Building Collapse in NYC

One more mobile post- What turned into a walk for coffee, became another day in crisis communications (in the form of multi-agency information gathering, decimating, and reporting) for me. See pictures below, and the on-going story [here]

Pic 1 (police rescue dog searching to see if there were victims, luckily that was not the case)

Pic 2 (opposite street side view, it was a 5 story building, with a vacant lot next to it on one side, an abandoned building on the other)

Pic 3

Note: edited later to consolidate image links

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Are You An Effective Mediator?

Are You An Effective Mediator?

I am sure each of my readers will be saying, “Yes Jeff, of course I am.” And then of course if you know me and my blog, there is much more to the question.

The easiest and quickest way to decide if you are an effective mediator is to point to the success rate of cases you handle. You can say to possible future clients, “I have a 92% settlement rate with cases I mediate.” You can also use such percentages on first dates but I cannot promise you it will get a second date.

So do you decide your effectiveness on your success rate? Is that how your parties decide? I believe measuring your effectiveness via successful settlement is limiting yourself. Yes, it is important but there is much more that goes into being an effective mediator.

Think about it, if all you cared about was racking up your settlement percentage, how genuine will you come across when you are supposed to be using empathy or acknowledging feelings? Yes, don’t ever forget there are feelings involved, even if the case is allegedly only about money!

So what other terms can be used to assess your mediation? I recently read in Mediation: Skills and Techniques, the following terms can be used in measuring your effectiveness:

Process is an integral part of mediation. Are the parties happy with the format? Did they feel they were able to speak and be understood? Did they think it was fair? Did they have equal time compared to the other party(s)? Ensuring the parties are not only satisfied but also happy with the process should not be overlooked as the process itself is many times just as important to the participants as the actual issue that brought them to the mediation. Being part of the process and decision making not only increases the effectiveness of the mediation but it also has an impact on the durability of the settlement.

Efficiency refers to the order and structure of the mediation. Did you help both parties prepare? Did the mediation take a reasonable amount of time? Was it too brief or drag on and on?

Empowerment is another method used to measure a mediator’s effectiveness. It is important to make sure that all parties involved are on an equal playing field. How do you do that? The following can be helpful:

- Equal speaking time
- Limited interruptions
- Both parties understanding it is their process, not yours or anyone else’s
- They are the ones deciding the outcome, the power rests in their hands
- Equipping them with skills to not only handling the current issue but future ones too

means how the result of the mediation will hold over time. A photo-worthy handshake is worthless unless the actual agreement is something the parties can both stick with. Did both parties contribute to the decision making process Future casting and reality testing can help you as the mediator to get the parties to consider this.

Relationship. Sometimes the parties get so worked into their positions (which we have to help them move towards interests, right?) and the issues they forget about the relationship they have with the other party. It could be a client, neighbor, employee, friend or co-worker. Losing sight of the relationship raises the potential to damage, possibly permanently, whatever connection they have with the other party. This brings up the unfortunate win-the-battle but lose-the-war scenario. The mediator’s job in the context of relationship is to help the parties have a better understanding of each other and assist them to evaluate each option, including their BATNA and WATNA, with its influence on their relationship.
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Mediation & ADR News

Fiji Under Pressure to Allow International Mediators
“What we are hoping is that the UN will continue to engage in the dialogue and mediation process to do with Fiji in partnership with the Commonwealth and obviously working through the Pacific Forum.”
Read more [here]

Police Tell Warring Residents to Seek Mediation
POLICE have urged warring Coomera Waters residents to seek mediation after the ongoing dispute about who should have access to a footpath took another dramatic turn...
Police Acting Inspector Andrew Dupere said rather than fight, residents should consider mediation.
Insp Dupere said police would not become involved but if called would help keep the peace.
"It's a civil matter. We're there to keep the peace and make sure no violence happens between the different parties or it doesn't escalate into violence," he said.

Read more [here]

Victims Prefer Mediation Over Legal Action
The latest research conducted in KwaZulu- Natal, the province with the highest incidence of domestic violence, shows that most victims prefer mediation to taking their abusers to court.
The victims participated in victim-centred restorative justice mediation voluntarily.

Full article [here]

Flexibility, partnerships, knowledge key to mediating conflicts – UN official
To boost its ability to prevent and limit bloodshed, the United Nations must have flexible funding, regional partnerships and accessible information for mediation, the Organization’s political chief said today.
“Mediation is a Charter activity of the United Nations and must be carried out with the highest degree of professionalism, transparency and preparation to promote peace and security,” ...

Full article [here]
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The Brave New World of Disputes

A recent article written in the National Law Journal by Ian Meredith, Laura Atherton and Marcus M. Birch gives us a glance at potential massive disputes that will arise in the next two decades. The top three areas of possible conflict stem from the analysis of the National Intelligence Council's 2008 report, "2025 Global Trends: A Transformed World. They are:

  1. Competition for carbon-based sources of energy. The NIC predicts that scarcity of carbon-based sources of energy and a desire for secure access to energy supplies will bring countries into conflict.

  2. Water. Activities by countries close to a water source that reduce the water available to downstream countries through diversion, retention and pollution of water are increasing worldwide, and with them the number of disputes.

