Municipal Leaders Discuss Destructive Conflict

Massachusetts Municipal Conflict Resolution Needs Assessment Study

Local government institutions are at the frontline of solving today's complex social problems. The MA Office of Public Collaboration (MOPC) at the University of Massachusetts Boston has extensive experience helping these institutions and their stakeholders to collaboratively solve municipal and regional conflicts and this work has helped the office identify some of the needs for collaborative problem solving. However, a broader, more systematic and scientific examination of conflict resolution needs is required in order to better understand and document needs and generate appropriate programmatic solutions.

Legislative Commission

With the championship of key legislators, MOPC successfully conducted a comprehensive two-year assessment of municipal conflict resolution needs in collaboration with municipalities and other stakeholders to generate solutions to address those needs. To initiate the study, the Senate and House chairs of the Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government, Senator Linda Dorcena Forry and Representative Sarah Peake secured an unfunded legislative commission for this study in Outside Section 204 of the FY 2015 state budget. MOPC secured a UMass Boston Public Service Grant to fund graduate student research assistants from the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies.

Value of This Study

This needs assessment helps align MOPC's public mission and expertise to better serve municipalities and public agencies dealing with difficult local and regional issues, and add measurable value to communities and the state in transforming destructive public conflict. Through the study, positive societal outcomes were identified for all stakeholders to work towards and appropriate solutions developed in collaboration with municipalities and other stakeholders.

Final Report

The Massachusetts Municipal Conflict Resolution Needs Assessment Study Final Report and Executive Summary were released in January, 2016 and are available for download below. 

Municipal Study Final Report

Executive Summary

Advisory Team

MOPC formed a core committee of experienced advisors in municipal government and mediation with access to major stakeholder groups to guide the study-needs assessment process:

  • Edward Lambert, Vice Chancellor of Government Relations and Public Affairs, UMass Boston (former mayor of Fall River, former state legislator, former commissioner of the MA Dept of Conservation & Recreation)
  • Clare Higgins, Executive Director, Community Action of Franklin, Hampshire, North Quabbin Regions, Inc. (former mayor of Northampton, former president of Mass Municipal Association)
  • Stephen McGoldrick, Interim Director, Edward J. Collins Center for Public Management, UMass Boston (former deputy director of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, former chief of staff to Chelsea receiver)
  • Michael Ward, Municipal Services Director, Edward J. Collins Center for Public Management, UMass Boston (former budget analyst for Concord, former manager of mayoral campaign in MA)
  • Wendy Foxmyn, Interim Administrator Services - Municipal & Nonprofit; FEMA ADR cadre and USPS mediator (former elected/appointed official in numerous Western MA towns, former regional services manager of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission and Franklin Regional Councils of Governments)

Study Review Committee

MOPC formed a committee of prominent scholars and academics to review the study:

  • Joni Doherty, Franklin Pierce University, New England Center for Civic Life (Deliberative Democracy).
  • Roger Kaufman, Florida State University, Professor Emeritus (Needs Assessment).
  • Darren Kew, University of Massachusetts Boston, McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies (Conflict Resolution).
  • John Mullin, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Center for Economic Development (Regional Planning).
  • John Stephens, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, School of Government (Public Dispute Resolution).
  • Connie Stewart, Humboldt State University, California Center for Rural Policy (Public Policy).

The Solutions Strategies Group

Eleven committed municipal officials from across the state served on our Solutions Strategies Group (SSG) to refine and prioritize the Interim Report findings and recommendations and to recommend specific implementation strategies for inclusion in our final study filed in January 2016. They were as follows:

  • Tim DoddWestborough Selectman
  • Kimberley DriscollSalem Mayor
  • Mary Greendale - (former) Holliston Selectwoman
  • Rocco Longo - Marshfield Town Administrator
  • Sherry Patch - Hardwick Town Administrator
  • Barbara Searle - Wellesley Selectwoman
  • Michael Sullivan - South Hadley Town Manager
  • Jennifer Tabakin - Great Barrington Town Manager
  • Sheila Vanderhoef - Eastham Town Administrator
  • Carol Woodbury - Dennis-Yarmouth Superintendent
  • Michelle Wu - Boston City Councilor 

These SSG members were selected from individuals who participated in our regional focus groups and interviews for the Needs Assessment phase of our study and from municipal leaders recommended to us by our Needs Assessment Committee (NAC), who continued in an advisory capacity during the Solution Strategies phase.

MOPC Team

  • Susan Jeghelian, MOPC Executive Director
  • Madhawa Palihapitiya, MOPC Associate/Research Director
  • Mette Kreutzmann, MOPC Program Manager
  • Rosalind Cresswell, MOPC Program Manager
  • Kaila Eisenkraft, MOPC Research Associate
  • John Goodrich, MOPC Senior Affiliate Facilitator
  • Joy Winkler, MGS Research Assistant
  • Larry Raskin, MOPC Affiliate Facilitator
  • Virginia Goscinak, MGS Research Assistant

Study Stages & Timeframes

2014

Aug – Oct                    Needs Assessment Focus Groups

Oct – Nov                    Needs Assessment Interviews & Statewide Survey 

Nov – Dec                   Preparation of Interim Report

2015 

Jan                             Interim Report Review and Submission to Legislature

Feb – May                   Statewide Survey of Interim Report Findings & Recommendations

May – Oct                   Municipal Officials Solutions Strategies Group 

Oct – Dec                   Statewide Solutions Survey

2016

January                       Final Report Released!

Jan - Dec                    Advocacy and Implementation

Have Questions?

Comprehensive answers to questions about the Study.
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An Ideal Vision

A vision for addressing destructive conflict in Massachusetts.
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The Overview

Complete overview of the Study.
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Massachusetts Office of Public Collaboration

100 Morrissey Boulevard McCormack Hall, 1st Floor, Room 627
Boston, MA 02125-3393