Listen To Me On BlogTalk Radio Tonight At 8pm!

Is Fairly Legal Fairly Relevant?

Listen live on March 29th at 7:00 – 7:30 pm CST on

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Call in at: (347) 324-3591

The USA show “Fairly Legal” is stirring up the mediation field. Whether you think it is a travesty of the professional mediation field, or the best thing that’s happened to mediation since the book Getting to Yes, the fact is this show is pushing our buttons. Let’s take a closer look at how this show is portraying mediators, what’s true, what isn’t, and what we wish were true.
This series is NOT a documentary but an entertainment show. We want to take the opportunity to educate the public by pointing out the fiction and highlighting the facts about what mediator’s really do in their practices and how mediation can be a very viable resource to resolving conflict between parties.

My guest co-host, Zena Zumeta will lead a discussion with me Clare Fowler , Rita Callahan and Jeff Thompson.

Rita Callahan is a conflict resolution and collaborative consultant; and Jeff Thompson is a mediator & detective from New York City. He is also a PhD candidate at Griffith University Law School based in Australia.

Both Rita and Jeff were our special guests in our Part 1show on Fairly Legal: Mediation Truth of Fiction? In our Part 2 show, Is Fairly Legal Fairly Relevant?

we are joined by a new guest Clare Fowler. Clare is the author of the Fairly Legal Blog and Managing Editor at She received her Master’s of Dispute Resolution from the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution at the Pepperdine University School of Law.

She also coordinated the career development program for The Straus Institute dispute resolution students. She is currently researching her doctoral dissertation on designing dispute resolution systems that will sustain small businesses. In addition to her editorial duties at, Clare mediates workplace disputes, raises two adorable kids and an equally adorable husband.

For more information on Clare, go to Clare Fowler. To learn more about mediation, go to ADRHub or
read more "Listen To Me On BlogTalk Radio Tonight At 8pm!"

IMI Launch Consultation on IMI Inter-Cultural Competency Certification Criteria

Enjoy reading below from the International Mediation Institute:

DRAFT Criteria forApproving Programs to Qualify Mediators for IMI Inter-Cultural Certification

Soliciting Comments by April 30, 2011

The Intercultural Taskforce of the IMI Independent Standards Commission (ISC) is developing criteria for inter-cultural mediator training and IMI Certification.

The Task Force’s goals are to develop criteria that are succinct, flexible, and feasible to implement by trainers and QAPs (Qualifying Assessment Programs).

The Task Force welcomes reactions and suggestions for improvements before finalizing these criteria. Thank you.

Please send your comments to To download these criteria in PDF, please click here

IMI Inter-Cultural Certification is available to any experienced mediator who is qualified by an Inter-Cultural Qualifying Assessment Program (ICQAP) that has been approved by the IMI Independent Standards Commission (ISC), based on meeting the following criteria:

I. CRITERIA FOR APPROVING INTER-CULTURAL QUALIFYING ASSESSMENT PROGRAMS (ICQAP) Any ICQAP must meet the following criteria in order to qualify mediators for IMI Inter-Cultural Competency Certification:

1. METHODOLOGY FOR ASSESSMENT. Any QAP that provides Inter-Cultural Certification must implement a performance-based assessment methodology for evaluating whether each candidate’s performance meets each of the Substantive Criteria in Section II.

Comment: The assessments may be based on written material, role-play or live action evaluations, other suitable methods, or any combination, and may include videotaped and online assessments such as web dramas, self-assessments, interviews, peer reviews, user feedback and other in-practice skill evaluations.


The benchmarks and criteria applied by QAP must be published and openly accessible on the organization’s website. Comment: Details of all approved programs will be listed on the IMI web portal and will include a direct link to the credentialing organizations’ websites.


Each Assessor must have substantial experience in evaluating the performance of mediators. At least one of the Assessors on each Program must be independent of the ICQAP training faculty for Inter-Cultural Certification.


The ICQAP must be accessible on an equal basis to experienced mediators regardless of their professional affiliations, gender, race, ethnicity, age, religion, sexual orientation or other personal characterization.

