Kirstin Lund is an innovator and manifester who continually builds community through collaboration. If she sees a gap, she does what she can to help fill it. While many of us avoid or run away from conflict, Kirstin embraces it and has found a comfortable home in helping the rest of us in uncomfortable circumstances.
“The way I understand conflict is that it stems from someone having unmet needs,” she says.
During her time in Law School in the early 1990s, Kirstin recalls her interest in mediation growing when reading the book Getting to Yes. Rather than the adversarial process taught in Law School, the book opened up notions of principled negotiation that focuses on interests, not positions.
Kirstin reminisces about those early days in her training and recalls saying at the time: “If I could do anything, I would do mediation in family violence contexts.”
And that is just what she did. Within a year from stating that dream, Kirstin acquired funds from the Status of Women and began her longtime career in mediation. For more than 20 years, she specialized in mediation in family violence situations. She also created organizations and projects to address women’s needs, such as Justice Options for Women, Circles of Safety and Support, Engaging Island Women for Political Action Project, and the Coalition for Women in Government.
“For many years I was the only one or one of few women who were doing this work.” Kirstin’s leadership and innovative actions have encouraged other women to follow.
“It strikes me over and over that I don’t have to wait for someone else to do something. If I want it, I can build it myself.”
Kirstin was also instrumental in the creation of the UPEI Centre for Conflict Resolution and she runs her own business, the Collaboration School. Over time, Kirstin has shifted to workplace conflict and that is her current specialty. She offers training, facilitation and coaching for workplace teams, and she is now piloting Collaboration in a Box. This pilot includes a deck of cards that Kirstin has created after decades of working with teams. The cards are real-life conflict scenarios that come up in the workplace and teams can work though the conflict in role-playing settings.
“Learning the skills to navigate conflict and build collaborative teams benefits all of us in both our professional and personal lives.”
Though the whole world has made the shift to online learning in the past year, Kirstin was ahead of the game as she trained for and enhanced her online presence in 2016. This move to online training meant that the pandemic didn’t change her work too much. In fact, the online presence that she cultivated for the few years prior meant that her work flourished throughout the past year.
“Relationships are the foundational aspect of collaboration,” Kirstin enthusiastically notes.
It was clear in our conversation that Kirstin’s relationships are broad and diverse and her collaborations have brought many ideas into action. Kirstin doesn’t only spend her time working with and through conflict or enhancing political structures and systems. She also uses her innovation and creativity to address all kinds of issues and gaps in social realms. For example, she started roller derby on PEI about 10 years ago and she co-founded a women-only improv company, Side Hustle, after previous iterations dismantled.
As if there are more hours in Kirstin’s day, she also talked about the ways she likes to unwind, which include reading, writing, and watching movies. Kirstin recently realized that she was interested in working on a musical so for curiosity’s sake, she posted that interest on social media.
“I just put it out there on social media and other people were enthusiastically responding that they were also interested,” she says. A few Islanders have mobilized and are now co-creating a musical.
After a short conversation with Kirstin, it was evident that she has cultivated a compassionate and caring life where she brings all her gifts to everything she does. Her straight-forward, no-nonsense approach to relationship-building and mediation is inspiring and I’m left with eager anticipation to learn the transformative impact of conflict-as-collaboration.
“I use the process and skills in everything I do, and it’s helped me create a lovely career and life for myself—as free of conflict as I want it to be.”