Online Mediation: Turning Mediators' Initial Skepticism Into Enthusiasm

Online Mediation: Turning Mediators' Initial Skepticism Into Enthusiasm 

Conflict Intervention Service (CIS) is a grant funded project of the City and County of San Francisco in partnership with The Bar Association of San Francisco’s Bay Area Mediation Services Program. This innovative program utilizes skilled mediators with diverse backgrounds in landlord-tenant law, psychology, addiction, mental health and housing conflict to resolve disputes in affordable housing that can lead to eviction or homelessness.

On November 2, 2017 a group of those mediators participated in a Virtual Mediation Lab Hands-on Training in Online Mediation, which consisted of 2 parts:

>> Part 1 – 60-min Introduction to Online Mediation (What online mediation means and how It works; how we (mediators) can do online everything we are used to do face-to-face; how to blend face-to-face and online mediation; which cases are suitable for online mediation; online mediation benefits; which video collaboration software works best for online mediation.

>> Part 2 – 90-min Hands-on Online Mediation via Zoom (Each mediator practiced what they learned during Part 1)

At the end of the training, I asked all mediators a simple question: “Has this 150-min hands-on training changed your view of online mediation?” Here are some of their answers:

“Now I am not afraid of it”
“I am eager to do it”
“I am marveling at the capabilities of this software (Zoom). It’s incredible.”
“I’m excited at the way people perceive technology and their relationship with technology. Online mediation may add an edge to mediation”.
“This is extraordinary”
“It opens up a whole new world!”

This experience seems to show that a good way to respond to many experienced mediators’ initial (and natural) skepticism about online mediation is to let them try it and judge by themselves.

Virtual Mediation Lab is a project sponsored by the Association for Conflict Resolution Hawaii Chapter.

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