Freitag, 22. April 2016

Morning News, 23 April 2016

Got up early today. Turned the radio on. Listened to the news. Suddenly realized that the news are special.

Let me share with you my special mix of morning news today:
  • Syria: Staffan de Mistura, the UN Special Envoy, is deeply worried that the current truce might break
  • United Nations: 175 states have signed the Global Agreement on Climate Protection (a first in history)
  • Europe/Germany/Turkey: Angela Merkel admits personal mistakes in handling the "Böhmermann Affair", a satyrical attack by a German comedian insulting the president of Turkey (she made the statement before taking off for Turkey for a new round of talks). 
This is my today's morning mix of dispair and hope.
I give hope a chance.

yours hopefully
geri baobab

greeting you with a picture of Cassia, our new family member, still asleep

Sonntag, 5. Januar 2014

Mandela's example lives on

Dear friends,
while the world was mourning Nelson Mandela I was longing to be together with my South African friends. I wanted to share the intense moments of commemoration with them, the feelings od grief and of gratefulness. It was not possible to make the journey. So I watched the mourning ceremony on TV and I took encouragement from commemorative messages that reached me through the internet.

I would like to mention two of the messages here. They are a beautiful testimony of how Mandela's example is living on in our minds and our hearts.

Facing the truth of our mutual dependency
Njabulo Ndebele, vice-chancelor of the University of Cape Town, in an essay on the significance of Mandela's leadership, explains how his wisdom showed a way to transform the power struggle and to reach a higher level of cooperation. He recalls a meeting between Mandela and the military commanders of the Apartheid regime led by General Constant Viljoen.

"This meeting took place  at a particularly dangerous phase of the negotiated transition. At that time elements of the South African Defence Force seemed dangerously poised to begin an armed intervention. Mandela, with his characteristic candour when the stakes are high, is reported to have given the generals his frank appraisal of the situation everyone faced:

'if you go to war', he told the generals, 'I must be honest and admit that we cannot stand up to you on the battlefield. We don't have the resources. It will be a long and bitter struggle, many people will die and the country may be reduced to ashes. But you must remember two things. You cannot win because of our numbers; you cannot kill us all. And you cannot win because of the international community. They will rally to our support and they will stand with us'. General Viljoen was forced to agree. The two men looked at each other ... and faced the truth of their mutual dependency. (quoted from Allister Sparks, Tomorrow is Another Country: The Inside Story of South Africa's Negotiated Revolution)

"Mandela's technique", Ndebele goes on to explain, "is to concede to the relative strength of an adversary, a concession that buttresses the latter's self-confidence. But the implications that follow the logic of the battlefield are devastating. They promise a low-value outcome too stark to disregard. They guarantee a pyrrhic victory of little worth to both sides. It is at that point that mutual interest emerges and is further affirmed by an agreement to explore a different path". (...)
"Mandela's clarity of thinking, strong sense of purpose, his moral and visionary authority, are all definitive of an ascendant value system. General Viljoen and his colleagues submitted to this authority because it convincingly included them in its articulations. They recognised the leadership of someone they had oppressed to have the wisdom and integrity not only to seek a future that preserves their lives, but one which also promises new kinds of fulfillment".

From Apartheid to Greenpeace
The other message is from Kumi Naidoo, the CEO of Greenpeace International. Kumi grew up in Durban where he got involved in the struggle against Apartheid as a young activist. Now he is a leader of the worldwide movement to protect life on our planet. In the current campaign to save the arctic sea from the risks of oil drilling (see my last post "arrest me too") he wrote an open letter to the Russian President Putin. The letter is an appeal to face the truth of our mutual dependency around the globe. Mandela's wisdom is present once again.

Here is the link to Kumi's message:

yours in mediation
on the long walk to freedom, justice and peace

geri baobab

Mittwoch, 9. Oktober 2013

arrest me too!

Dear friends,

to begin with , this is not a mediation message. It's about identification with a common cause.
I'm part of a worldwide movement to protect the diversity of life. I'm an arctic defender. 
Arrest me too!
This is the story. One of my sons is a campaigner with Greenpeace. Last sunday he sent me an SMS. We are going to demonstrate in front of the Russian embassy in Berne in support of the Arctic30. Will you join us? I did not hesitate. I jumped on the next train and I arrived just in time to hear the speech, and to listen to all the names of the Arctic30. They are the crew of the greenpeace boat Arctic Sunrise that was sent out to the arctic sea for a peaceful protest against the deadly risks of oil drilling. They had intended to span a banner at an oil drilling platform of Gazprom. The boat was intercepted by the Russian military and brought to Murmansk, where the crew was arrested and charged with piracy. The activists could face upto 15 years in prison. It's unbelievable.

