"... helpful for educators
at all levels, for everything from dealing with conflict among
students to improving work relations among staff."
High School Principal
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).
- 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.
Top of Page
Top of Page
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
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.
Structured Dialogue is a tool to help individuals and
groups communicate honestly about issues on which they have become
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 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.
Top of Page
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
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
- 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.
Top of Page
Confluence Center for
Mediation & Training
15500-H NW Ferry Road
Portland OR 97231-1355
The URL for this site is http://www.ConfluenceCenter.com