Mediator Profile: Colorado’s Chris Moore

This article originally appeared in the April 1997 issue of Consensus, a newspaper
published jointly by the Consensus Building Institute and the MIT-Harvard
Public Disputes Program.

Talk about tough audiences. . . The only thing worse than the
audience attorney Helen Stone and her colleague, mediator Chris Moore, were about to face
was the ride there.

“We were in Vancouver, British Columbia,” recalls Stone, who practices
conflict resolution as well as law in Boulder, Colorado, of that day a decade ago.
“We had been invited to speak to a group of judges about using basic mediation
techniques for [judicial] mediation conferences and how judges, having a position of
power, can use that with mediation skills to get cases settled rather than going to trial.

“Our invitation was to speak during a luncheon in Victoria, B.C. So we had to fly
there. And it was this small airplane. It seated just 18 people. And it was a seaplane. It
took off and landed on the water!

“Well, Chris was not fond of such a small airplane, to put it mildly, so he was
really out of sorts when we arrived after a flight of about 20 minutes.

“When we got to the luncheon, there was this audience, all male judges, sitting
with their arms crossed as if to say, ‘What have you got to show me about anything?!

“The remarkable thing was how quickly Chris turned the situation around. He simply
opened it up and threw it in their laps. He got them talking. So while they expected this
outsider to try to lecture them, he doesn’t buy into that at all. Instead, he starts
to ask them their styles, how they settle cases. He got them engaged in a way that got
them to a point where they could hear him.

“Then he started to talk about what we had come to say.”


Globe-trotting trainer

Smooth chops like that have earned Moore his reputation as not only a talented mediator
but a premier conflict resolution trainer as well.

A partner in CDR Associates, of Boulder, since 1981, Moore has become a sought-after
trainer in the U.S. and abroad. His instruction covers the spectrum of practitioner
skills:

Multi-party negotiations, public policy and environmental mediation, public
participation, meeting facilitation, conflict analysis and strategy design, contract
negotiations, cross-cultural negotiations, dispute systems design . . .

Students come from the ranks of government, business, and non-governmental
organizations. Moore teaches participants to deal with internal, external, and intramural
conflict.

He has now consulted and trained in 20 countries, stretching from Western and Eastern
Europe through the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and Latin America. His projects abroad
include:

  • Designing and delivering conflict management programs on water-environmental issues in
    the Mediterranean region under the auspices of such organizations as the World Bank.
  • Multi-party negotiation training for the Palestinian team negotiating water and
    environmental issues that are part of the Middle East peace talks.
  • Consulting and training for the ministry of environment and ecological groups in Poland.

Bernard Mayer, another of CDR’s five partners, says Moore’s work as a trainer
has changed over the years.

“One of the most important changes is that we both have gone to deeper conceptual
roots,” says Mayer, one of the firm’s four original partners. “When we
first trained, it was more on the basis of, ‘This is how you do it. Here are the
steps. Follow this.’ It was more formula-based.

“Now he has a much deeper conceptual understanding of what’s really going on,
in terms of his practice and a deeper conceptual understanding of a real multiplicity of
actual behaviors and how people really act and what motivates them.”

Born in Boston, raised in the desert

Moore was born in Boston and raised in Los Alamos, Nevada, where his father was
associate director of the nuclear weapons division for the University of California, which
ran the well-known Los Alamos laboratory for the Manhattan Project in World War Two. His
mother was a teacher before her marriage.

Moore, who will celebrate his 50th birthday in June, earned his doctorate in political
sociology and development from Rutgers.

Friends credit his consensual orientation at least partially to his faith and family.

“I believe his work and beliefs stem from, in part, his Quaker meeting background
and his realization that … decision-making has to come from those affected by the
outcome,” says Jay Folberg, dean and professor at the University of San Francisco
school of law, who has occasionally worked with Moore since the early 1980s.

Moore, however, was not raised in the Quaker tradition.

“I became a Quaker in the late 1960s,” Moore says. “I didn’t grow
up as a Quaker… Both of my parents were Presbyterian, although I did not have any
religious background. My father’s parents were professors at black freedmen’s
universities in Alabama after the Civil War. So I come from a family tradition of
social-change efforts.”

If Moore’s commitment to consensual solutions was forged from the steel of Quaker
beliefs, it was hammered into shape by his experience as an activist after being graduated
from Juniata College in Pennsylvania in 1969.

One of his first experiences was as a member of a Quaker team trying to mediate growing
tension between the city of Philadelphia and the Black Panthers, a sometimes militant
black-power advocacy group. The Panthers had planned to convene what they described as a
new American constitutional convention, to negotiate a fairer set of civil rights. The
conclave was to be held in the City of Brotherly Love, and the Panthers hoped to draw up
to 20,000 participants.

“Just before the conference, all of the Panther leadership was arrested on charges
[relating to the] shooting of two white policemen. The black community in North
Philadelphia was put under a curfew.”

Tensions grew. In the near aftermath of the Sixties, a decade defined by war, riots,
and assassination, a peaceable resolution could hardly be taken for granted. Moore worked
the streets with a team from the Society of Friends, one of many peacekeeping groups
trying to cool the city.

“The city didn’t blow up,” says Moore. “That was definitely
positive — and not pre-ordained!”

By the mid-1970s Moore was working with Movement for a New Society, a group advocating
social change and providing community mediation.

Conflict resolution tightened its hold on his imagination. He returned to graduate
school, earned his degree, and elevated his career.

His technique has evolved

CDR tackles a wide array of international, public policy, environmental, and
organizational issues. Since the early 1980s Moore has specialized in mediating complex,
multi-party public disputes, often centering on environmental and natural-resource
questions. He has mediated policy dialogues for county, state and federal agencies,
including a wolf management policy for the state of Alaska.