  3. Natural Resources of the seabed. there are potentially 430 maritime boundaries among 67 coastal countries, fewer than half are agreed upon and only a handful of those involve the outer continental shelf, disputes are inevitable.

As with today's global economy situation, financial disputes also are listed a potential provider to international conflict. A worthy note is financial disputes are not just between international corporations, but also between nations. The recent Naftohaz Ukrainy and Gazprom dispute, both state run by the Ukraine and Russia respectively, serves as an example.

So how does ADR fit in on the international stage? Well, The EU Directive on Mediation in Civil and Commercial Matters, adopted in 2008, not only encourages mediation but also the enforcement of agreements reached there as well.

The article adds that the international neutral community will face two challenges:

  1. The need for greater sophistication in the mechanisms deployed to stimulate settlement;

  2. The need for greater cultural sensitivity as mediation is used to address disputes between parties from different cultural traditions.

The issue of cultural sensitivity seems to be 'popping' up often. When attending the recent American Bar Association section on Dispute Resolution's Spring Conference in New York City, there were numerous sessions dedicated to the issue of mediating internationally and the issue of cultural differences.

Read the entire article [here].

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New Multimedia Resource for Peacemakers

Craig Zelizer over at International Peace & Conflict (btw, a must visit site at least once a week) blogged the following:
This is an initiative that several colleagues and I have been working on over the past year. Please distribute this to your networks.

- Find documentaries, films, shows, podcasts, songs, video games, and other multimedia about peace and conflict management.

- Use them in your work as educators, trainers, practitioners, policy makers, or students.

- Explore a wide range of topics, such as conflict prevention, nonviolence, post

-conflict reconstruction, refugees, child soldiers, rule of law, religion, climate change, terrorism, and much more.

- Search for multimedia by region, country, media type, and issue area.

If you have any questions, feedback, or comments please do not hesitate to contact us at: avarghese1(at) We look forward to your feedback!
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Negotiating Justice: A guide for Mediators

Guide for Global Mediators

This gem of a guide/report is written by Priscilla Hayner, Director of the ICTJ Program on Peace and Justice and part of the HD Centre's "Negotiating Justice: Strategies for tackling isues in peace processes".

This report will serve the global mediator well. A major topic covered includes the very important, and ever increasing issue of when dealing with international peace talks, how to handle amesty dilemmas. The issue is brought up to show that it is not as simple being 'peace versus justice' but more complex. Also, framing it in such a way limits options (remember- expanding the pie).

Chapter one deals with framing the questions of justice and how it can be focused on two dinstinct goals. First being, "justice mesaures might seek accountabilty for abuses of the past, which may be done through both judicial and non-judicial means. Second, a justice policy may strengthen instituations or laws to prevent abuses in the future. Additionally, conflict can be approached by asking the following four questions:

  1. What has been the nature of the abuses in the conflict

  2. What demands for accountability may arise, and from whom?

  3. Who is well placed to offer policy options?

  4. What are the options for justice? And what should be done inside the peace negotiations to address these?

Chapter two goes onto discuss recent experiences of peace agreements and how the issue of justice is included. In regards to implementation, it is noted the more the steps are explicit and a timeline is included, the greater the chance of the measures being carried out. A list of criteria is given to consider when designing peace agreements.

The report then goes into the detailed process of who to include in the peace process and the various levels of involvement each party can play. This chapter, and the report as a whole, has a substantial impact on those in the global mediation field who read this because not only does it give structural tips on how to handle the broad spectrum on agreements, but it also includes specific, real examples of them being used in various settings around the globe.

The next two chapters deal with the issue of amnesty and and the role of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Although the mediator is a neutral party to the talks, almost always the issue of amnesty will be raised, so it is imeperative to know the international laws regarding it, and recent situations involving this sensitive topic. The ICC can play a pivotal role in the direction of a peace agreement. An appropriate example is the recent arrest warrant it issued to Sudanese President Bashir on five counts of crimes against humanity and two counts of war crimes.

For only 24 pages, this report has a wealth of imformation. It conlcudes with a section on emerging lessons and best practices making this report a good addition to the stack of reference books for any global mediator.

Read the report [here]

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Viva Las Vegas!

Life's a Gamble!

I am off to fabulous Las Vegas for a couple of days. I'd say it's to research negotiating skills in various environments but that would be a lie. I am off to (hopefully) enjoy warm weather, swimming and perhaps a gamble here and there :)

I look forward to a few days of rest and relaxation but don't worry, over the past few days I did a couple of extra blog posts so you won't be left in the dark.

If I don't mention my trip in a future blog posting when I return, don't ask if I won!

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Problem Solving Profitable? [and more news]

Problem-solving surprisingly Profitable

It began as an experiment in local problem-solving. Making money was the farthest thing from anyone's mind.
Today, it is one of Toronto's most successful social enterprises.
Twenty-four years ago, a pioneering community activist named Ruth Morris proposed a way of handling neighbourhood disputes. Before going to the police or city hall, residents would bring their clashes – over noise, parking, garbage, privacy, pets, rent arrears and property issues – to a trained volunteer who would help them resolve the conflict themselves.

