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Guidelines For Using Collaborative Agreement-Seeking Processes

This article originally appeared in the April 1997 issue of Consensus, a newspaper
published jointly by the Consensus Building Institute and the MIT-Harvard
Public Disputes Program.

Special Excerpt

The following extensive excerpts are reprinted by
Consensus as a service to SPIDR.

These recommendations have been prepared by a committee supported by a grant
from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and jointly sponsored by the Hewlett
Conflict Resolution Theory Center at Georgia Tech and the SPIDR Environment/Public
Disputes Sector. The Committee included practitioners from within and outside government,
government program managers, and university researchers.

This report focuses on best practices for users in the United States and
Canada. While it may be applicable in other countries, it may need to be tailored to the
political frameworks and particular institutions in those contexts.

This is intended as the first in a series of cooperative efforts between
theoreticians and practitioners to serve the needs of the emerging practice of conflict
resolution in the public policy arena. This report has been reviewed and improved
immeasurably by practitioners and government agency dispute resolution managers.

Critical Issues Committee

  • Gregory Bourne, Co-Chair, Consortium on Negotiation and Conflict Resolution, Georgia
  • Christine Carlson, Co-Chair, Ohio Commission on Dispute Resolution and Conflict
  • James Arthur, Coordinator, Washington State Dispute Resolution Project
  • Howard Bellman, Mediator, Madison, Wisconsin
  • Deborah Dalton, Consensus and Dispute Resolution Program, U.S. EPA
  • Michael Elliott, Consortium on Negotiation and Conflict Resolution, Georgia Tech
  • James Kunde, Coalition to Improve Management in State and Local Government, Arlington,
  • Michael Lewis, Mediator, Washington, D.C.
  • Craig McEwen, Professor, Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine
  • Suzanne Goulet Orenstein, Vice President, RESOLVE, Washington, D.C.
  • Charles Pou, Practitioner, Washington, D.C.
  • Wallace Warfield, Professor, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia


These guidelines for best practice are proposed by the Society of Professionals in
Dispute Resolution for government-sponsored collaborative approaches that seek agreement
on issues of public policy. The processes these guidelines address have the following

  • participants represent stakeholder groups or interests, and not simply themselves,
  • all necessary interests are represented or at least supportive of the discussions,
  • participants share responsibility for both process and outcome,
  • an impartial facilitator, accountable to all participants, manages the process, and
  • the intent is to make decisions through consensus rather than by voting.

Who Can Benefit from These Recommendations?

These recommendations are directed primarily towards federal, state, provincial, and
territorial government officials to help ensure successful use of collaborative processes
for decision-making. They may also be useful to local government, although consideration
must be given to how stakeholder-based processes may affect more inclusive citizen
participation strategies.


Negotiation and consensus building have long been used to resolve policy conflicts.
Governments, businesses, interest groups and individuals negotiate and use cooperative
approaches to decision making every day, whether formal or informal, by choice or out of
necessity. These activities are not new.

What is relatively new is the intentional application of these processes, assisted by
an impartial facilitator, to a wide range of multi-party, multi-issue disputes and
controversies. In the 1970s mediators began helping parties settle environmental disputes,
usually over site-specific issues, but also over land use and the allocation of natural
resources. The use of collaborative efforts has evolved to developing policies and
regulations for a broad array of issues. From about 40 cases in the 1970s, the number grew
to over 400 during the 1980s, and the trend is continuing. An approach that began as a
foundation-funded experiment has increasingly become a component of governmental decision

Reasons for this growth vary, but these factors stand out. First, consensus-based
agreement seeking processes have proven successful in a wide array of applications,
particularly where several agencies or levels of government have jurisdiction, power is
fragmented, and there are a variety of stakeholders with conflicting views (e.g.,
resolving complex multi-party issues, developing regulations, policy making, strategic

Second, the public is demanding more say in the policy making processes of government,
which has accelerated the use of consultation and consensus-building as ways of working
out decisions that can be implemented. Consensus-based approaches have the advantage of
building agreements that last. The focus on collaboration and seeking mutually acceptable
outcomes contributes to improved understandings among participants, which in turn enables
them to work out differences and arrive at better solutions. These consensus-based
approaches are increasingly being viewed as a cornerstone in efforts that call upon
governments to be more efficient and effective.

