There is a misperception that transformative mediation doesn’t settle cases as often as other mediation approaches do. That misperception arises because of the tendency of transformative mediators to focus on benefits other than settlement, and because of the lack of research that shows the settlement rates of other approaches.
Transformative mediation’s success has indeed been based largely on factors besides settlement rates. The US Postal Service (which has the world’s largest workplace mediation program) chose transformative mediation because it wanted a program that would have "upstream effects". That is, not only did it aim to affect the parties to the mediation, but also to improve the working environment for all employees; and it wanted that change to last. The USPS hoped that, because transformative mediation focuses on improving the quality of conflict interaction, the postal management and employees would develop a more harmonious relationship. And research showed that the program worked (See Chapter 16 "Mediation at Work: Transforming Workplace Conflict at the U.S. Postal Service" of Transformative Mediation: A Sourcebook). But that program also had a less-publicized effect. It resolved cases.
The vast majority (close to 80%) of complaints that were mediated with the transformative model went away after one mediation session. The USPS’ previous mediation program, based on a "facilitative" model, was less successful at resolving cases. And there is no reliable study of mediation outcomes that shows a higher rate of settlement than that of the REDRESS Program.
But the misperception persists that transformative mediation does not solve problems and produce outcomes that organizations and courts value. The misperception persists for at least two reasons. FIrst, we point to things like the “upstream effects” of REDRESS, and that those effects occur regardless of whether settlements occur. Second, we lack a meaningful way to compare our closure rates with other methods, as insufficient research has been done on those other methods. (To the extent there are anecdotal examples of small programs that seem to lead to settlements, such as Early Neutral Evaluation in Minnesota for which I've seen a claimed 75% settlement rate, even those examples generally don't show rates higher than REDRESS'). And in my own divorce mediation cases, settlements have become more common, as I've let go of any attachment to leading my clients there, but my practice has not been the subject of a scientific study.
It’s appropriate that we emphasize the empowerment and recognition shifts that occur, as well as the upstream effects, because these are what matter most to the parties and their organizations. But let's not forget, for those focused on settlement, that our process has more evidence of its effectiveness on that level than does any other mediation approach.