...Since its founding in 1988, the business division has made $2 million. Its clients have included the Toronto police, the Children's Aid Society, General Motors, Canadian Pacific, the University of Toronto and the federal Department of Indian Affairs.

Read more [here]

Small businesses demand corporate mediators
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has stepped up its campaign to convince the Treasury to fund a team of specialist mediators that would resolve lending disputes between small businesses and their banks.

A poll of the trade body's members found that just over 70pc would use such a service, which the FSB said would help overcome some banks' unwillingness to extend credit to viable businesses.
Similar schemes have already been set up in France and Belgium in response to the credit crisis.

Full article [here]

Program preps inmates for return to families
HAGERSTOWN — A unique program geared at preparing prison inmates to reunite with their families and loved ones upon release has spread to Washington County.
Following models already in place at prisons in Baltimore and Jessup, Md., the Washington County Community Mediation Center last month started arranging “re-entry mediation” sessions for inmates at Maryland Correctional Training Center, a medium-security men’s prison south of Hagerstown, said Valerie Main, executive director of the Washington County Community Mediation Center.

Full article [here]

Ambulance Group Still Waiting For Mediation
Victoria -- Striking B.C. ambulance paramedics say they're still waiting to hear from the Ministry of Health about a mediator in their dispute.
B.J. Chute of the Canadian Union of Public Employees said yesterday that Health Minister George Abbott suggested last Thursday that government representatives were ready to talk about appointing a mediator.
However, an official with the B.C. Ambulance Service also said last week that the two sides were too far apart for a mediator.

(Jeff's note: in regards to the last sentence- isn't this why mediation can help- to bring the two sides closer together???)
Full article [here]

Bill Will Have California Teachers To Learn Mediation & Negotiation
...the Assembly approved the first bill of Assemblyman Bill Monning, D-Monterey, which would train teachers in defusing school confrontations.

Assembly Bill 1 would allow teachers to take coursework in negotiation, mediation, arbitration and other techniques as part of their professional development.
AB 1 passed 49-24 but not before other lawmakers subjected Monning to the traditional hazing of new lawmakers during floor debate on their first bills.
"I am a little concerned that this is another example of the Legislature passing laws that don't apply to themselves," Assembly Hector De La Torre, D-South Gate, stressing the need for conflict resolution on issues like the budget.

Full article [here]

Mortage Mediation Plan Unveiled
MADISON, Wis. -- Two Wisconsin lawmakers will unveil a foreclosure plan at the state Capitol on Tuesday.
State Sen. Lena Taylor and State Rep. Leon Young will introduce the "Mortgage Mediation" plan.
It would ensure that even if a foreclosure settlement cannot be reached, mediation efforts would assist both the borrower and the lender.
A plan would be created to streamline proceedings, avoid unnecessary delays and potentially shorten the foreclosure process by up to 15 months.

Check Out Kenneth Cloke
In the area of Champlain College in Vermont? Check out Kenneth Cloke's talk on "How Mediators can Save the Planet".
Read more [here]
read more "Problem Solving Profitable? [and more news]"

Book Review: Making Money Talk

Book Review

Making Money Talk: How To Mediate Insured Claims & Monetary Disputes

While at the ABA Spring Dispute Resolution Conference the past few days, I heard many people talk about this book and not only how good it is, some people said it has actually caused them to change their style in certain mediations (those involving money).

I have not purchased the book yet, but it has moved into the top tier of 'near-future purchases'.

An ABA flyer on books they were selling at the conference had this to say about J. Anderson Little's book:

Learn how to deal with the peculiar problems of traditional bargaining through proven models and techniques that will help you to:

* Gain a better understanding of the dynamics of money negotiations

* Identify the recurring problems presented in those cases

* Acquaint and arm yourself with new tools to handle those challenges

* Build a model of the mediation process that will serve as a roadmap when traditional bargaining is unavoidable

* Assist the parties in traditional bargaining in a facilitative, rather than a directive way

The appendix includes proposals and counter proposals mad by Plantiffs and Defendants in over one hundred court-ordered mediations in the ssuperior courts in North Carolinea that provide the reader with a sense of the difficulty in settling a case through traditional bargaining, and the frequency of settlement even when the parties' intial positions are far apart and movement is slow to materialize.

Amazon, among many other vendors have it available.
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ABA Day 3

The Party's Over

0800 The ABA Spring Conference is ending today. First, the two sessions I plan to attend today are:

1) The 7 keys to Mediation as a Global Profession

2) Why ADR Services Matter in the Global Context of Business Rights

0830 A quick recap from yesterday's session, Designing Justice; Dispute System Design...- The 7 Catagories For Conflict Analysis are:

1. Participants

2. Positions/Roles

3. Potential outcomes

4. Allowable outcomes and outcome functions

5. Individual control over function

6. Information available to participants about action outcomes

7. Costs & benefits (incentives and deterents)

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ABA Day 2

Day 2

Day Two

0830 On the train, reading the complex ;) NY Post. Cuba and the USA ready to talk? Chavez and Obama on a cruise together in the Caribean? What next, dogs and cats getting along?

0900 Looking forward to the sessions today but upon entering the exhibit hall, there is no coffee! Arrghh, makes me think of what today’s light lunch will be?