Current Uses of Collaborative Processes: Concerns and Questions

Along with the growth in use of these processes, a number of concerns and questions
have emerged regarding the appropriate use of these processes. These include:

Concerns about how collaborative processes are used by agencies
who are the authorized decision maker(s):

  • How can regulatory agencies share control over processes and products while retaining
    their mandates?
  • How do the cultures of bureaucratic agencies adjust to decision making by consensus?
  • By seeking consensus among stakeholders, might public officials in some cases
    essentially be avoiding the tough decisions they have been mandated to make?
  • If public officials purport to be seeking agreement with stakeholders, but actually only
    seek advice or input, might they contribute to cynicism about government?

Concerns about participation:

  • Who decides who can participate and how is it decided?
  • How might increasing reliance on collaborative processes affect the ability of some
    groups to participate? Could they be spread too thin?
  • How can agencies prevent participants from feeling co-opted or coerced?
  • What if all interests cannot be identified? What if some interests cannot be
  • Does the collaborative process still go forward?
  • If agreement is reached, will traditional opportunities for public comment be

Concerns about the proper use of mediators and facilitators:

  • In the eyes of other participants, can an agency or department staff person serve as an
    impartial facilitator?
  • When government agencies hire the mediator, how can selection and procurement be
    conducted to ensure the mediator’s credibility with all parties?
  • How can the mediator be accountable to all when under contract with an agency?

Concerns about maintaining the effectiveness of collaborative

  • How will governments’ need for routine, consistency, and due process affect
    collaborative processes? Will governments prescribe, bureaucratize, and mandate an
    approach that has succeeded to date largely by being adaptive, flexible, and voluntary?
  • Given the workloads and time pressures some government agencies are under, will more be
    expected from collaborative processes than they can deliver? Will there be enough time,
    money, and staff for such processes to succeed?
  • How can consensus-based efforts produce effective, practical decisions that satisfy more
    than just the lowest common denominator?
  • Will sufficient attention be given to strategies and resources needed to implement
    agreements reached?

Terminology of Collaborative Processes

As the use of collaborative approaches for resolving public issues has expanded, so has
the terminology for naming and describing them. As a first step in sorting out the
terminology, the Committee distinguished agreement-seeking processes from two other
primary purposes for discussions between government agencies and the public–information
exchange and advice. Given these objectives, the following chart highlights the
differences in outcomes that can be expected:

Purpose Outcomes
1. Information exchange Improved communication and understanding; lists of concerns
and/or options; better definition of problems or issues
2. Feedback/Consultation Opinions or suggestions for action are obtained; plans or
drafts are refined
3. Agreement-seeking decision-making Agreements on actions or policies are reached; consensus is

Only processes in the third category are the subject of this report, but even labels
for them abound. Some derive from labor/management bargaining. Others combine words that
describe some attribute of collaborative consensus-based public policy processes. The list
below gives a sense of the hybrids that may be found.

  • cooperative decision making
  • collaborative agreement-seeking processes
  • collaborative consensus-based forums
  • consensus-based processes
  • shared decision-making
  • negotiated processes
  • mediated negotiation
  • mediated agreement-seeking processes
  • policy dialogue
  • facilitated consensus forum
  • collaborative agreement-seeking processes
  • negotiated rulemaking
  • collaborative decision making
  • environmental conflict resolution
  • consensus-building
  • joint decision-making
  • environmental mediation
  • multi-party negotiations
  • mediated approaches
  • public policy mediation
  • joint problem-solving
  • facilitated joint decision-making
  • facilitated negotiations
  • regulatory negotiation

The imprecise nature of these terms underscores the need for participants in each case
to define their process clearly. As for labeling a particular process, participants
usually refer to it in concrete, case-specific terms, such as “resolving the Westside
urban growth issue”, “trying to establish a new policy for nursing homes”,
“the airport noise negotiations”, or “the harbor development
roundtable.” Regardless of the label, type of public issue being discussed, or venue
within which it occurs, the essential activity is the same–people representing different
interests trying to find a solution that works for all through negotiation, assisted by
someone acting impartially who manages the process.

Central to this activity is a search for consensus, a concept that in itself can
generate controversy, and that participants should also define for themselves. Commonly,
the term is used in the practical sense of, “Do we have an agreement everyone can
live with–and that is doable?” Politicians often recognize a similarly practical but
lower threshold for consensus, as in, “Do we have enough agreement to keep us out of
trouble and to allow us to move forward?” The important principle is that these
processes do not operate by voting or majority rule. Either the parties reach agreement
(according to their definition) or they do not. If they do not, they may decide to explain
how they disagree, but a majority/minority report is not a desired product of a
collaborative effort.

