One of the primary strengths of is the network of members from such diverse backgrounds. now includes academics, practitioners, scholars, professionals, students, 'newbies,' and those interested in getting involved in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). The network has experienced rapid growth in a short period of time--a testament to the high level of interest in ADR, as well as a strong desire to collaborate and learn from other members.

To continue strengthening the network and encouraging member engagement, we will take time each week to introduce and interview a member from our growing network, focusing on their interest and experience in the field of ADR. This week, our member spotlight is on Arnold Zeman.

Arnold Zeman is a transformative mediator with a private practice in family mediation in Ottawa, Ontario. He is an accredited family mediator in the province-wide body, the Ontario Association for Family Mediation. He is also currently serving as the Treasurer of the Ottawa Chapter of the OAFM.
Arnold came to the field of dispute resolution after 33 years in the Canadian federal government as a career public servant having held positions of increasing responsibility in the social policy field. In fact, management of the harassment complaints process in his department towards the end of his government service led Arnold to graduate studies in conflict at Carleton University in 2006.

Recently, Arnold provided me the opportunity to conduct a 'virtual' interview which focused on his career, experiences and thoughts on ADR....

Eric Cissell : What influenced you to choose a career in ADR?

Arnold Zeman: During my career in government I began to see a lot of my work, if not all of it, as a function of negotiating usually with other government colleagues on the development of policy. Together with my experience as my department head’s delegated manager for the harassment complaints process, I realized how much meaning I derived from working collaboratively with people at odds to find solutions to move forward. After a two-week residential government-sponsored course in dispute resolution, my interests in the field were heightened and I enrolled at Carleton University for graduate studies in conflict. The approach favoured at Carleton was the insight mediation model. But more and more I gravitated toward the transformative perspective because of its unwavering commitment to self-determination within the context of here-and-now interaction.

Eric Cissell: After getting started in ADR, what has been your biggest surprise?

Arnold Zeman: In terms of the biggest surprise, let me put it this way. There is a surprising tendency among practitioners to conceive of mediation in homogeneous terms, lumping different practices, values and objectives together in a mediator’s toolbox. On the other hand, I worry about the dogmatism of conflict scholars in insisting that their models are best and others are inferior. With homogenization, significant differences may be missed. While with dogmatism, something important is being left out.

Eric Cissell: Are there any ADR related books or tools you consider essential to an ADR professional's library or toolkit?

Arnold Zeman: It won’t come as a surprise that I think highly of the Bush/Folger materials, especially both editions of their landmark work, The Promise of Mediation. Despite having the same title, they really are two completely different works, as I’ve argued on my blog. I’m just getting around now to reading the newest piece in the transformative canon, Transformative Mediation: A Sourcebook.

I recall in the 1990s coming across an academic at the University of Toronto who taught business ethics by examining different works of literature for their lessons and questions. I'd like to see this same openness to other fields of inquiry in our own.

Eric Cissell: What are you most excited or concerned about for the field of ADR?

Arnold Zeman: My greatest concern at the moment is in what one writer has called the ‘colonization’ of mediation by the law. Notice I didn’t say by lawyers but the law, taken as a practice in the sense used by philosopher Alasdair Macintyre. I have no difficulty with lawyer-mediators as long as they keep in mind the differences between the practice of law and the practice of mediation, as long as they remove their lawyering hat and put on a mediating hat. It’s called ‘alternative dispute resolution’ for a reason, after all. It’s not the same practice as that which seeks legal remedies. Or at least, I don’t think it should be. Self-determination of the parties, a process where the parties find their voices and make their own choices for handling the situation they find themselves in, is key. People have the right to make their own choices, even those they may
come to regret later.

Eric Cissell: What advice would you give to someone who is just getting started in the field?

Arnold Zeman: A family mediator here in Ottawa used to counsel people interested in the field, “Don’t quit your day job!” It’s not an easy area to establish yourself in to make a living, unless you have situated yourself within another area of interest and practice that can be a source of referrals. On that note, I think it’s important that people contemplating the dispute resolution field get some life experience doing something else before mediation. I think this is terribly important in terms of establishing healthy rapport with

It was a pleasure getting to know Arnold a little better. It is clear he has a wealth of knowledge and sound advice regarding ADR. Please feel free to visit Arnold's blog and/or introduce yourself to Arnold on his page.

If you're interested in the Member Spotlight, please feel free to contact me.

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