0905 I did not bring any crispy kreme donuts (see yesterday’s post). In unrelated news, no one is sitting with me or talking to me.

0915 Just had a pleasant talk with Jim from I wonder, has anyone ever had a conversation with Jim that was not pleasant?

0920 First session I plan on attending
1)Designing Justice: Dispute System Design and Justice in Education, Courts, Communities and Employment
2)Designing Effective Public Input Processes: How To Turn Controversies into Collaborations
3) Marketing Plan Workshop
As for the third, hopefully it will help me get more hits than just mom and dad reading my blog (actually, they don‘t even read it).
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Live from the ABA Spring Conference

... And We Are Live!

Ok, well maybe not 'live' but close. I am getting ready to head off to the ABA Spring Conference. I plan to post throughout the day my random thoughts, reviews of the events other other tidbits that are no way interesting, but you will find yourself hitting the refresh button anyway for some odd reason.

0701 stuck on the train wondering which krispy kreme donuts to pick out. I like blueberry cake, so I guess I should probably get two at least.

0715 @ krispy crème.

0735 @ the Sheraton and finally meet Diane from, what a very pleasant person.

0800 about a dozen ‘all-star’ bloggers talking over coffee and donuts, not sure is some takeover of the mediation world will be discussed.

0805 someone just thanked Jim from, everyone agrees, including me.

0810 I have given out a few business cards already. I made them at If there was some sort of competition between best cards, I surely would make the finals, right? Btw, the idea and credit of my ‘wonder-card’ goes to Geoff Sharpe. Last year in Australia he gave me his slightly bigger slim card and I have been oddly fascinated with it.

0825 Just remembered- must email Tammy from as she did a great blog post recently on the world of business cards. added post (see below) of my card.

0845 unrelated to stating earlier that Jim from is the best, he gave me a mug that says on it. is not paying any advertising whatsoever, but now that I think about it, hmmm…

0855 Just realized I missed the Plenary lecture. Oops.

0859 I could have pulled off a great ‘gorilla marketing’ campaign. These crispy kreme donuts are a hit with everyone. Heaps of people keep coming over to ask for one. I am sure my charming looks have something to do with it too. If only I had something to market though…

0905 Arrgggh. No WiFi in the area of the hotel except in the lobby which is on another floor. Going down now to see if it works and to upload the past hours worth fabulous blogging…

0915 It’s live! (well, almost live), be back again soon….

0925 Finally met Irena From If you are a mediator, check out their site. They are an international organization that is trying to set, well, an international standard for mediators. I am almost done with filling out my application to join, I suggest at the very least have a look.

0930 just coerced Lee Jay from AIM, American Institute of Mediation ( into taking my last two krispy kremes as I don't want them to go to waste.

0935 Besty Thomas, from Complete Equity markets, Inc ( just gave me a whole heap of freebies as a trade off since she ate two of my donuts (a blueberry cake one too!). Oh, and she likes my business card too.

1015 session A- The Pivotal Role of Conflict in Influence & Persuasion.
Why did I choose this a the first session I’ll attend? Well, in the mindset of my police work, I have to handle situations where many times the outcome is already predetermined. The task usually at hand is to figure out the nonviolent path (for everyone) and a method of getting the party(s) involved to want to choose a path that the police thinks is best. Professors Ray Patterson & Peter Reilly of UNLV are the presenters.

1200 Session just ended, a really good handout and some notes that some might find of interest.

1210 they said light lunch would be served, and they were not kidding with “light”. Veggie chips, cheese and crackers, and apple and beef jerker. Yum.

1300 Session 2, Mediating Globally: The Impact of Culture on Mediation. Three handouts for everyone which is good because I like handouts. One of them is full of questions to ask yourself before and during a mediation with different cultures. They are broken down into 6 sections:
1) Are the parties from these cultures strongly focused on individual interests or collective interests?
2) Are the parties from these cultures oriented toward hierarchical or egalitarian power?
3) Are the parties from these cultures comfortable with uncertainty?
4) Do the parties from these cultures operate in a high context environment or low context environment?
5) Are the parties from these cultures monochromic-linear or polychromic-holistic?
6) Are the parties from these cultures traditional or secular?

1445 Session 3 is Neuroscience, negotiation and persuasion. Off-topic but I am hungry, surprised? I am not.

1635 Session 4: Emotional Truthfulness and Lie Detection in Negotiation: Science, Culture and Skills.

1545 Brilliant session, 4 stars to Clark Freshman (cue bad joke…not senior nor junior).

1800 reception time, two tickets for two drinks (hmm, to make u for the non-lunch maybe). Time to see old friends and meet new friends….

1900 Dinner at Thalia (sp?) with Geoff, Vickie, Diane & Steve. I was a mere mortal amongst ADR icons and I cherished every moment… and the Brooklyn Lager.

2215 … On the LIRR home to do it all again tomorrow.

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Stuck? Questions Might Help

Stuck in your negotiation or mediation? These questions might help you move from being stuck to moving forward together.

