The JAMS Foundation is a nonprofit founded by JAMS whose goal it is to have a lasting and substantial impact on dispute resolution worldwide. The Foundation is proud to support New York Peace Institute (NYPI) with a $380,000, three-year grant to expand mediation training for police officers throughout New York City.
David Brandon, managing director of the JAMS Foundation asked Ayanna Behin, manager of training and business development at NYPI, a few questions about the organization, its mission and how COVID-19 has changed the way it is helping communities resolve conflicts.
Ayanna Behin, manager of training and business development at the New York Peace Institute
Can you tell us more about NYPI and how it was created?
NYPI was established in 1981 following the passage of a New York State law [22 NYCRR 116 and Article 21-A] that created nonprofit community dispute resolution centers [CDRCs] in each county in New York. CDRCs, including the NYPI, were started by community leaders who believed in the power of mediation to resolve conflicts and bring peace to their neighborhoods. Originally part of the Victim Services Agency, now Safe Horizon, in 2011, the NYPI became its own 501(c)(3) and has steadily expanded its dispute resolution and restorative justice programs and services. Our current CEO, Jennifer Magida, started in January 2019, and under her leadership, we are committed to reaching new constituencies and forging new partnerships, with a focus on increased engagement of under-resourced New Yorkers and high-need communities.
What are NYPI’s main goals and mission?
As New York City’s largest civilian peace force and the state-designated CDRC for Manhattan and Brooklyn, NYPI empowers people to find creative and durable solutions to their disputes. We provide conflict resolution services in the form of mediation, conflict coaching, restorative justice processes and skills training to over 10,000 New Yorkers each year, and we advance the field by training and certifying mediators and teaching conflict resolution skills to our community. NYPI envisions a world in which all people have the resources to resolve their differences creatively and constructively.
How has your organization changed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic?
NYPI closed both of its offices and quickly transitioned all services online in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Although we have been unable to provide services in person, we have been working diligently to meet the needs of our community members, partners and volunteers through virtual offerings, including mediation and conflict coaching services over the phone and via Zoom, as well as developing new programs to support the community. During the pandemic, we have seen a record number of inquiries related to noise complaints among neighbors, increased interest among parents looking for help with co-parenting plans and changes to scheduling and more communities struggling with layoffs and quarantines.
We have also seen an increase in requests for training, restorative justice practice and conflict resolution from organizations struggling with internal conflict heightened by the dual pandemics of COVID-19 and social injustice.
Our work with the NYPD has undergone an incredible shift as well. Although we have not been able to conduct our intensive four-day training program, we have been able to add to the services that we provide, including shorter Zoom-based training on mediation and de-escalation for newly promoted sergeants. We helped to facilitate citywide listening sessions as part of the NYPD’s Reform & Reinvention Collaborative in 2020, which engaged 2,346 people in real time on Zoom and Facebook Live, and has had over 74,000 views to date.
What is your role with the organization and what interested you in this role?
I am the manager of training and business development at NYPI. I train individuals, groups and organizations in key conflict resolution skills to de-escalate conflict and mediate disputes, and I facilitate and lead complicated conversations. I mentor and coach practitioners and design individualized training programs for organizations and groups to address a broad range of issues that can impact day-to-day operations and morale. I also facilitate community discussions around core and sometimes controversial issues.
I joined NYPI because I believe that communication is the key to unlocking any conflict. I am a certified mediator and have been coaching, teaching and mentoring since 2016. I have lead the training team here since January 2020.
How does JAMS fit into the NYPI’s initiatives?
JAMS helped the NYPI launch our renowned Police Mediation Partnership, whereby we train officers in mediation and de-escalation techniques and create a direct line for officers to refer mediation matters to the NYPI and other CDRCs in New York City. JAMS has been a thought partner and provided critical funding and key access to power brokers at critical moments throughout our program’s development and implementation.
How is the grant from JAMS helping you achieve your goals?
Most recently, the JAMS grant has supported us in sharing best practices and lessons learned with other cities interested in creating their own police mediation partnerships.
What are some of the NYPI’s plans this year?
In 2021, we plan to take the lessons learned from our experiences last year, in which we demonstrated resilience, creativity and integrity, and use them to reach even more communities, individuals and organizations. We continue to hold ourselves accountable to our values, to each other and to the clients that we serve.
Is there anything else you want people to know?
We would not be able to reach the thousands of New Yorkers in conflict without support from individuals and organizations like JAMS that see the intrinsic value in providing people with conflict resolution tools and support for alternative dispute resolution.
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