Successful group mediation depends upon mutual understanding. How we, as mediators, can approach and define mutual understanding may well define our differences in mediation style. All agree that genuine understanding requires knowing other’s needs through knowing their history and situation. This is not always an easy task and like any challenging task, we may be tempted to take quick and easy route. Unfortunately, too often we approach the process of understanding community issues and stakeholders more as a tourist rather than a guest.
Tourist or Guest
Allow me a simple analogy. I have just returned from a two-week project in Santo Domingo. When traveling outside the United States, I always make a point to ask fellow travelers about their trip. Answers to “What did you do? Where did you stay? What did you learn?” are quite revealing. On one end of the spectrum are those I call the tourist – the person who wants to see as many places as possible in the least amount of time while gathering the most air travel miles. They may be the ones who stay in an all-inclusive or global hotel chain in the primary regional city, take a one-hour city tour and returned to the US with another check off the bucket list. At the other end of the spectrum are the visitors – those investigators who have yearned and planned a trip based upon wanting to know the destination. These are travelers who have stayed in regional hotels or hostels, eaten local food in local restaurants, and even ridden public transport. They have talked to the locals and, just maybe, invited into the homes of locals. The differences are significant. This analogy fits well with the concept of Inclusive Mediation.
The Inclusive Approach
An inclusive approach to community mediation requires the ability to accept all participants and understanding where they are in the process as well as where they have come from while keeping an eye on process (Harmon-Darrow, et al., 2019). It is the balance of keeping the big picture of moving from point A to B while understanding and building on each stop along the way. Successful mediation should be somewhere between utilitarian quest for the greatest good and deontology desire to address individual needs (Hardy & Rundel, 2012). This is the value mediators bring to the table. Community mediation should never be approached solely as a tourist. Not going local and asking questions prevents the traveler from understanding.
On a final note, while inclusive mediation has the potential to build capacity it should never considered as an ultimate step. The idea that mediation value goes beyond the quest for settlement and instead strives for community growth and empowerment (Bush and Folger, 2002) is important. The key is to understand that beneficial mediation is not a “one and done” process. We live in a dynamic world with needs and situations constantly changing. Assuming the resolution benefits achieved by successful mediation will be lasting – even in the short term – is not reasonable (Pincock, 2013). Resolution is a journey.
Bush, R. A. B., and J. P. Folger. 1994. The Promise of Mediation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass
Hardy, S. & Rundel, O., (2012). Applying the inclusive model of ethical decision making to mediation. James Cook University Law Review, 19, 70–89.
Harmon-Darrow, C., Charkoudian, L., Ford, T., Ennis, M. C., & Bridgeford, E. (2020). Defining Inclusive mediation: Theory, practice, and research. Conflict Resolution Quarterly, 37(4), 305–324. https://doi.org/10.1002/crq.2127
Pincock, H. (2013), Does Mediation Make Us Better? Exploring the Capacity-Building Potential of Community Mediation. Conflict Resolution Quarterly, 31: 3-30. https://doi.org/10.1002/crq.21077