II. SUBSTANTIVE CRITERIA Any Program that qualifies for IMI Inter-Cultural Certification must meet these minimum substantive criteria when teaching mediators inter-cultural abilities:



Ability to understand and apply at least one credible theory and approach to cultural dimensions as a means to reach cultural competence. The theory and approach shall include an appreciation of similarities and differences among cultures.


a. Any selected framework should consider how to use cultural dimensions while avoiding stereotyping when setting up and participating in mediations. Although there are many recognized and respected theories, the goal is not to learn comparative theories about culture or even a particular theory. The goal is to reach a level of cultural competence by means of the selected theory, as applied in each of these other criteria.

b. Understanding culturally shaped norms and expectations can help explain parties’ different perspectives and the impasses these perspectives can create. However, it is important to avoid using culture as an overly inclusive concept to try to explain all differences that parties manifest. Mediators should strive to apply their understanding of culture as an explanatory tool to specific, justifiable circumstances.

c. Any discussion of culture needs to consider how the concepts of "conflict", "resolution", "mediation" and "process" can have different meanings in different cultures.



Ability to recognise one’s own cultural values and their possible effect on one’s view of the mediation.


a. Mediators should be conscious of their own culturally influenced practices including how culture forms the lens through which they view and interpret the behaviour of others.

b. Mediators should be aware of how their culturally shaped behaviour might be viewed and interpreted by participants.

c. Mediators should learn to recognize signs of their own surprise, discomfort, or cognitive dissonance when facing cultural differences, and develop adaptive strategies for re-establishing balance, coping with cultural ambiguities, and managing unfamiliar or contrary practices.


Ability to recognise each participant’s culturally shaped perspectives of behaviours or events. Ability to understand and appreciate participants’ complementary and opposing cultural perspectives. Ability to manage the inevitable ambiguities and mistakes that can emerge when dealing with multiple cultural perspectives.


a. Mediators should understand participants’ possible perceptions of the behaviour of the mediator, the behaviour of each other, and procedural issues and subject matter.

b. Mediators should not react negatively when faced with different ways of doing things, unless the behaviour violates the mediator’s fundamental personal values.

c. When working with multiple cultural perspectives, mediators should learn to deal with uncertainty, ambiguous information or circumstances, unintentional mistakes (e.g. cultural clumsiness), and possibly unconscious biases of participants. d. Mediators should consider the best style and process for dealing with issues related to multiple perspectives, including whether to address them in caucuses or joint sessions or directly or indirectly with the participants. e. When managing multiple cultural perspectives, mediators should consider how and whether to co-mediate with neutrals from other cultures or involve interpreters as cultural consultants when preparing for and participating in mediations.


Ability to adjust one’s own communication style to the needs of participants from other cultures, and to help participants communicate optimally with each other, including establishing suitable processes to facilitate communications.


a. Mediators should be able to employ suitable inter-cultural communication skills when interacting with participants as well as with co-mediators from other cultures. For example, under one theory, the communication style suitable for mediators may involve pinpointing a point on the direct-indirect communication continuum, a point that can be influenced by a number of other cultural parameters such as the power distance index and relationship orientation of the participants or co-mediators.

b. Mediators need to check for compatible communication styles among the participants and know how to assist participants with communicating despite incompatible communication styles.

c. Mediators should be able to assist participants in understanding how information can be perceived and conveyed in different ways across cultures.

d. Mediators may need to help participants adjust the way they communicate with each other based on such parameters as the participants’ comfort displaying emotion, their ability to empathize or understand others’ perspectives, their comfort with face-to-face discussion of sensitive subject-matter, and their preference to pursue delicate matters through indirection (e.g in order to avoid loss of face).

e. Mediators need to learn to assess if, when, and how to use caucuses with participants to facilitate communications.


Ability to identify salient cultural issues and design sensitive interventions.

Comments: Mediators should learn to recognize and test for any culturally shaped interests, impediments and information-gathering issues. They also should learn skills to help participants address interests, overcome any impediments, and resolve any information-gathering issues, including facilitating an optimal exchange of information among parties with different communication styles and approaches to sharing information. Mediators’ understanding of interests should include the possibility of wider interests at stake than only those of the participants at the table, including those of other constituents (e.g., family members, elders, communities, and tribunals). This assessment also should consider whether there may be impediments due to differences related to the participants’ conflicting sense of status or needs for procedural certainty, autonomy, fairness, or relatedness.