1. How can we decide which option to choose?

2. How can we accomplish what you want?

3. What makes that solution fair?

4. How did you arrive at that idea?

5. What is the theory behind that?

6. How do other people handle that problem?

7. What would happen if you went to court?

8. Would expert opinion be of any help?

9. What is it you are trying to accomplish?

10. How have you resolved this problem before?

11. Is there another alternative you can think of?

12. Why do you think that will/won’t work?

13. What would you need to resolve this dispute?

14. What do you think your opponent wants?

From this manual [here], note the link is a pdf file.
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The Closer [star rated article]

Usually I post a few articles in my news posts but because I found this one to be so good and worthy of a read, I am posting it solo.

It is the first ever star rated article here at my blog so... Enjoy!


Read the article [here]

At the heart of some of New England's biggest tragedies in recent years -- priests abusing boys, a tunnel collapsing on a woman, a nightclub going up in flames -- one blunt, foulmouthed, storytelling mediator has been helping everyone move on.

...The key to any mediator's success is trust. And the key to Finn's success, in particular, is his will to close the deal. "Paul simply goes out and gets it done. That's his reputation," says Leo V. Boyle, who represented the family of Del Valle, the 39-year-old woman who died in the tunnel collapse. "Paul gets the big cases, and then he gets them done. That's what it's all about in mediation. It's not the cases you get, it's the cases you finish."

...mediation has seen a surge in popularity. Why go to trial, the thinking goes, if a settlement can be quietly, and often quickly, achieved? (What happens in a mediation is confidential by law.

...THe first thing you notice about him is that he's nothing like a lawyer. He doesn't watch what he says or how he says it. Finn speaks plainly, uses no jargon, and curses -- a lot. "He's got a gunfighter kind of sharpness about him," says Olan Horne, one of the victims in the 2003 sex-abuse case. "He doesn't waste a lot of frivolous moves. He's very focused." But there's also a mischievous twinkle in Finn's eye, as if he knows something you don't.

Read the Full article [here]

read more "The Closer [star rated article]"

America, Land of the International Mediator?

UN's mediation capacity must be bolstered: Ban Ki-moon
United Nations (PTI): Describing United Nations' role in peaceful settlement of disputes as its primary mission, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said the world body's mediation capacity must be bolstered.
"Too often in the past, mediators have been dispatched without the full benefit of specialised training and background information, giving United Nations efforts an ad hoc quality too dependent on trial and error," Ban wrote in a report to the Security Council made public on Thursday.

Full (short) article [here]

America, Land of the International Mediators?
The following article refers to President Obama and his administrations shift in foreign policy compared to his predecessor.
"...This is not a major new policy - but it does seem like another small shift toward repositioning the U.S. as a credible mediator seeking to work simultaneously for the rights and best interests of both Israelis and Palestinians. Rarely has a U.S. president spoken so clearly about both Israelis and Palestinians needing to change their ways to achieve peace."
Full article [here]

Australian Family Mediation Saves Government $
Forcing feuding parents to undergo mediation before entering the court system has saved the federal government millions of dollars, a new report reveals.Under changes to the Family Law Act introduced from mid-2007, mothers and fathers who want a parenting order from the court must first attend family dispute resolution meetings.
Full article [here]

Blair: Skepticism about peace after Netanyahu win
JERUSALEM (AP) — International mediator Tony Blair says there's skepticism about the prospects for peace because of Israel's new government.
Blair spoke Monday after meeting with Israel's new prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Blair said he believes Netanyahu understands that the only formula for peace is a Palestinian state next to Israel.
Netanyahu has pointedly not endorsed creation of a Palestinian state. Blair thought Netanyahu would come around "if the right context can be created for peace."
Blair noted skepticism over Netanyahu's election and said there must be time for the new governments in Israel and the U.S. to "settle down."
Blair said "the only solution that will ever work" is two states living side by side in peace.

UN To Review Mediation Role in Fiji
Update: 3:08PM THE United Nations will review its decision to mediate the proposed President's Political Dialogue Forum which was to chart a way forward for a return to parliamentary democracy.
Full brief article [here]

Parishes ask Vatican for mediation over closings
BOSTON (AP) — Worshippers in eight dioceses around the country have banded together in a last-ditch effort to ask the Vatican to instruct bishops to negotiate with them over the closures of their parishes and to stop them from "wrecking the Catholic Church in America."
Full article [here]
read more "America, Land of the International Mediator?"

Mediation & Technology... Uh-oh!

Well, my tiny EEE PC901 , 8.9 inch screen is going to be put to the test. As I prepare to write blog posts worthy of getting me an award at next year's CPR annual event in the catagory for Short Article (& Blog) at the ABA Spring Conference here in NYC later this week, I realize two things-

1) I have small hands

2) My hands seem HUGE when trying to type on my ultra-portable netbook.

Why did my fellow bloggers, and much more the experts, Geoff, Diane, or Victoria (among others) not warn me of this potential tech-problem? Tammy Lenski, blogger over at MediatorTech surely should have something, anything on the dangers and lure of ultra portable netbooks?!? :)

I thought I was being 'hip' by buying this great little gadget but my errors in typing are as frequent as smiles at the end of my mediations (full of myself today, eh?).

