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.

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