Ability to research culture of the participants, formulate a culturally suitable process, and design sensitive interventions.


a. Mediators should prepare by trying to learn about the culture and traditions of each participant and by figuring out what process may work best for these participants given their cultural predilections. When preparing, mediators may need to design sensitive interventions to help parties meet culturally influenced interests, overcome any culturally shaped impediments, and facilitate inter-cultural communications. The aim of this preparation is to construct hypotheses for how best to proceed given what a mediator may know about the participants and to prepare to test these hypotheses as the mediation gets underway.

b. Mediators should be flexible and open to reassessing and modifying their preferences for procedures and interventions, as illustrated by the following examples: Whether to convene a pre-mediation meeting with one party, both parties, or only the representatives of the parties; Whether to request prior submissions and the type of submissions that may be helpful; Where the mediation should take place, who should attend, and what venue, food, external resources, social activities or welcoming rituals to arrange. Whether to work with the parties to design a procedure to meet any needs for mutual respect, autonomy, affiliation, certainty, or procedural fairness, in which status and roles are understood (e.g. seating and forms of address); Whether to help participants avoid cultural norms that may be deemed politically or culturally incorrect by others, as well as avoid being manipulated by cultural norms; How participants or their representatives should communicate with one another prior to and during a mediation including resolving the role of the mediator, the need for co-mediators or interpreters, who should speak or write, and how time should be allocated; How proposals might be presented (e.g., in some cultures, parties may not be comfortable presenting options because they are not clear what is expected, need more guidance, and do not want to do so because they may appear weak, lose face, or lose respect of others). Whether, when and how to provide for evaluative feedback;

c. Mediators may need to become more or less directive or facilitative at times on procedural issues, depending on the needs of the participants.


Ability to help participants take stock of what they have achieved as the mediation progresses, where they wish to be headed, and what they expect at the end.

Comment: Although monitoring progress is important in all mediations, this task requires special attention in inter-cultural mediations where signposts of progress may be less evident. Even though the mediator and the participants may feel they are advancing well, each individual may think they are heading in a direction whose outcome may be culturally influenced and different. In order to provide a check and elicit the range of different understandings, mediators should be able to assess the extent to which participants expectations are aligned, can be reconciled, or can be respected.


Ability to help participants set parameters for a final work product or action items, so that the participants can feel they have reached satisfactory closure.

Comment: Conflicts underlying a mediation are seldom ended by only an oral agreement, nor are they always ended when there has been a signed agreement. In inter-cultural disputes, mediators should be aware of additional procedural or ceremonial steps that may be necessary to enable participants to feel that they can bring closure to the conflict. At times, participants may need to be reassured that their outcome will be honoured, such as by a court or tribunal ratifying an agreement, converting the agreement to a consent award, or following some other ritual or tradition.

read more "IMI Launch Consultation on IMI Inter-Cultural Competency Certification Criteria"

IMI Announcement: Cultural Competency Certification Criteria

As my credentials state, I am a International Mediation Institute (IMI) certified mediator. I beleive in the mission of IMI- to create a global certification scheme (administered by a group that does not provide services, trainings, etc.) which will help parties find suitable and highly qualified mediators for their dispute.

IMI recently announced, "IMI Launch Consultation on IMI Inter-Cultural Competency Certification Criteria" which I think is of interest to both certified members of IMI as well as non-member, professional mediators. Note that comments re welcome through April 30, 2011. I hope to have a representative of IMI or someone who developed the criteria on a ADRhub Podcast Series episode in April.

Stay tuned!


(Originally posted here)

IMI Launch Consultation on IMI Inter-Cultural Competency Certification Criteria

25 March 2011

The Inter-Cultural Taskforce of the IMI Independent Standards Commission (ISC), after a year of meetings and consultation, is publishing for comment Draft Criteria for the planned IMI Inter-Cultural Competency Certification of Mediators.Organisations approved by the ISC as an Inter-Cultural Qualifying Assessment Program (ICQAP) will assess mediators for their mastery of inter-cultural dynamics and qualify mediators for IMI Inter-Cultural Certification.

The launch of this new initiative is planned for late 2011 following a public consultation period and testing of the criteria in a pilot program.

This initiative has attracted much interest and support from users, mediators, trainers and providers and will be presented at the 13th Annual Spring Conference of the ABA Section of Dispute Resolution in Denver in April 2011.

Comments on the criteria are invited by April 30, 2011 and can be sent to

All comments received will be greatly appreciated and individually acknowledged.

To read the draft Criteria, please click here

To download the draft Criteria in PDF, please click here

read more "IMI Announcement: Cultural Competency Certification Criteria"

The ABA Section of Dispute Resolution Task Force on Improving Mediation Quality

Enjoy Lisa Renee Pomerantz's guest post as she shares here views on the ABA Dispute Resolution Task Force's findings.