I worked out a very complex math equation:
my small hands + extremely small keyboard + usual posts with typos + ABA Spring Conference = Memorable Posts @ Enjoy Mediation!

Well, thats all. What more did you expect from a Sunday morning post anyway?
read more "Mediation & Technology... Uh-oh!"

ABA '09 NYC Spring Conference: Places to visit

For those attending the American Bar Association's Spring Conference in Dispute Resolution, I figure as a New Yorker, I would put out there a list of places I recommend. Enjoy!

Mud Cafe
307 E 9th St, New York, NY 10003
Map it between 2nd & 1st Avenues
For those coffee lovers- This is the BEST coffee in the world. I have travel (much) of the world and this place by far has the best coffee... trust me. Add to that the 'bohemian' atmosphere of the cafe and you will see why I call this this place well, Bohemia!

Rubin Museum
150 W 17th St, New York, NY 10011
Map it between 6th & 7th Avenues
Yes there are all the other more well-known museums uptown but this place is truly a gem. It houses Himalayan Art that is well worth the time to check out. (near Union Sq. Park)

Rainbow Falafel & Shawarma
26 East 17th Street, New York, NY 10003 (b/n Fifth Avenue and Broadway;
map); 212-691-8641; Cost: $3.50 for a falafel sandwich
The best falafel in town but if you do not look carefully, you might miss this tiny place. It is a tiny storefront that on nice days, has a (well worth the wait) 20-30 person line up outside. Outside I say because you can literally only fit about 4 people inside. get your falafel, then go eat it in Union Square Park.
If you can't find it, try Maoz across the street on the other side of the park.

Union Square Park & Central Park
Union Sq is a tiny park that usually has vendors selling different types of knick-knacks (stuff that is cool that you don't really need). Central Park is huge, so make some sort of plan of what spots to hit, otherwise heaps of time will be lost trying to navigate it.

Brooklyn Bridge
Take subway 4/5/6 (and others) to Brooklyn Bridge stop. Then, look for a big bridge.
This icon of NYC is worth the visit. Get out your walking shoes (or high heels, hey it's New York, wear whatever you want!) and take the approximately 25 minute walk across. Great views and pictures.

J and R
15 Park Row, New York, NY 10038
Map it Park Row and Beekman Steet
Diagonally across from City Hall and just south of the Brooklyn Bridge, this electronic store is a must visit if you are interested in purchasing any sort of gadget while here. Note: the store takes up the whole block and has different entrances for each department.

Religous Places
St. Patricks Cathedral
460 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10022
Map it

Cathedral of Saint John The Divine
1047 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10025
Map it
All I can say is although this is a bit of trip uptown, the place is amazingly huge. A beautiful, humbling experience to see its massive presence from the inside.

Mahayana Buddhist Temple
133 Canal St (between Chrystie St & Forsyth St)
Yes, you can go to Tao or Buddhakan to see a big Buddha statue but this temple in Chinatown is amazing. Don't be discouraged but the ordinary entrance.

Buddha Bodhi
5 Mott St, New York, NY 10013
Map it
Not only does this place have the best vegetarian food in Chinatown, but the menu is named after different meats, poultry and fish. For example, although it is not really chicken, the 'chicken' and broccoli is fantastic.

Statue of Liberty
Feeling cheap? Take the Staten Island Ferry for free to get a decent view of Ms. Liberty and hop right back on the next ferry to get back into Manhattan.

Times Square
Yes, be the typical tourist and go there and take pictures.

133 W 33rd St, New York, NY 10001
Map it Between 6th and 7th Avenue
This place in midtown has your typical bar food menu with massive size TV screens everywhere. What is not typical is the beer menu- if you like beer, this is your place. Note: it is around the block from Macy's- yes THE Macy's shopping department store that takes up an entire block.

NYC Subway
Better than any amusement park ride, taking the subway is a must for an authentic trip to NYC. be careful, and if you are really looking for an adventure, try taking it during rush hour!
Restaurant Row
West 46th Street, between 8th and 9th Avenues
The single block contains over a dozen different ethnic restaurants. What ties them all together? they all have price-fixed menus ranging from $30-45. The price includes choice of app, main course and dessert.
read more "ABA '09 NYC Spring Conference: Places to visit"

Highschool Musical & Mediation!

Highschool Musical Part IV: Mediation Time!

Trying to get your kids to think mediation is cool?
Can't convince them the better choice is communication- not violence?

Well, tell them Venessa Hudgens of Disney's Highschool Musical uses mediation.

Read the pointless article [here]

Parishioners from eight dioceses seek mediation for parish closings
WASHINGTON – Parishioners from 31 groups in eight U.S. dioceses have joined forces to ask the Vatican to suspend parish closings and to instruct bishops to negotiate the closures with local Catholics...
Peter Borre, co-chairman of the Boston-based Council of Parishes, formed in 2004 to oppose parish closings, said the effort is meant to offer a “third way” for the Catholic Church to respond to changing demographics, financial concerns and the declining number of priests nationwide. Full article [here]

Hospital, Town set for Mediation
Trinity Medical Center and the city of Irondale will use mediation in an effort to resolve a multimillion-dollar dispute over the hospital’s decision to switch its relocation to U.S. 280.
The hospital and government officials will meet May 27 in an attempt to settle out of court an argument over the city’s investment to prepare a site off Grants Mill Road for Trinity to build a $316 million, 424-bed hospital.

