Confluence Center for
Mediation & Training

Mary Forst Associates


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"... helpful for educators at all levels, for everything from dealing with conflict among students to improving work relations among staff."

High School Principal
Bielefeld, Germany





~~ What We Do ~~

Our Services Include:

Conflict Resolution Services, choosing the most effective combination of methods, including:

Training in mediation and related skills:

  • Mediation
  • Conflict resolution
  • Facilitation
  • Problem solving
  • Teambuilding
  • Managing transition and change


Mediation is a process in which a neutral third party facilitates communication and negotiation among parties in conflict. The mediator does not make decisions for the parties (unlike a judge or arbitrator).

Why mediate?

  • You don't have to do it alone. A neutral third party, the mediator, is there to guide the process.
  • Differences can be discussed and acknowledged in a safe environment.
  • Communication and problem solving can be improved, leading to more thoughtful outcomes that take everyone's needs into consideration.
  • Important working relationships can be preserved and improved.
  • Mediation offers more protection for privacy and confidentiality than more public methods.
  • Control of the outcome remains with the people in conflict. Since people create solutions for themselves, they are more likely to carry them out.

What happens in a typical mediation?

The mediator guides a non-adversarial conflict resolution process which helps to:

  • create trust, respect, and understanding
  • identify facts and issues
  • focus on underlying concerns
  • develop options
  • negotiate resolutions
  • clarify and write up a plan or agreement,
  • and can lead to an enforceable settlement agreement/release which fully resolves the matter .

The mediator may meet with individuals separately first, before bringing them together. Separate meetings may also be held after joint sessions have begun. A mediator does not act as a lawyer for any party. The mediator assists with communication, problem solving, and finding durable resolutions as defined by the parties.

Who participates in mediation sessions?

Participation in. mediation is voluntary. Sessions may include whoever is necessary to resolve the issues as identified by the principal parties to the conflict. Participation can be flexible, with people involved on an as-needed basis. For example, some participants might be involved in only one session, or in developing one part of the solution.

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What is facilitation?

A facilitator is a neutral person who helps a group focus its energies on its task so that the group can make effective decisions and promote cooperation among its members. The facilitator remains neutral and does not contribute her/his own ideas or evaluate group members' ideas. S/he ensures that everyone participates; protects group members, if necessary; and builds trust. The facilitator works with the group to design the meeting agenda and format to produce the desired results, while minimizing disruption and frustration.

What are the benefits of using a facilitator?

A facilitator can help a group:

  • identify the appropriate people to participate
  • plan a meeting for useful outcomes, and design the best methods for achieving them
  • improve communication and cooperation
  • stay on task
  • find creative solutions to problems
  • increase productivity and effectiveness
  • allow all group members, including the manager or chair, to participate in important discussions
  • anticipate difficulties and solve them with advance planning.

How does facilitation work?

Facilitators first talk with people from the group to learn background information and goals for the process. If a more extensive assessment is needed, we will contact other participants to learn their viewpoints and plan for productive expression of them, particularly if conflicts are anticipated. During meetings, we help people stay focused and productive in their communications, and assist with creative problem solving and effective planning. After the meeting, we can provide a summary of options considered, decisions made, and a checklist of next steps, to ensure that the goals of the meeting are achieved.

When should you use a facilitator?

A group should consider using an outside facilitator when:

  • the input of all group members is needed in discussion
  • effective discussions require more facilitation skills than group members have, because the topic is sensitive, complex, or controversial, or because meeting attendance will be large.
  • people are highly emotional or very invested in the issue.

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Structured Dialogue

Structured Dialogue is a tool to help individuals and groups communicate honestly about issues on which they have become polarized.

Conflicts that involve significant differences in values, identities, and world views can result in discussions that become polarized and divisive. Issues become win/lose; lines are drawn and people who care deeply are induced to take a stand on one side or the other. Trust is compromised and dialogue is interrupted. In some groups, members may come to feel that both speaking and not speaking are dangerous to ongoing working relationships

Dialogue is increasingly appreciated as a source of healing for people in conflict. It is not designed to achieve settlement of a conflict, but rather to soften deadlocks and reverse spirals of escalating polarization. Through its structure, dialogue helps people avoid their old, habitual debate, and guides them into constructive conversations and relationships.

Consensus Building

Consensus Building Process: the facilitator uses collaborative problem solving processes to assist large numbers of people, often involving many groups, to reach consensus on a variety of complex issues over a period of time.

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Dispute Resolution Systems Design

Dispute Resolution Systems Design is a systematic approach to improving an organization's capacity to effectively address a full range of organizational problems, external as well as internal.

What characterizes an effective system for managing conflict?

  • disputes are resolved close to the source
  • resolution is encouraged at the earliest possible stages
  • disputing parties are empowered to generate their own resolutions
  • emphasis is placed on resolving underlying problems, not just a particular issue or symptom that prompted a given dispute
  • there are more opportunities for resolving conflicts by reconciling interests (such as problem-solving negotiation and mediation,) rather than by determining who is right (arbitration, grievance panels) or who is the most powerful (strikes).

The results are systems for handling conflict which:

  • are less costly and rigid than formal legalistic structures
  • result in more satisfying resolutions and increased ownership of outcomes
  • promote self-learning and an environment of continuous improvement
  • avoid the spiral of escalating conflict.


Steps Involved in Dispute Resolution Systems Design:

  • Establish a team of change agents and design the intervention plan (goals, tasks, time line)
  • Conduct a situation assessment to determine what kinds of conflicts are occurring and how they are currently being resolved. Data collection methodologies include interviews, observation, questionnaires and surveys. Data is assembled and analyzed by the consultant and the Change System Team. Systemic problems are identified and diagnosed.
  • Design the system, using a collaborative and participatory process. The system should address: how problems are identified, how disputes get into the system, resolution strategies, and quality control/ monitoring.
  • Develop support for the new system. Review and get buy-in for the design, create educational and marketing plans.
  • Implement the new system. Provide skills training to use and operate the system. Provide for on-going management/supervision, monitoring, quality control and feedback.

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Confluence Center for
Mediation & Training

15500-H NW Ferry Road
Portland OR 97231-1355
(503) 504-4248
The URL for this site is