In the meantime, solidarity is growing all over the world. The movement is gaining momentum. The arrested activists are citizens of 18 different countries. The people in those countries can identify with "their" hero. One of them is from my country, his name is Marco. When Greenpeace Switzerland gave a media conference a few days ago, Marco's father was there. He came out in strong support of his son. He said he did not want to make it a personal story, that we should focus on the big cause for which Marco and his friends took so much risk. 
(see the video on )

Watching the video I was deeply moved. It could be me. It could be my son.

Identification is a tremendous force. It can open our hearts for empathy and solidarity. But it has a dark side too. Identification can have devastating effects. It can be the breeding ground for hatred and violence. Let's be aware of this challenge. We must reflect what identification is doing with us, and we must be willing to consider the other side too, to change perspectives, time and again.

My son and me we help eachother in facing this challenge.

yours in mediation
geri baobab

Freitag, 11. Januar 2013

es wird wieder genistet in diesem baum

liebe kollegInnen und freunde,

ein neues jahr entfaltet sich, wege werden sich wieder kreuzen, menschen werden aus allen himmeslrichtungen zusammenkommen und sich austauschen. gemeinsamkeiten und differenzen brauchen raum für klärende gespräche. unter dem baobab findet der austausch statt, tag und nacht, damit wir einvernehmliche lösungen finden, die uns weiterbringen.

ob denn noch genistet werde in diesem baum, hat sich ein freund aus dem fernen kirgistan erkundigt. die freundschaftliche frage hat uns bewegt. sie gibt uns den hintergrund für den gruss zum neuen jahr. Ja klar! Sie nisten wieder. Es fliegen wieder bunte vögel ein und aus. willkommen bei baobab 2013.

2012 war ein stilles jahr. brachzeit. gesundheitliche schwierigkeiten mussten bewältigt werden. die rekonvaleszenz war krise und chance. zweifel und neue gewissheit. mediation ist nötiger denn je.
nicht nur als mediation im klassischen sinn mit einem klar definierten mandat. wir brauchen mediatives verhalten im alltag. in einer weit gefächerten vielfalt. dazu bald mehr auf diesem blog.

wir wünschen euch allen viel buntes treiben und fröhliches gezwitscher in euren baumkronen.

geri baobab

Montag, 21. November 2011

responsive government

Good news from Berne!

The Swiss minister of Justice, Simonetta Sommaruga, just gave us a beautiful example of responsive government. The story is a case of new legislation about parental rights for child care in case of divorce. Under current practice the right for child care is mostly adjudicated to the mother only. The father often feels discriminated, reduced to the role of financial provider. Men's organizations had submitted proposals for adjusting the law to give equal rights to both parents. The matter was pending for several years. When Simonetta Sommaruga took office early this year she announced that she intended to work on a broader review of divorce legislation, including also maintenance payments. However, such a broader review would have caused further delay in dealing with the burning issue of parental rights. Men's organizations came out in angry protests. They camped on the Bundesplatz, the public space in front of the federal parliament, and they launched a campaign inviting angry citizens to send protest stones to the minister. (see

Simonetta responded. She came out to meet the protesters at the Bundesplatz and engaged in a dialogue. Her message was clear. I hear you, she said, we shall expedite the matter. That was in February. And protest stones kept being sent to her one by one, by ordinary postal mail. By November she had received more than 1700 stones. But now she sent out an invitation to the protesters. She wanted to meet them at a children's playground near Berne where she offered them two surprises. The first surprise was that the protest stones had been used to build a public square at the playground, dedicated to the concerned organizations. The second surprise was the minister's announcement that the new law was ready for parliament and that the demands of the campaign had been met. Responsive Government had a field day.

I think the story is good stuff for a mediator's blog. Three aspects deserve to be highlighted:
  • the power of symbols: both the protesters and the minister communicated with strong symbols. the protest stones did not do any physical harm, but they carried a strong message, and the media were keen to use the pictures. The minister also used the stones as symbols, turning them into a public good;
  • responsiveness: the response was given on the spot, through personal presence and open dialogue, taking the media along so that the communication was widely accessible;
  • transformation: by using the protest symbols to build common ground the minister opened up a new creative dimension in the communication with the concerned "constituency".

So next time when protest stones are coming your way, don't be afraid. Think of a creative response.

Yours in mediation

geri baobab

Dienstag, 7. Juni 2011

turning points

dear colleagues and friends,

sometimes it's difficult to recognize that we have reached a turning point.

this time the media marked the decision as "historic" right from the beginning when the news were broadcast for the first time:

Switzerland will say No to nuclear energy.