Full article [here]

Ambulance Group In Mediation

A member of the Sauk Prairie Ambulance Association's oversight commission hopes to avoid what could become a heated public confrontation between the two organizations over the fate of Rikky Schiller, the ambulance association's embattled president...

...Wenzel, who is married to Schiller's husband's sister, will mediate the meeting.
"My main goal is to get them to communicate," Wenzel said. "There has been no communication between those three. This is not the time to go back and bring up old grudges. If they can communicate maybe they can work this thing out before it goes to a total fracas at a public meeting."

Full article [here]

Somililand and Conflict Resolution

(Somalilandpress) - Traditionally, disputes and conflicts in Somali society are resolved through recourse to an unwritten code of conduct or social contract called xeer: traditional law agreed upon by the clans in each area, and dependent on the deliberations of elders who gather to resolve specific problems within a clan or between clans...

...New xeer rules are developed to address unforeseen occurrences, so the system is a dynamic and evolving one. Aggrieved parties may negotiate under the auspices of a Guurti or else a group of mediators known as ergo may be despatched to attempt to mediate between the parties without becoming overly engaged in the subject-matter of the dispute. If a settlement is not agreed at this stage, a xeerbeegti or jury, may be appointed to pass judgement on a given case with each party being expected to accept the verdict.

Full article [here]

read more "Highschool Musical & Mediation!"

Positive Results From Conflict

As a follow up to the Circle of Conflict post [here], I thought I would talk a bit more about conflict and how it seems to many people, when they hear the word 'conflict' they automatically think of it being defined as something negative.

Of course we know conflict can be good or bad. Factors in deciding which path it goes down are the choices we make in response or reaction to the conflict at hand.

There are numerous positive things that can result from a conflict. From the United Nations training manual: Skills Development For Conflict Transformation (page 6):

􀁹 Conflict helps establish our identity and independence. Conflicts, especially at earlier stages of your life, help you assert your personal identity as separate from the aspirations, beliefs and behaviours of those around you.

􀁹 Intensity of conflict demonstrates the closeness and importance of relationships. Intimate relationships require us to express opposing feelings such as love and anger. The coexistence of these emotions in a relationship create a sharpness when conflicts arise. While the intensity of emotions can threaten the relationship, if they are dealt with constructively, they also help us measure the depth and importance of the relationship.

􀁹 Conflict can build new relationships. At times, conflict brings together people who did not have a previous relationship. During the process of conflict and its resolution, these parties may find out that they have common interests and then work to maintain an ongoing relationship.

􀁹 Conflict can create coalitions. Similar to building relationships, sometimes adversaries come together to build coalitions to achieve common goals or fend off a common threat. During the conflict, previous antagonism is suppressed to work towards these greater goals.

􀁹 Conflict serves as a safety-valve mechanism which helps to sustain relationships. Relationships which repress disagreement or conflict grow rigid over time, making them brittle. Exchanges of conflict, at times through the assistance of a third-party, allows people to vent pent-up hostility and reduce tension in a relationship.

􀁹 Conflict helps parties assess each other’s power and can work to redistribute power in a system of conflict. Because there are few ways to truly measure the power of the other party, conflicts sometimes arise to allow parties to assess one another's strength. In cases where there is an imbalance of power, a party may seek ways to increase its internal power. This process can often change the nature of power within the conflict system.

􀁹 Conflict establishes and maintains group identities. Groups in conflict tend to create clearer boundaries which help members determine who is part of the “in-group” and who is part of the “out-group”. In this way, conflict can help individuals understand how they are part of a certain group and mobilise them to take action to defend the group’s interests.

􀁹 Conflicts enhance group cohesion through issue and belief clarification. When a group is threatened, its members pull together in solidarity. As they clarify issues and beliefs, renegades and dissenters are weeded out of the group, creating a more sharply defined ideology on which all members agree.

􀁹 Conflict creates or modifies rules, norms, laws and institutions. It is through the raising of issues that rules, norms, laws and institutions are changed or created. Problems or frustrations left unexpressed result in the maintaining of the status quo.

read more "Positive Results From Conflict"

Lt. Cambria, Hostage Negotiation Unit

“Negotiators attempt to resolve high-conflict situations using words."

As an advocate of using communication as a way to promote nonviolent resolutions to situations (was that a mouthful?), I often get the opportunity to serve as a bridge between two different people or groups that can help serve that purpose.

Today is one of those days where I am able to bring together Jack Cambria (pictured above), a Lieutenant and Commanding Officer of the Hostage and Negotiation Unit for the New York City Police Department (NYPD) and law students at Cardozo Law School enrolled in the Negotiation and Theory Skills.

The plan is for there to be a presentation and discussion on the negotiation principles used when negotiating in a hostage or other serious police situation and how although unique and only a few very highly trained people are involved is such situations, core negotiation principles such as BATNA, interests, credibility and among others are used. Hopefully the students will not only find the presentation interesting, but also be able to take some information learned and add it to their toolbox.

