Hospitality at the Center of Dispute Resolution

In his recent article in the Cardozo School of Law Journal of Conflict Resolution, Peter Block illustrates the common themes threading through three powerful stories within the journal: hospitality, community-centeredness, and the power of building trust as a starting point for solving our thorniest local problems. 


My intent here is to amplify and give voice to the transformative importance of the work described in three of the Articles being published in this edition of the Cardozo Journal of Conflict Resolution.

The Articles discuss restorative answers to this culture’s dominant narrative of retribution. Each of these social innovations represents a form of hospitality, which is akin to the welcoming of strangers. The Articles form a strategy, in alliance with the alternative dispute resolution movement and addressing the violence against the self and others, which forms the headlines of our daily news consumption.

  • Se Won Park is a member of the Red Hook Community Justice Center in Brooklyn. The goal of the Red Hook Community Justice Center is to build trust and cooperation between a judge’s courtroom and a community’s vulnerable citizens. The Justice Center is organized around the mission of creating a circle of support around an offender, in order to give them the best chance of regaining control of their lives and staying out of the judicial As op- posed to other courtrooms, where an offender will often be treated as a stranger, a hallmark of the Red Hook Community Justice Center is that the judge instead welcomes the individual into the restorative justice process. This process focuses on the gifts and possibilities of the “other.” This is a sharp contrast to the “three strikes and you’re out” model.  (See article.)
  • Payton Silket reports on a Citizens’ Panel organized in Michigan, which was charged with making policy recommendations on how to effectively manage the COVID-19 pandemic. What was revolutionary about the Panel was the effort made to bring strangers together and deliberate on these policy recommendations. The Panel was comprised of people that crossed over many different types of divides: class, politics, age, geography, and points of view on the COVID-19 pandemic, among others. The panelists demonstrated that claims of Americans being divided as a nation are simply social constructs that are promoted by the various sectors of society that have an interest in promoting division. However, it is not who we, as a people, truly are. Beyond the charged campaign rhetoric and ex- plosive news headlines, if we commit to hearing and understanding one another, it will not take long to discover that we all share common concerns and interests. All it takes is a different kind of convening. This Article is also important because Silket is part of a group that puts “faith” in its name, a group that portrays a faith community that seeks to foster healing outside the boundaries of its own beliefs and property lines.  (See article.)
  • Jeff Thompson is twenty-four years into a policing career. Through his work, Thompson brings the insights of self- awareness and psychiatry into the New York City Police Department. There are few jobs more demanding and stressful—and that are the target of more public activism— than that of a police officer. We all have opinions about how policing should change. Thompson’s work focuses on how officers can better manage their own emotional and relational well-being. This provides a sense of conscious- ness and self-awareness where it is most needed. It is espe- cially important today because we, as citizens, have outsourced to public servants a responsibility for our safety—something that we can often best produce for ourselves. Indeed, insourcing our safety would serve as a bold act of self-determination. And yet, it would only require that our neighbors no longer be strangers—that they would instead be partners in constructing our sense of well-being.  (See article.)

The larger context of these three powerful Articles is the value of building trust and cooperation in our communities. This is often called social capital. This community building work has been helping reclaim the humanity of those with which we are working from the grip of the command-and-control world that surrounds us. We can only be grateful to those who are putting in these efforts.


This article was originally published on


Going Further:


Image source: Red Hook Community Justice Center facebook page

About the Lead Author

Peter Block
Peter Block
In addition to The Abundant Community, co-authored with John McKnight, Peter Block is the author of Flawless Consulting, Community, Stewardship and The Answer to How Is Yes. He serves on the boards of Elementz, a hip hop center for urban youth; Cincinnati Public Radio; and LivePerson. With other volunteers, Peter began A Small Group, whose work is to create a new community narrative and to bring Peter's work on civic engagement into being. Peter's work is in the restoration of communities and creating systems that restore our humanity. He is a partner in Designed Learning, a training company that offers workshops he has designed to build the skills outlined in his books.

The Latest

Unlocking Community Ownership in Ft. Wayne, IN

When neighbors are at the center of generating ideas and creating their visions, local resources, gifts and talents can...


More Articles Like This