The ABA Section of Dispute Resolution Task Force

on Improving Mediation Quality

by Lisa Renee Pomerantz, Attorney at Law

In a prior article in the Suffolk Lawyer, I discussed the preliminary findings of the ABA Section of Dispute Resolution Task Force on Improving Mediation Quality as they were presented at the 2007 Annual Conference of ACR-GNY, the Greater New York Chapter of the Association for Conflict Resolution. At the Conference, several members of the audience raised questions about the wisdom of relying solely on in-house and outside counsel for feedback from users. It appears that criticism was taken to heart, and the use of questionnaires and interviews was extended to the parties themselves.

The Final Report was issued earlier this year and may be accessed at The Task Force focused on the use of mediation in civil disputes of all kinds, including commercial, employment and personal injury cases. Matrimonial, family and community disputes were excluded. The four elements found to be essential to effective mediations were:

  • Preparation by the mediators, counsel and parties;
  • Customization of the mediation process for the specific dispute;
  • Use of analytical techniques by the mediator; and
  • Patience, persistence and active engagement by the mediator.

In many areas, mediators and users of mediation services concurred. All saw mediator preparation as essential. Many felt private rather than joint calls to prepare for the session were more effective, as they permitted the parties or their counsel to clue the mediator in on “hot button” topics or the potential risks or rewards of permitting opening statements or using caucuses or other mediation techniques. Conversely, the mediator could use these private calls to establish expectations as to how the parties and their counsel should participate actively and constructively in the process. Mediators could also use these pre-session calls to encourage the parties to view their cases realistically and to consider alternative types of settlement arrangements.

There were some differences between mediators and users of mediation services concerning the utility of certain procedures. Mediators thought mediation could be valuable pre-suit more often than did parties. Mediators saw greater value in requiring the exchange of pre-mediation memoranda than did the parties. (Perhaps mediators thought the “exchange” requirement helped keep the parties honest.) Whereas mediators hesitated to be too activist in encouraging settlement, parties, and especially their counsel, preferred mediators who would recommend specific settlements or apply pressure on the parties to settle.

There were also significant differences between mediators and mediation users on the importance of collateral goals in mediation. All groups considered settlement a central goal. However, while mediation is often touted as providing a way for parties to express their concerns and be heard, parties actually did not consider this a significant goal. Other goals identified as important by mediators, but not by parties, included achieving closure, promoting effective communication between the parties and preserving relationships.

You can learn more about Lisa by visiting her website:

read more "The ABA Section of Dispute Resolution Task Force on Improving Mediation Quality"

Featured in Tweed Daily News

Hello Friends! If you get the chance, please click the link below.

As some of you know, I am currently in Australia doing research and am giving a presentation at Southern Cross University. The link below is an article featuring me and the talk I will be giving.


"What Your Body Is Saying About You"

FROM hairstyles to handshakes, non-verbal communication can say a lot about what a person is thinking or feeling.

US-based mediation expert and New York City Police Department detective Jeff Thompson will reveal the secrets of non-verbal communication at a public seminar at Southern Cross University's Gold Coast campus in Bilinga today...

Click [HERE] or
copy/paste this:

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ACR-GNY Tip of The Month- Active Listening

Written by ACR-GNY Board Member Richard Lutringer & originally posted [HERE]

Parties in commercial mediations often reach resolution through the help of a skilled mediator using traditional mediation tools, including an inquiry into underlying economic interests, which can “expand the pie”. In certain business disputes, however, as is often the case in family disputes, more than underlying economic interests may be involved.

When emotional issues lie beneath the surface, it may be necessary to dig deeper using a listening skill of community, employment and family mediators.

In a dispute I mediated recently among three owners of a successful media business that had been wending its way toward an acrimonious split-up, a breakthrough came when one of the owners disclosed in joint session that he felt guilty for not attending to his work over the preceding year due to his personal issues, thereby letting his partners down. The hostility in the room softened, understanding was shown by the other partners and the negotiations continued in a more friendly tone. Although issues still needed to be resolved, the company survived with its ownership structure intact.
Not every commercial dispute has a hidden emotional element. In many small business disputes, however, by overlooking the elephant of emotion, a mediator can easily miss the opportunity to assist the parties to resolve the dispute and move on with their lives.

Active listening as a therapeutic concept was first identified by psychologist
Carl Rogers in the 1940’s and has since been adopted and refined by interest-based mediation. One leading scholar describes active listening as a “communication technique in which a listener decodes a verbal message, identifies the emotion being expressed, selects a word or phrase with the same meaning and emotional intensity as that conveyed by the speaker, and restates the feeling content of the message to the sender for confirmation or clarification” (Moore, The Mediation Process (2003), p. 176) .

