What does it mean to be a "neutral"?

Some of the recent blogs in this space, with hopefully more to come, show individual members of our organization reflecting on what it means to be a “neutral”.  Some think it is a challenge to neutrality to speak out on issues of the day, especially if those issues may threaten some of the foundations of neutrality itself. That causes us to explain why we welcome the conversation.

Being neutral does not mean that we do not have values. We are not blank slates. In fact, as neutrals and as an organization we are committed to certain values. We are all, for example, deeply committed to peaceful dialogue.  As an organization we seek out ways to promote that dialogue. Part of that commitment includes not only our respect for differing opinions but also our effort to promote respect for differing opinions among contending parties.  And as we are committed to assisting parties to resolve their disputes, we value reasoned ways to achieve those resolutions.

Whether or not we choose to express them, we think it is important that each of us recognize and understand our own values, beliefs and biases in order to more effectively manage our roles as neutrals.  In our work as professionals, we dig ever deeper to understand the ideas, the values, and the context for those values of all of those parties with whom we work. And we stay committed to helping parties understand one another and moving them to resolution, no matter how sharp their contending views. Digging deeper about our own values, especially in challenging times, is important for our clarity as well.    

When that effort is challenged, whether by political mandate or cultural critique, we struggle with how to respond to that challenge. We look for the best ways to hold to our professional ethics and human values. Individuals in our organization and others in our field no doubt have and will have differing opinions on how best to do that. We believe moments like these call for a conversation among us, our colleagues and our clients. This blog space is one place we can promote that conversation and we hope it yields a productive dialogue. We welcome your participation as well.