed more than 20,000 cases.
Mayor Sherryl Parks proposed a code of civil discourse after she attended a training program hosted by NCRC. Coincidentally, Sandvik and Freeman had also been discussing how to keep public dialogue productive.
“From small things to big things, some things just seem to get people riled up,” said Freeman, who has lived in Del Mar for 11 years.
Spearheaded by Parks and Councilman Dwight Worden, “Civility Works: The Del Mar Code of Civil Discourse,” was crafted. The one-page code is a pledge for inclusive and respectful communication practices that foster fruitful dialogue and promote progress.
“Together we will: promote inclusion, listen to understand, show respect, be clear and fair, focus on the issue,” the code states.
As the city worked on the code, Sandvik and Freeman considered how they could help the community.
“She (Parks) came back and wanted to work with it on the city level, and Barbara and I wanted to work with it on the citizen level, so it was sort of a process that just unfolded very quickly and very interestingly,” said Sandvik, who bought her home in 1997 and has lived in Del Mar since 2003. “It had its own energy.”
Now that the code has been adopted, it will be posted on the city’s website, in public meeting rooms and included in meeting agendas.
“These principles are critical to remind everyone when they’re in the heat of the battle to remain respectful, focus in on the issue, be clear and fair,” Dinkin said. “By following these principles, it allows for a much more productive dialogue, and hopefully, a much more attainable result.”
To further promote the city’s new code, community members are invited to participate in NCRC’s “Art of Inclusive Communication” course, which teaches participants how to practice civil discourse, how to find common ground, and how to gain the communication skills needed to move forward. Led by Lisa Maxwell, NCRC’s director of training, the hands-on, half-day sessions can accommodate up to 24 people at a fee of $2,500.
Sandvik and Freeman are funding three sessions and coordinating invitations. They’ve invited residents by mail, email and word-of-mouth.
“We’re really hoping that people that are on all sides of different kinds of issues will be willing to come,” Sandvik said. “The idea is that we can move toward a little bit of a culture shift.”
Trainings will be held from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. April 20 at Pacifica Del Mar, from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. April 21 at Searsucker, and from noon to 3:30 p.m. April 24 at Fairbanks Ranch Country Club. To register, contact Hanna Venizelos at 619-238-2400 ext. 237 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
“It’s an opportunity to learn essential skills to improve the community, but it’s also a time to spend with their neighbors and others in the community in an environment that’s conducive to promoting discussion and interaction,” Dinkin said.
Depending on public interest, additional trainings could be available in the future, Sandvik and Freeman said.
The Del Mar Foundation has also offered to fund a course for the chairs of city advisory committees and committee support staff. The training session is set for May.