Maria at present works as CNVC Executive Director. She met Marshall Rosenberg over 20 years ago and learned NVC directly from Marshall over the following years. Those encounters were to completely change the direction of her life.In 2004, having run a community mediation service for 3 years and developed her own ideas about social change, community engagement and conflict resolution, Maria went solo and began working on her doorstep in London engaging statutory agencies and local people in ideas of Nonviolent Communication, Conflict Resolution and Restorative Justice. Others were soon interested in participating- and a team began to form.
In 2005 she attended what Marshall called the Special Session, a 15 day NVC retreat based on Social Change with 55 people from 22 countries. This was the springboard for Maria to set up the Centre for Peaceful Solutions and was the impetus for her to model ‘being the change’.
At a time when the mediation industry’s general opinion was that mediation was not possible when there has been physical violence or police involvement, Maria set out to prove that violent people can engage in healthy conversations when facilitated and guided. With that in mind, in 2006, and as a direct response to the increase in gun crime and drive-by shootings on her road, where the local community were still mourning the fatal shooting of 7 year old, Toni Ann Byfield, Maria set up The Centre for Peaceful Solutions; a charity dedicated to helping people resolve conflict without the use of violence.
Maria developed the Dialogue Road Map – a communications tool designed to break down barriers and get engagement when the other person is resistant, hostile, angry, violent or resentful. The Dialogue Road Map draws on Needs Based Theory, Person Centred Counselling, Nonviolence Philosophy and Appreciative Enquiry. Maria’s key influencers are Marshall Rosenberg, Carl Rogers, Gene Sharpe and Alfie Kohn.
Maria believes that when people believe they have no ‘voice’, they resort to violence, manipulation, self-harm and other destructive behaviours as tragic attempts to be heard. The driving force behind Maria’s work is showing people who feel excluded, marginalised, disadvantaged or powerless how to articulate their needs in ways which are more likely to be heard and how to challenge ‘authority’ in ways which are more likely to get their needs met.
Maria’s experience ranges from Multi-National Corporate conflict to Street Gang threats to life and everything in between. Typically, neighbours at war, youth conflicts, family break up, family reconciliation, business deals gone wrong, interpersonal conflicts at work and group communication break-down. She has been pleasantly surprised by the warm welcome she receives from beneficiaries and undeterred by the inability of domination culture leaders to challenge their systems to change in difficult and recurring situations.
Maria’s has written two books, The Heart of Mindful Relationships and Mindfulness at Work.See www.centreforpeacefulsolutions.org