Read more about Lt. Cambria [here]

Btw, not sure if you want to read the above article? Here's a tidbit that might change your mind:

In a highly-charged crisis situation, the first step is to slow things down, he says. “Most policing looks to resolve a situation quickly. Negotiation has a different dynamic. People have to work through their emotion.” If anyone has the proverbial nerves of steel, it’s Cambria. He estimates he has dealt with more than 1,000 negotiations, each taking about four hours on average. The longest lasted 50 hours.
Read more about the nationally ranked Kukin Program for Conflict Resolution at Cardozo Law [here]
read more "Lt. Cambria, Hostage Negotiation Unit"

Phrases For Active Listening

Get out that mediator toolbox , pen and paper, here are some phrases that can help:

Phrases for Active Listening

Encouraging “Can you tell me more?”
Clarifying “When did this happen?”
Summarizing “Let me see if I understand what you just said.”
Acknowledging “I can see you are feeling very angry right now.”
Open Questioning “Why?” “What would you like to see happen?”
Responding “I see it this way .... How do you see it?”
Soliciting “I would like your advice about how we can resolve this.”
Encouraging “How would you feel if it were you?”
Normalizing “Many people feel the way you do.”
Empathizing “I can appreciate why you feel that way.”
Reframing “I understand that you feel .... when s/he ....”
Validating “I appreciate your willingness to be here.”

Did I come up with this? No, they did [here], have a look at the manual for more information.
read more "Phrases For Active Listening"

Circle of Conflict

Firstly, my disclaimer is the above image is not mine. I found it a long time ago, and unfortunately I do not remember the source, thus I am unable to give credit. [edit: the circle of conflict was created by Christopher Moore, in this book]
When analyzing conflict it is important to realize that it can be divided into 5 varying catagories depending on its nature. Why bother breaking conflict in catagories and give it labels? It is important, be it as the mediator or neogtiator, to be able to figure out what kind of conflict is present because if the issue(s) can not be diagnosed properly, how do you expect to find a worthy solution?
The five types of conflict are:
  1. Interests
  2. Structural
  3. Value
  4. Data
  5. Relationship

The image is pretty much self-explanatory so no reason for me to blabber on.

Remember, preparation is important when getting ready for a mediation/negotiation, so being able to properly identify the conflict will help you move towards a viable solution. Don't forget, many times the conflict can also be a combination of the categories.

The image can be a great tidbit to add to your presentation or handout; it has worked for me in the past. Sometimes, words, spoken or written, can become boring and adding an image here or there helps liven things up a bit.

read more "Circle of Conflict"

American Institute of Mediation

Our Mission-

Offering a unique and diverse curriculum whose sole purpose is to raise a mediator's level of practice, the AIM Institute is where leading mediators turn to continue their learning and career development. Being free of academic constraints and embracing other disciplines allows AIM to expand the frontier of this developing profession.

That's the first thing you see when visiting their site. AIM is located in the Los Angeles area, but if the next thing you are saying is, "Well that's great for people in LA, what about everyone else?" Do not worry, they already thought of that- they will be having online courses available. Unfortunately, that part of the site is still under construction so we'll have to wait to see which classes are offered online.

At the actual location, such courses offered over the following year includes:

Intro to A Career in Mediation
Mediating & Negotiating Commercial Cases
Mediating Divorce Agreements
Deal Mediation: Facilitating Complex Business Deals
Mediation & Negotiation Ethics
Mediating Foreclosures
Post-Disaster Mediation Training

So, are you now saying, blah blah, I am an experienced mediator, I do not need such entry level training? Well, Lee Jay Berman and the rest of the faculty at AIM have a whole set of courses listed under the title of "Mastery Mediation Series".
'Mastery' courses include:

Settle More Cases: The Essence of Mediation
The Cross Roads of Conflict
Beyond Yes: Deeper Wisdom & The Art of Negotiation

Lee put together a nice crop of qualified instructors including Kenneth Cloke and Erica Ariel Fox.

I think if you are the rookie mediator or the full, old, wrinkly veteran of the game, there is always room to learn. Be it online, from fellow peers, books, trainings or seminars, I advocate everyone to continue their education. The American Institute of Mediation might be able to help.

Is an AIM course, be it in person or online, worth it for you? Attempting to speak like a true mediator, I can not decide for you, all I can say is you must think what is best for you :)

Have a look at their site [here].
read more "American Institute of Mediation"

Communication in Mediation: Tips

Communication in Mediation: Tips

I found this PDF file from the law firm Blaney McMurtry LLP (Toronto, Canada) while writing the 7 Elements of Negotiation, Part 6: Communication (LINK). It has a list of tips for communicating during mediation.

From the sheet, they are:

Effective Listening

  1. Attention
  2. Paraphrasing and Summarizing
  3. Ask clarifying questions

Effective Speaking

  1. Focus on the problem, not the person
  2. Speak from your own perspective
  3. Speak directly to the other person
  4. Be specific
  5. Build for the future
  6. Focus on common interests, not positions
  7. Create options for mutual gain

...And finally, foster an atmosphere of cooperation and collaboration.

For more details on each of them, download the file [here] and you can also visit their site [here].

read more "Communication in Mediation: Tips"

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