Finally, this report employs the term facilitator for someone who manages a negotiated
process. While facilitator and mediator are sometimes used interchangeably, facilitator is
a more general term than mediator. Facilitators may also manage meetings for purposes
other than negotiating agreements.

Recommendations for Best Practice

The recommendations that follow are directed towards overcoming the concerns and
problems that have been identified. They propose a set of best practices for use of
collaborative decision-making processes.

Recommendation 1:
An Agency Should First Consider Whether a Collaborative Agreement-Seeking Approach Is

Before a government agency, department, or official decides to sponsor an agreement
seeking process, it should consider its objectives and the suitability of the issues and
circumstances for negotiation. In particular, before the sponsoring agency convenes a
collaborative process, it is essential for the agency to determine internally its
willingness to share control over the process and the resolution of the issue.

Appendix 1 provides a check list of factors to be considered
as part of an initial screening.

If after an initial screening negotiation appears plausible, agency staff and
management next should discuss whether they are willing to negotiate. An important
consideration is the relationship of such a collaborative approach to the agency’s
statutory decision making responsibility:

  • What would be the role of the agency or department in the talks? Would the negotiations
    occur primarily among stakeholders with agency staff in the role of technical advisor? Or
    should the agency participate as a negotiating entity? Collaborative processes have
    succeeded under both options, but the agency’s role should be clear.
  • What form might an agreement take to be consistent with the agency’s responsibility as
    final decision maker? For example, in some collaborations, consensus is expressed as an
    agreement that the agency or department translates directly into regulation or other
    official action. In others, the product is a consensus recommendation which the agency
    then considers in making a decision.

Misunderstanding between the agency and stakeholders can occur if the agency calls a
meeting for one purpose, but tries to achieve another. One example is convening a process
for information sharing and then expecting agreements to emerge. Another is holding
meetings under the guise of consensus building, when information gathering is the sole and
intended purpose, or portraying a public relations (opinion changing) initiative as a
collaborative process. Misuse of collaborative processes diminishes the likelihood of
their future use. The same cynicism that sometimes marks public reaction to government’s
efforts to solve problems can extend to improperly used collaborative processes.

Recommendation 2:
Stakeholders Should Be Supportive of the Process and Willing and Able to Participate

In order for an agreement-seeking process to be credible and legitimate,
representatives of all necessary parties–those involved with or affected by the potential
outcomes of the process–should agree to participate, or at least not object to the
process going forward. If some interests are not sufficiently organized or lack resources
and these problems cannot be overcome, the issue should not be addressed through
collaborative decision-making.

When decisions are made in consensus-based forums, influence from non-agency parties
increases. To preserve the legitimacy of the process, all interests must be adequately
represented and have joint control over the shape of the process and its outcomes.

Determinations about representation are easiest when stakeholders are obvious, and when
they are prepared to participate effectively in the discussions. Reaching agreement may be
difficult, but at least there is no question about the legitimacy of the process.

The agency should specifically examine whether other agencies, departments, levels of
government, and elected officials have a stake in the issues and seek their support for
the process. The involvement of other governmental entities is often critical to
successfully resolving the issues and implementing the agreements.

The burden of assuring that participants have the ability to participate effectively
falls most heavily on the sponsoring agency or department. Training or orientation in how
the process works, and support systems–expertise, information resources, or financial
support to enable partici-pants to get to meetings or to communicate with their
constituencies–can be provided if acceptable to all parties as part of the process.

Recommendation 3:
Agency Leaders Should Support the Process and Ensure Sufficient Resources to Convene the

Agreement-seeking processes need endorsement and tangible support from actual
decision-makers in the sponsoring agency or department with jurisdiction and, in some
cases, from the administration or the legislature. The support and often the involvement
of leadership is necessary to assure other participants of the commitment of authorized
decision makers who will be responsible for implementation. Their support helps sustain
the process through difficult periods and enhances the probability of reaching agreements.

Sponsoring agencies also need to ensure that there are sufficient resources to support
the process from its initiation through the development of an agreement. As part of the
pre-negotiation assessment, sponsors need to determine how they will meet evolving
resource needs and provide funds and staff to accomplish the goals of the negotiation.