The waves of Fukushima have reached Berne. The Swiss Federal Government - a cabinet of 7 ministers, 4 women (picture), 3 men - has announced its decision to refrain from this high risk option and to lead the society towards a more sustainable energy policy. This is big change. Some 40% of the Swiss energy consumption are currently fed by nuclear energy. Giving up the nuclear option will mean nothing less than changing our way of life. For the better, I think.

How is this possible?
What happened in the minds of our political leaders? What made them take such a bold decision? Is it opportunism, as the critics say, driven by opinion polls in an election year? Or are they moved by new insights that make them see their responsibility for future generations?

Let us imagine that some kind of inner mediation has happened inside the decision makers. Imagine that they chaired a meeting of their inner team and that all the different voices were heard, the voices of the bold and enthusiastic, the voices of the sceptics, the cautious, the pragmatist, the dreamer, all of them. And that the dialogue happened in such a way that they all listened to each other. And so they reached a turning point.

Turning points are crucial in the mediation process. Friedrich Glasl and Rudi Ballreich distinguish four different turning points in mediation: (see
  • The initial turning point is reached when all the involved parties agree to come to the table and engage in the mediation process.
  • The second turning point happens at the cognitive level when the parties are ready and able to change perspectives. When they realize that there are different ways to read the conflict story.
  • The third turning point is emotional. At this point the parties in conflict express their feelings in an authentic and credible way so that the feelings can be mutually understood and accepted. It is the point of empathy for the other side.
  • And finally there is the intentional turning point. The parties are now willing to go for a win-win solution and to take responsibility for its implementation.
Somebody must lead the process. The role of the mediator is to offer an environment that opens up paths of understanding that lead towards the turning points, to highlight these points, and to encourage the parties on the way forward. It can be done with the inner team as well.

Be the change that you want to see in the world, Gandhi said.
Be the turning point.

Yours in mediation
geri baobab

Montag, 6. Dezember 2010

vorweihnächtliche hintergedanken

Es ist jetzt wieder die zeit der betriebsfeste vor dem jahresabschluss. für viele eine lustlose pflichtübung. für andere vielleicht ein versuch, wieder einmal leben in die bude zu bringen und verklemmtes zu lockern. vielleicht auch, um sich erkenntlich zu zeigen für die gelebte zusammenarbeit jahrein jahraus. manchmal werden auch die einladungen humorvoll aufgepeppt und illustriert, wie zum beispiel mit diesem bild vom weihnächtlichen duo , dem Chlaus und dem Elch und ihren hintergedanken.

das bild animiert mich zu einer kurzen rede an die belegschaft:

"schön, dass ihr alle der einladung gefolgt seid! ich möchte nur gerne wissen, wer sind eigentlich die zwei, die sich da verkleidet haben auf der einladung. der chlaus und der elch mit ihren hintergedanken. habt ihr sie gesehen? da sind die zwei zusammen unterwegs. der chlaus hockt auf dem elch, und der elch steht bockstill. also irgendwie scheinen die zwei blockiert. wir können ihre hintergedanken lesen, voll transparent. der chlaus denkt: "nach weihnachten fresse ich ihn auf", und der elch denkt: "nach weihnachten hau ich ab".

findet ihr das lustig?
also ich weiss nicht. ich weiss ja nicht einmal wer gemeint ist. muss ich das am ende gar persönlich nehmen? meint ihr etwa mich?
aber wer wäre ich denn, der chlaus oder der elch?
schon eher der elch. ich lasse mich doch nicht so rumtragen.
aber wie kommen die auf die idee, ich wolle abhauen? das sind doch hirngespinste!
ja genau, weil die mich affressen wollen, meinen sie, ich wolle abhauen!
ja genau, so sind die, und wenn ich mir so überlege, was die mit mir im sinn haben, dann wäre es ja am ende wirklich besser, ich würde abhauen.
oder meinen die, ich sei der Chlaus? meinen die, ich wolle sie auffressen?
das wäre ja noch besser. einfach alles so auf mich projizieren. dabei verwickeln die sich doch in ihren eigenen hintergedanken.

nein, so geht das nicht! so können wir nicht kutschieren.
also was micht betrifft, ich rede jetzt mal klartext:

ich haue nicht ab! jetzt fängt doch alles erst richtig an.
(hier in die rede einfügen, was man im kommenden jahr so alles vorhat mit diesem fantastischen team...)
und zum schluss nochmals: klartext! gegenseitig!
ich haue nicht ab
ich fresse dich nicht auf
und ich werde nicht zulassen, dass du dich auffressen lässt
von der arbeit, von ungelösten konflikten und von allerhand hintergedanken

so, jetzt ist es gesagt. und jetzt wollen wir feiern.

baobab mediation wünscht schöne festtage