Several modern mediation approaches emphasize the listening-reflecting dynamic of active listening. “Understanding based” mediation utilizes and expands the process with the concept of the “loop of understanding” which looks for confirmation by the party of being understood by the mediator, including feelings shown by unspoken behavior, as well as spoken words, back to the party for confirmation, and thereby also serving as a model for the other party (Friedman and Himmelstein, Challenging Conflict (2008), pp 68-76). With regard to transformational mediation, the act of reflecting back emotions after listening has been described as “one of the most powerful things that ...... mediators do to help parties make ....both empowerment and recognition shifts...”. (Bush and Folger, The Promise of Mediation (2005), p.144).

Why active listening is effective may be because it represents a true emotional connection with the party, not a "fact" inquiry. A classic small work by James Sullivan, a Catholic priest who often counsels clergy, deals with the transformational power of everyday empathetic listening on one who is emotionally troubled.(Sullivan, The Good Listener (2000)). Sullivan articulates the power of empathetic attention and understanding through the simple techniques discussed below. Although Sullivan writes about troubled clergy in a non-commercial context, at least one of the parties in a litigation with a long-time business partner is likely to be "emotionally troubled" through feelings of abandonment, disloyalty and insecurity.

Sullivan suggests the following four steps as crucial to effective listening, which can easily be adapted by a mediator, as I have briefly expanded in the paragraphs below:

1. Stepping out of your own world
When you understand what another is experiencing and feel what they are feeling, your own needs, perceptions and judgments are, for a few moments, put aside. Even though, objectively, the party’s position may be exaggerated or inappropriate, the mediator can still understand the speaker and feel the pain.

2. Entering into their world.
Seeing the world as though you are looking through another’s eyes isn’t easy, particularly because people in stressful situations may not be consciously in touch with their underlying feelings. Their body language and behavior must be “listened to” as well. Acknowledgement of tension can be reflected back by a mediator for verification by the party that their stress is understood.

3. Sensing their deepest feelings
By “naming” the deepest and most painful feelings, even if they have not mentioned those feelings specifically, the party knows that they are heard at a deep level. A mediator's responses would, of course, always be different, but may sound like the following :”You feel cheated out of your inheritance”, “You are worried about how you would earn a living outside the business ”; “You felt betrayed”; “You are feeling inadequate”, etc.

4. Give an adequate response
A genuine feeling response need only be a few words. For mediators, simply reflecting the feeling and saying, with an understanding tone of voice and an attitude of honest inquiry, “Did I get that right ?” may show empathetic understanding of their worldview without displaying a lack of neutrality. They also have the opportunity to correct and modify any misperceptions reflected. (Id, pp. 78-89).

Thich Nhat Hanh, the well-known Buddhist teacher, describes the power of compassionate listening :
“In this practice you listen with all your mindfulness and concentration in order to give someone who is suffering a chance to speak out. Even if his speech is full of condemnation, bitterness, and blame, you still listen ....If you interrupt, deny, or correct everything he says, he will have no chance to make peace....Deep listening and loving speech can...transform long-held misperceptions and suffering” ( Thich Nhat Han, Creating True Peace (2003), pp. 92-94)

Although active listening benefits from practice, it is not merely a skill or technique, like delivering a mediator’s proposal or bridging an overlap of positions. When engaging in active listening, a mediator might consider using whatever inner practice has worked for them to become present in other situations, such as a few seconds of deep breathing or silent meditation. If active listening is done by the mediator with humility and openness, a “stuck” party may feel heard and begin to open up, allowing a space to move beyond “no” and towards understanding, whether or not the outstanding issue is immediately resolved.

read more "ACR-GNY Tip of The Month- Active Listening"

Update & Explanation On Changes To has support my blog,, since it started. Recently I notice how I was unable to log into my favorite feature- the featured blog postings of the week. No, it was not (solely!) to see if my blog made but rather I think the one of the best ways to keep up to date on the latest mediation news as well as get insight from some of the sharpest mediation minds, all in once place, is this section on

For those wondering, why is appearing on a 'rival' site here at, well firstly we are not necessarily direct rivals. This leads to #2- is a resource for news for the conflict resolution field. As an individual, I was not sure was what going with As the admin of, now that I have the answers fro Jim Melamed, owner of, I feel it is the job of to pass along this information.




