An Olive Branch | Training
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Creating healthy spiritual communities

Buddhist groups in the United Sates are no less immune to conflict and misconduct than other spiritual or religious groups. In spite of the ancient Buddhist values of peacemaking and the clear guidance of the precepts, people — spiritual leaders and students alike — still behave badly, hurt one another, keep secrets, and take advantage of power. While it is impossible for human communities to function entirely free of conflict and misconduct, there are ways to reduce the chaos and long-lasting damage to individuals and organizations caused by conflict and ethical misconduct.

Organizations need a strong governance structure that includes up-to-date bylaws, a balance of power, a robust ethics policy, and ongoing sangha education. When conflict and ethical misconduct arise, the community needs ways to cope – a crystal clear grievance procedure, whistleblower policy, and people trained in effective conflict resolution.

An Olive Branch offers expertise to help spiritual communities develop knowledge, policies, and governance processes. Our educational sessions for boards and members are an investment in long-term strength and resilience. Inclusive decisions, more effective conversations, and reduced impact of conflict are some of the benefits.

An Olive Branch offers training on the following topics:

  • Board Governance
  • Difficult Conversations
  • Ethics Policies and Grievance Procedures

Board Governance

At An Olive Branch, we assert that the incidence and effects of conflict, misconduct, and other dysfunctions in organizations can be reduced when these organizations have a healthy governance system and well communicated policies. Further, organizations with strong board governance are generally successful, resilient, and just plain enjoyable for everyone involved.

Board governance training will pay dividends, long term, in an organization’s sustainability. An energized, effective board leads to a thriving organization; an ingrown or rubber-stamp board leads to a stagnant organization.

Governance services include:

  • Conducting a board assessment and designing training to fill the gaps
  • Training on board responsibilities to set direction, ensure resources, and provide oversight
  • Reviewing bylaws to bring them into line with best practices
  • Facilitating the development of a strategic plan to focus on important initiatives.

Difficult Conversations

When conflict arises either in one’s personal or professional life, the typical response is to turn away from it or to keep the conflict going until “I win.” Difficult Conversations training from An Olive Branch offers an alternative: skills in effective communication and mutual problem-solving. We teach a dialogue and listening process based on practices used in professional mediation.

Difficult Conversations training includes:

  • Understanding the nature of conflict and each person’s role in it
  • Creating win-win solutions
  • Practicing effective communication through role play scenarios
  • Applying this type of communication in life’s various relationships.

Ethics Policies and Grievance Procedures

An Olive Branch’s experience indicates that organizations with clear ethics policies and grievance procedures are rarely the ones that suffer extreme chaos when allegations of ethical misconduct surface. On the other hand, spiritual organizations that are clergy-centered or authoritarian are particularly at risk for misconduct because members are taught to accept the spiritual leader’s power without question.

Ethics Policies and Grievance Procedures consultations include:

  • Exploring power relationships and fiduciary responsibilities
  • Learning about the ethics of teacher-student relationships
  • Understanding appropriate boundaries
  • Studying examples of ethics policies and grievance procedures and adapting them for a specific organization.