Likewise, he has mediated regulatory negotiations for state and federal agencies. Moore
also has conducted site-specific water-related facilitations and mediations, such as the
renegotiation of an interstate water compact between the states of Kansas and Nebraska.

Like his approach to training, his technique as an intervenor has evolved.

“He is less prescriptive and more elicitive,” says Susan Wildau, managing
partner of CDR and, indeed, Moore’s life partner.

“What that means is that rather than prescribing or conceptualizing the moves that
a mediator or facilitator makes as set in concrete and not changing and being universal,
he looks more at different models and elicits from the people involved their own approach,
their own interests. Especially in cross-cultural work.”

Fellow partner Mayer concurs. “We’re now more process-design based,” he
says. “We see our work less in terms of standing in front of groups, orchestrating
dialogue and change.”

In turn, that technique built on synthesizing requires two skills.

“One of Chris’s essences is that he can organize complicated situations into
simple frameworks that help people see an issue . . .” says Mayer.

“[Another] is that he is extremely respectful of people’s needs and where
they’re coming from personally and culturally. . .”

Take the time in 1993, when Moore and Mayer were facilitating a policy dialogue in
Alaska concerning wolf control. When it was time to conduct a session during which people
on all sides of the issue could speak, everyone initially was allotted up to five minutes.

“People in the audience were shouting out if speakers went over their allowed
time,” says Mayer. “They were taking the time limit seriously. Then a native
Alaskan came in and said he had come in from his trapping lines, that he had been
traveling 12 hours to get here and he was not going to speak in just five minutes, and
that that was simply not how native Alaskans did this sort of thing. Their approach was to
communicate with story telling, not a linear discourse…

“We had to modify the structure, . . . adapt the process to accommodate the native
Alaskan way of communicating. And we had to ‘surface’ the need for that
modification so everybody could understand it.”

Wild parties at Ward’s Malibu condo?

Professional basketball star Dennis Rodman earns his paychecks by hauling down rebounds
by the bushel. But it is his rainbow hair-dos and colorful attitude that earn him
invitations onto late-night talk shows.

Similarly, there is one thing about Moore’s style rather than the substance of his
work that people often recall.

“When Chris conducts a training, his team uses role-playing,” says law
professor Folberg. “And they often use the old television situation comedy,
‘Leave It To Beaver,’ about the all-American family, to show the kinds of
conflict that can arise in any family.”

The reviews are in, folks, and the critics are raving.

“I think that their re-creation of Beaver and June and Ward surpasses the original
in entertainment quality,” enthuses Folberg.“They poke fun at an American icon
while illustrating their training points.”

“It was terrific,” says Boulder attorney Helen Stone. “Chris would play
Ward or the Beav, and along comes Susan [Wildau], wearing her little white apron and
carrying a tray of cookies. She had it down perfectly…

“The television show was our stereotype of what the family means, and the CDR
actors use it to show what changes when you have dissolution and roles changing. Like what
happens when Ward has an affair, and when Ward and June get a divorce.”

Moore, whose mother performed in community theater, points to the practical aspects.

“Acting is part of the teaching process,” he says. “What we’re
trying to do is demonstrate the stages of mediation, show what they are, and be
entertaining so students pay attention and remember.

“When we started in the early ‘80s, the generation of people being trained
was very familiar with ‘Leave It To Beaver’ and they got all the jokes about
mediating custody rights and visitation rights between Ward and June and how afraid June
was that Ward was off having wild beach parties at his new condo in Malibu… But for the
next generation of students, we may have to switch to the Waltons.”

As for the field itself, Moore also foresees evolutionary changes.

“There will be growth in the number of individuals and firms that are private
practitioners,” he predicts. “The areas of applications will expand
dramatically, too. So far what’s going on is maybe small potatoes; there will be all
kinds of new applications, like conflict resolution in cyberspace, by computer
technologies, in the whole realm of communications… And ADR will certainly become more
institutionalized in judicial systems.”

Moreover, Moore sees no short-term resolution to the debate over credentials and
licensing.

“. . . [C]onflict resolution will be used more in public disputes, which will
either make local bars more eager to close off competition by ‘outsiders’ or
will make the demand for services so great that it will not be possible to block service
by qualified practitioners from whatever background.”

Makes things look simple

Not having a caped costume with a bold letter “S” emblazoned on his chest,
Moore is as vulnerable to setbacks as the next practitioner. An example was the time he
was retained to mediate the development of a growth management plan for California.

“It was a highly politicized negotiation,” Moore says. “…We basically
reached a series of agreements that legislators incorporated into bills, but not the total
package that we had originally hoped for.”

Moore drew two lessons: One is the danger of becoming mediator after stakeholder
representatives had been selected.

The second lesson concerns expectations. “You need to be realistic about what can
and cannot be achieved,” he says. “We need to accept incremental levels of
success. Sometimes it’s simply not possible to get a 100-percent solution first time
out.”

Others appreciate what Moore does accomplish. Frank Carr, chief trial attorney and ADR
specialist for the Army Corps of Engineers, for which Moore has conducted trainings, says
Moore comprehends conflict the way a good auto mechanic understands engines. He knows how
to look at it, to find both the cause of trouble and the solution.

“He has an ability, during presentations, to take a complex and well-publicized
current conflict and break it down into simple parts that everyone can understand,”
Carr says.

Attorney Paul Snyder of Boulder, a friend and occasional mediator who has taken
CDR’s training, describes Moore’s skills like this:

“[He is] a quick study about things… So he’s able to mine from the minds of
mediating parties what their interests really are.

“There is no one in this world who doesn’t operate without biases. Chris is
no different. He has seen the world and has views on the way things ought to be. But he
has an uncommon capacity to put those aside to enable those he mediates with to reach
their own solutions rather than his.”

                        author

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