When conflict inevitably emerges in our organizations, we're often unprepared to deal with it. Many of us have been raised to see conflict as something harmful—to be avoided or ignored at all costs.
Kaydeen Bankasingh is a Toronto-based grassroots community facilitator, organizer, and coordinator who helps people to work across difference and develop equitable relationships.
As a conflict resolution specialist with Evenings & Weekends, she's been instrumental in supporting organizations to move forward from conflict in a constructive manner. We asked Kaydeen a few questions about her background in community development, and the values that she brings to our team.
Hey Kaydeen! Could you tell us a little about the skills and perspectives that you bring to your work with Evenings & Weekends?
As an adult educator and facilitator, I've spent 15 years working in community development and supporting vulnerable neighbourhoods in Northwest Toronto. I've found great fulfillment working with diverse individuals and groups to strengthen the communities we serve.
Over the years, I've seen the significant accomplishments of grassroots leaders and the many ways that we can create change together. Even the most vulnerable communities are resilient beyond what they imagine.
To me, supporting community building is about finding the strengths, knowledge, and talents that already exist. Then, it's about using those as the building blocks to engage, organize, and advocate in the interests of residents who are committed to improve their circumstances and be active constituents working through civic processes.
I strive to bring equity into decision-making processes, and to create equitable spaces for governance, dynamic partnerships, and collective impact goals. I wish for every person to see the power and strength in their individual experiences and build our communities through our collaborative efforts.
You have a particular focus on conflict engagement. What draws you to this subject matter, and what sorts of approaches or values do you draw from?
I’ve often wondered why it’s so difficult to communicate authentically and respectfully, and to build understanding when differences are present?
Despite our best intentions, and our desires for a just and equitable future, I've seen many projects and opportunities falter due to conflict—or the inability to build understanding across differences in opinions, interests, experiences, power dynamics, and values.
I've confronted many conflicts in communities, and have come to understand the innovation that lies just beyond perceived differences and challenges. Allowing myself to be open to diverse perspectives—and the conflicts that surface there—has strengthened my practice as a group facilitator and mediator. I want to support others to not be overwhelmed when challenged by conflict in any group dynamics.
As a society, we are increasingly understanding and articulating that difference is vast and within it lies the richness of our global experience. I am committed to creating spaces for difference and understanding to exist despite the discomfort it creates in us individually.
My approach to conflict engagement, informed by my years of associateship with Conflict Resolution and Training (CRT), has offered me this: conflict is a consistent and inevitable ingredient of interpersonal interactions. We are rarely prepared and have not been given the tools to work through the realities of being in conflict.
Are we aware and can we express what is truly important to us without criticism?
Can we listen and accept what is important to others without judgement or being in agreement?
Can we acknowledge the ways we contribute and participate in conflicts? Because we all do contribute.
My hope is to see communities, agencies and civic spaces that are built on this understanding. These values must be reflected in our individual interactions so that we can all have access, meet our needs, and thrive in this system.
I want more conversations that are built on speaking our truths, while we listen deeply to understand.
What are your hopes for the organizations that we work with? In your mind, what would a thriving sector look and feel like?
I want to see us do the internal work necessary to rebuild our organizational cultures and institutional approaches to repair harms, create new norms, and rebuild trust so that we can all thrive and experience joy in our lives.
Then, we'll be able to articulate the experiences, hopes, and needs of those we support, and provide consistent services—without barriers—for all who desire them.
What do you find rejuvenating outside of work?
Outside of work I enjoy the blessings of being a mother to Sage and Yeshua, and a community mentor to young community leaders in Toronto.
I am a yoga practitioner and love the balance and clarity I find in breath and movement and meditation. Add to this the joys of sunshine and nature and I am completely at peace. Namaste <3