The idea of having conflict can bring up unpleasant feelings for many of us, but the truth is conflict is a normal, natural, inevitable part of human life. When we push the idea of conflict away, we also push away opportunities for tremendous growth, because conflict is really about transformation. It’s the movement from friction and misunderstanding to ease, alignment, and a sense of well-being. We all want to feel understood and valued in our families, workplaces, and communities yet there are a number of things that can get in the way of these welcome feelings. At the Asian Pacific American Dispute Resolution Center (APADRC) we assist people in removing the barriers to feeling heard, being understood, and having a sense of belonging.
Founded as a multicultural conflict resolution center in 1989 to serve the diverse and historically underserved communities of Los Angeles County, APADRC aims to cultivate peace through our culturally competent alternative dispute resolution services that improve interpersonal and community relations. Our team is comprised of people from many countries, cultures, and backgrounds and who speak a variety of languages. This allows us to bring a high level of cultural understanding into our mediation work. Sometimes, simply having language clarified to include cultural context for our native speakers can transform conflict. Other times, a mediator with a thorough cultural understanding of a party can help explain this to someone who may not be viewing the situation from that cultural lens. It’s exciting to witness this “ah-ha” moment take place when a party suddenly sees the issue from a new perspective.
That said, while APADRC is the only organization in the country that specializes in providing conflict resolution services to the diverse, multilingual, low-income AAPI community – in several languages, including Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Japanese, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Thai, Hindi, and Urdu – we will always be a refuge for any party in conflict in Los Angeles County and virtually across the United States, regardless of heritage or background. At APADRC we value the entirety of each individual that comes to us for assistance. We celebrate differences while paving the way for understanding, cohesion, and cooperation. There will be as many views on money, sex, politics, values, friendship, and love, as there are people in the room – that’s the beauty of humanity. Our expertise is to help people bridge those views in a way that allows us all to live, work, and love one another more fully.
Serving as a community staple for the past 33 years, APADRC has empowered peacemakers across generations and enabled mediators trained by us as conflict resolution specialists to resolve both small-scale and large complex, cross-cultural community conflicts. In addition to providing practical, accessible, and compassionate, quality direct mediation and other alternative dispute resolution services to the community, the other defining spirit to our scope of work centers around the various ways we take initiative and prioritize opportunities for supporting and sharing our resources in collaboration with community partners – including schools, government agencies, faith organizations, businesses, and other nonprofits organizations – to develop and implement conflict resolution education and training programs in our diverse communities for a more peaceful society.
In our commitment to this organization and the values embodied through our peacemaking efforts, our staff and volunteers – fondly referred to as the “APADRC Family” – are not afraid to step into uncomfortable or unknown territory. We take pride in the flexibility we have achieved in the efficiency of our work due to our open and constant communication which has given us the ability to mobilize to be present on the ground at a moment’s notice. Taking the time to share space with communities in order to understand the values, belief systems, wants and needs as well as emotions of community members is an essential practice in establishing our service and program responses because we believe that good intentions not resulting in good outcomes are at best of no value and at worst harmful to communities. For APADRC, good outcomes mean positive, wanted change and/or support in communities, which can only happen if it is desired by and tailored for the community with input from community members directly.
Holding ourselves accountable to this standard of delivering good outcomes is often painful and inconvenient because it requires constant team reassessments, self-reflection, and openness to outside feedback, all of which is a time-consuming process commonly accompanied by a defensive response from wounded pride as we look in the mirror and see our cultural assumptions and individual subconscious biases. However, these growing pains are worth it because in our vulnerable engagement with each other and the community, we invite and are rewarded with reciprocity – giving us all the unique and precious opportunity to be touched by true human connection.
An organization, without its people, is just a title with legal obligations. Therefore, in addition to the care we take with all parties outside APADRC, we are equally as deliberate and compassionate in order to bringing out the full potential of everyone in APADRC. At its core, this means finding solutions as a team by focusing on problems, not people, which, built on expectations of mutual trust and respect has naturally created a physically, emotionally, and intellectually safe space allowing APADRC Family to interact authentically with the added benefit of eliminating fatigue from upkeeping dual work and home personas, giving us more energy to put towards our goals.
By finding comfortability together within APADRC to freely acknowledge our prejudices, errors, and areas for improvement, defensive mechanisms from wounded pride and hurt feelings are quickly replaced with hopefulness from the opportunity for growth. As such, it is our aim to see everyone coming through APADRC grow in confidence from the subsequent continual improvement that follows our willingness to chase solutions when we fearlessly label our faults and repeatedly reexamine the “how, why, and what” of our peacemaking efforts. In ensuring that we enjoy and find satisfaction in our work APADRC was awarded “Nonprofit of The Month” during the pandemic of 2020 (https://bit.ly/apadrcaward).