Recently, I was on a Zoom call with 59 other mediators from across the country. It was a yearly summit for the National Association for Community Mediation, and it was inspiring to listen to introductions and descriptions of mediation centers. Some are small community groups like Mediation Services of Adams County. Others are huge, such as urban mediation centers located in Chicago and LA. A few statewide mediation networks exist to accompany a unified court system (something Pa. does not have).
It was eye-opening to hear about special projects in some locations dealing with sustainable cities, gender equality, and steps toward racial equity. It was a pep rally for all of us, a reminder that the work we do at the local level truly matters. Together, we re-examined the multi-faceted strategies that every community mediation center engages in.
Because many of us are trained in Facilitative Mediation, that service remains available to help organizations of all kinds sort out thorny issues that may have splintered the membership. Facilitation is a skill that never goes out of style, particularly in venues where mutual respect remains a major concern.
Many of MSAC’s mediators have recently trained in Transformative Mediation, a conflict resolution approach that involves dynamic interaction with disputants and often leads to changed outlooks. Although agreement may not occur, mediators trained in Transformative Mediation help parties come to terms with their differences.
Every mediation center offers training. For one, we need to refresh our own supply of skilled mediators. But we also offer mediation training to community members, anyone wanting to acquire certification in basic mediation skills to use in human service agencies, organizations, churches, and even families.
Restorative practices offer a special opportunity for healing where the hurt is serious and both parties want to repair the breach. Two MSAC mediators have been trained in Restorative Justice, a type of mediation especially suited to juvenile offenders. In such cases, offenders are encouraged to offer restitution that helps the victim, usually a service task rather than money.
Coaching, not limited to the athletic field, is also something mediators do- a type of mentoring known as Conflict Coaching. Essentially a form of one-on-one mediation, Conflict Coaching is useful when one party refuses to come to the mediation table, but the other wants to resolve things peacefully and inexpensively. A conflict coach assists in exploring options and finding the best way out of a dispute.
Finally, many community mediation centers are affiliated with the Trust Network, and MSAC is one of them. Founded in 1965, in conjunction with the Civil Rights Act (1964), the Trust Network exists to offer a peaceful presence in situations where civil disturbances are probable. Wearing green vests that identify them as Impartial Mediators, Trust team members help provide a calming influence before a situation escalates.