I saw some twitter banter recently regarding the "restricted" visibility of Featured Blogs. My goal here is to clarify things.

First off, there are certain features at that we provide to paying members or subscribers only. These features are the most time-consuming and professionally focused ongoing consolidations of valuable information. These features include such Sections as:

You can review all Sections at and see that remains generally "open access," certainly for "public interest information."

In the limited cases of "protected professional information," there is typically a valuable (and time consuming) ongoing editorial consolidation of up to date information and, in most cases, also a deep archive to maintain. Comprehensive access to all content is readily available with either a MediateInside Subscription ($9/mo or $99/yr) or with a Premium Membership ($19/mo or $199/yr - this also includes a complete directory listing also). See

Critically, I want to note that nearly all of this "protected professional information" is in fact also available for free at by approaching things in a somewhat different way. For example, you will see that all protected information is also freely available at our Main Content Search Page ( and from Author Pages.

So, for example, each of your and every other featured blogger's (and author's) entire library of postings are available at your respective Author Pages:

Further, you will also see at our Main Content Search Page ( that any text, topic or author search can be designated to include Blog and News items.

So, the bottom line here is that blog, news, video and other protected information is still openly available at You just need to know how to find it!

For our ongoing, time-consuming consolidations of professional content, we are realistically asking the professional mediation community to support with a contribution of only $9/mo or $99/yr for a MediateInside subscription . For those who desire accessing for free, that is also fine. You just need to work a little bit harder (a couple of more mouse clicks anyway) to find what you want.

Behind all of this is our (and every other valued content provider, e.g., Wall Street Journal, NY Times) interest in finding sustainable models to continue and expand our work.

I hope that this information is helpful in assisting everyone to access the information you desire. For those who are interested in supporting our efforts, your paid MediateInside Subscription or Premium Membership is most appreciated. See

Thanks for your time and consideration!

Best to all,

Jim Melamed, CEO

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ABA Task Force's 4 Elements On Quality Mediators

Recently while reading Deborah Laufer's ADR Network newsletter, I cam across the following:

ABA Section of Dispute Resolution Task Force on Improving Mediation Quality -
The Task Force focused on the use of mediation in civil disputes of all kinds, including commercial, employment and personal injury cases. Matrimonial, family and community disputes were excluded. The four elements found to be essential to effective mediations were:

* Preparation by the mediators, counsel and parties;
* Customization of the mediation process for the specific dispute;
* Use of analytical techniques by the mediator; and
* Patience, persistence and active engagement by the mediator.

Some quick thoughts I have on this:

1) It's great that this list detailing quality traits has been released.

2) I think, although matrimonial, family and community disputes were excluded, the elements apply to all kinds of mediation.

3) I am interested in how those traits are displayed. Are they displayed and used a certain way (establishing a theme) by individual mediators and then also mediators across the board?

4) In regards to point three- that is exactly the reason I am doing my current research- to find out how exactly those traits are used and displayed while also exploring to see if there are themes with individual mediators as well as a collection of mediators.

For example, point four states patience and persistence as key elements. How do mediators effectively act persistent and patient. What is it that displays those traits?

read more "ABA Task Force's 4 Elements On Quality Mediators"

Rep. King- Hearings? How About Facilitation?

We all know the story about Rep. Peter King and the hearings he has put together on the radicalization of members of the Muslim community in the United States.Hearings proposed by Rep. Peter King, R-New York, have caused consternation among many Muslim-Americans.

King states, "The chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security -- New York GOP Rep. Peter King -- has said Thursday's hearing is necessary to explore, among other things, the extent to which al Qaeda is trying to influence and indoctrinate U.S. Muslims."

From a conflict resolution professional point of view (yes, I consider myself a professional!), if the goal is to 'explore' and ultimately establish where and when there are disconnects between the government and the Muslim community, how is it that a Congressional hearing would be the best forum to do this?

This design seems very similar to the one held for JP Morgan to be scolded by Congress members. How could a hearing, designed to extremely one sided as it is a group questioning a person (with all the press to take pictures and film) build a collaborative partnership?

If there are people conspiring against us, yes they should be dealt with. That is what we have law enforcement investigations for (Police, FBI, CIA, etc.) where as I see this whole process (the hearings), again and being done in public and in front of the media circus, a superficial gesture whose impact will be equally superficial not offering any options on how to move forward that builds trust and safety (yes, the two go hand and hand).

I find it hard to believe I am the only one who thinks the Congressional Hearing approach, and it's lead up of press releases and comments are combative and further creating people to dig their heals into the sand which is positional based.

Finally, as not wanting to be one of those people who whinge and do not offer an alternative, here is what I think could be more productive:

Hold a facilitative group meeting.

Set a goal and agenda of the meeting.

Set a timetable.

Include representatives from all the stakeholders- King/Congress, Muslim community leaders, and law enforcement. Each side not only gets to explain their side and their issues/complaints, but also they get to the other side's as well. This is crucial as it can show there are joint goals.

Design it to be in a private setting- not in front of 'the world'. Design it to be a collaborative set-up and not a chair/table facing your interrogators/questioners. We all act differently in front of cameras. A private setting came be more open- more open to speaking more freely and also express concerns.

Have a neutral (as much as possible) moderator/facilitator. No not president Obama but rather a qualified person who understands who to facilitate a meeting who will not give their own input but rather guide the process. There are many well qualified people out their that possess the skills needed- experience in government, interfaith, and facilitation.

Work towards moving forward. In order to move forward, past experiences must be voiced. The main component of the meeting should be how can all the stakeholders work together, collaboratively in order to make America safer (remember- setting the goal).

This neutral can even release a report afterwards detailing the situation, according to each perspective and measures for moving forward.

Privacy/confidentiality. Adding to meeting privately to reduce temptation to grandstand for the cameras, all parties should agree to not release comments to the media until the meeting(s) are complete. Throughout, and at its completion, a joint statement should be used. If they are working towards a collaborative partnership, then a releasing joint statements should not me too far fetched of an idea.

What will come of these hearings? My thoughts are further polarizing of sides, people becoming more skeptical and resentful (one one side with the government, and the other side against a religion). I still think it is possible for all groups involved to work together, in a positive collaborative manner. One that builds understanding and trust. This will create a safer America.

Do I think I think it can work. Sure, and I am not the only one who thinks so. Read the suggestions in the open letter sent by a coalition of over local interfaith leaders in the New York area:

A more constructive approach to strengthening the bonds of trust that bolster our security and protect our values would be convening a dialogue among faith leaders, law enforcement and elected officials such as yourself. It is with a spirit of goodwill and sincere hope that we propose beginning such an initiative with you.

The full letter can be read [here].

Finally, as trying to be open-minded, what are the thoughts and comments of my fellow mediators and conflict specialists? How those not in our field- Is there a benefit of these hearings that I have missed?


You can read more on this from CNN: Analysis: King risks alienating ally in fight against homegrown terror


These views are my own and do not represent the views of any organization I am affiliated with or work with and for.

read more "Rep. King- Hearings? How About Facilitation?"

Whats Happening In Conflict Resolution

(Online Dispute Resolution) By Any Other Name...
Noam Ebner- Whenever I teach ODR, I assign students a search-and-report assignment, asking them to run down and discuss different types of sites and services. This combines their (assumed) interest in learning what is going on in ODR, with my own interest in staying on top of things. Of course, many students report on oft-discussed service providers who have been in the ODR market for years. Others report on new service providers who are just setting up practice (or, who have just set up their website).

Finally, every now and then, more courageous reporters venture outside established ODR territory and share information on new online services being set up in industries far removed from the dispute resolution field. These last services, processes and platforms interest me a great deal, as I discussed in a recent post. I think that as industries and agencies develop them, embed them in their operations, become dependent on them and train the public to use them – ODR will benefit by having a more tech-savvy, less anxious and more trusting public as its client-base, with many of the traditional inhibitions against ODR a thing of their past.

Jason Dykstra- A few weekends ago I went on a youth retreat. The theme was "Back to the Basics" and required all participants to leave computers, phones, Ipods, etc. at home. When I heard this part, I started shaking...a whole weekend without a computer and a phone? What was I going to do? I couldn't go on Twitter or Facebook what was I going to do?

...Scott Stratten talks primarily about social media, and building relationships on social media as a way to market your business. Scott is a "fairly big deal on a fairly relevant social media site" and he gave this talk at a TedX in Oakville (See video below), it's a little different then the keynotes he gives, but I love this video. I've watched it many, many times.

The Centre for Peace and Social Justice is delighted to launch a series of The Peace Forum designed to bring together a community of inter-
disciplinary scholars and practitioners to engage in peace and social justice issues.

University of New Mexico Ombuds Train Faculty Mediators

In 2010, the UNM Office of Ombuds/Dispute Resolution Services for Faculty trained 14 faculty members to serve as mediators for campus conflict that involve other faculty. The new UNM faculty mediators join 92 other faculty members who have previously completed the training. Jean Civikly-Powell is the UNM Ombuds and Carolina Yahne is the Association Ombuds. (UNM ODR Newsletter.)

More News, Jobs & Trainings

Podcast Series Episode #17: Transformative Mediation With Robert A. Baruch Bush
read more "Whats Happening In Conflict Resolution"

CPSJ Launches Peace Forum

I am happy to announce the following event below, which I will be attending. I am a community member of the hosting organization, The Centre for Peace and Social Justice at Southern Cross University (Gold Coast, Australia), which I will also be doing a workshop with one of the Centre's principal researchers , Bee Chen Goh, later this month on nonverbal communication and mediation.

The Centre for Peace and Social Justice is delighted to launch a series of The Peace Forum designed to bring together a community of inter-disciplinary scholars and practitioners to engage in peace and social justice issues.

Our Chancellor, The Hon John Dowd AO QC, has graciously agreed to
launch The Peace Forum on Monday 7th March 2011 at 12-2pm (Qld)
Beachside Campus Room A3.16A.

I am particularly pleased to welcome back Mr Alan Chan, Chairman of Petroships Investment Pte Ltd (Singapore) and a Corporate Associate of the Institute of Policy Studies, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore, who is also a Community Member of the Centre for Peace and Social Justice. Mr Chan will deliver the inaugural and free public presentation, details below.
The Presentation will be recorded and available as a web podcast.

The topic of the first event is:
Sublimation of Character

Philosophy may at times appear to be elusive, largely due to inter-school contradictions and esoteric concepts. Let's focus on an area that is secular and practicable. Ancient Chinese philosophies blossomed over two thousand years ago. Much fantasy has been fused into them before and after. That has to be winnowed away. Counsel was unwittingly given by Socrates for scholars to be skeptical. The focus is on Zengzi, credited with the compilation of the classic "Great Learning" meant for mature students. We shall learn of his technique of character cultivation. The other two pre-eminent Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle will add substance in governance and social grace to the demeanor of accomplished gentlemen or"Junzi"

I hope to see you there- Enjoy!
read more "CPSJ Launches Peace Forum"

Celebrate Ombuds Day!

I happily read this morning that the Ombudsman profession is attempting to not be outdone by the mediation field in regards to publicity. Sure Mediation has the television show "Fairly Legal" (does anyone still watch it?), but now the Ombuds field has Ombuds Day!

Yes, to coincide with the IOA (International Ombuds Association) Annual Conference, Monday April 4, 2011 has been declared Ombuds Day in Portland Oregon.

Well done!

Read the full proclamation [here].

Read more about the IOA [here].

Read more about the conference [here].
read more "Celebrate Ombuds Day!"

What's Happening In Conflict Resolution [03.01.11]

Podcast Series Episode #17: Transformative Mediation With Robert A. Baruch Bush

Join host Jeff Thompson and Robert A. Baruch Bush as they discuss Transformative Mediation- the history, its use and applications, as well as the the recently published source book on transformative mediation covering topics and situations where transformative mediation has been used. This includes court, divorce mediation and organizational disputes.

Read more on the book [here] and enjoy listening below:

As you may know, the U.S. House of Representatives has voted to eliminate funding for the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) for the remainder of the fiscal year as part of a $61 billion package of budget cuts...

USIP was created by Congress in 1984 as a non-partisan effort during the Presidency of Ronald Reagan. It is the only congressionally mandated and funded institution to develop civilian capacity to perform international conflict management and peace-building. USIP is a federally funded independent organization to support the military, the State Department, successive administrations and the international community.

Read more [HERE]

This week in conflict... February 19th-25th, 2011

Check out Rebecca Sargent's new blog rounding up the global news in conflict [HERE].

Divorce Is Messy- Sometimes Mediation Won't Work

The government's plans to force warring couples to talk fail to take on board the complexity of marital breakdown.

The law has a lot to answer for when it comes to divorce. Until judicial divorce was introduced in 1857, ecclesiastical courts presided over marriage breakdowns to the detriment of women: a woman's property became her husband's, and he could lock her up, beat her, and deny her access to her children. A married woman was legally equivalent to lunatics, outlaws and minors...

Read more [HERE]

More News, Jobs & Events

read more "What's Happening In Conflict Resolution [03.01.11]"

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