When leaders show visible support, including consistent involvement in meetings and
substantive discussions, other participants are reassured that their investment of time
and resources is worthwhile. If agency leaders do not provide support, caution should be
exercised in initiating collaborative agreement-seeking processes. Without this support,
the likelihood of success is greatly diminished. The sponsoring agency needs to ensure
that it is appropriately represented at the table, and is prepared to support its
representative. It is also important for the sponsoring agency to be consistent, and to
the extent possible, to speak with one voice throughout the process.

Multi-party negotiations can require considerable staff time and funds. Participants
may need technical assistance beyond what the agency can provide. Negotiators collectively
may want the advice of outside experts. If a key party lacks sufficient staff or other
resources, it may be important to provide them with organizational or technical assistance
within the process. If resources cannot be secured to assist key parties to participate,
either as part of the process, or by agreement or with help from the other parties, then
the agency should use means other than collaborative agreement-seeking to reach a

Recommendation 4:
An Assessment Should Precede a Collaborative Agreement-Seeking Process

Before an agency, department, or official initiates an agreement-seeking process, it
should assess whether the necessary conditions are present for negotiations to take place.
Presence of the factors in recommendations 1-3 are best ascertained as part of a
deliberate assessment.

There are three phases to successful agreement-seeking process: Phase 1, the assessment
and preparation, or pre-negotiation phase, involves determining whether the necessary
factors to ensure legitimacy are present as well as planning and preparing for the
process. Phase 2 involves engaging in negotiations to try to reach agreement. Phase 3
involves implementing the agreement.

During the pre-negotiation phase, an assessment is conducted to help the agency and
other participants determine whether or not to proceed. Potential participants need to
agree to participate before an agency decides to pursue an agreement-seeking process. It
is here at the beginning of the process when an experienced facilitator may be of greatest
service. Unfortunately, agencies often call on the facilitator only after they have
invited all the participants and scheduled the first meeting.

The assessment involves ascertaining whether key considerations are met. A facilitator
often plays an integral role at this stage, consulting with the agency to help clarify its
objectives, and interviewing potential parties to ascertain their views. This phase
provides an opportunity for the facilitator to develop agreements among all participants
about the scope of the issues, objectives and design of the process, role of consensus as
decision rule, and timelines. While the assessment can take weeks, experience demonstrates
that it is key to success and saves time overall.

Recommendation 5:
Ground Rules Should Be Mutually Agreed Upon by All Participants, and Not Established
Solely by the Sponsoring Agency

All participants should be involved in developing and agreeing to any protocols or
ground rules for the process. Once ground rules have been mutually agreed upon, the
facilitator should see that they are carried out, or point out when they are not being
followed and seek to remedy the problems. Any modification to ground rules should be
agreed upon by all participants.

Ground rules should clearly state the purpose and expectations for the process and the
end product, how the process will be conducted and decisions made, the roles of the
participants, including the sponsoring agency or department, the role of the facilitator,
and other matters that are important to assure participants of the fairness of the
process. Appendix 3 contains guidelines for formulating ground

Recommendation 6:
The Sponsoring Agency Should Ensure the Facilitator’s Neutrality and Accountability to all

It is preferable for all parties to share in selection of the facilitator. When that is
not possible, the agency or department has a responsibility to ensure that any facilitator
it proposes to the participants is impartial and acceptable to all parties. The
facilitator should not be asked by the sponsoring agency, or any other participant, to
serve as their agent, or to act in any manner inconsistent with being accountable to all

Appendix 4 provides a list of best practices
that govern facilitator or mediator conduct in agreement-seeking processes.

A credible process is often either established or undermined in the early stages by
such factors as how and by whom the facilitator is selected, how and by whom the
participants are identified and invited, and how and by whom the process is planned and
structured. Under these conditions, a facilitator for an agreement-seeking process should
be independent of the sponsoring agency.

When an agency engages a facilitator for a public policy dispute, the participants may
not be involved in the selection process because of procurement requirements or because
participants have not yet been identified. Under these circumstances, ground rules can
include procedures to enable participants to review the facilitator’s qualifications, to
evaluate performance, and/or to replace the facilitator at any time during the process if
participants feel that she or he is biased or ineffective.

The selection criteria for facilitators or mediators should be based on experience,
skill, ability, and acceptability to participants, and not solely on costs. Lump sum or
fixed price contracts may not be the best mechanisms for hiring this kind of professional.
Until the assessment is complete and a process designed, it is very difficult to predict
the exact number of hours needed to work with participants toward reaching agreement.
Procurement mechanisms ought to be flexible enough to allocate additional time and funds
as warranted, so as to not slow down or halt the negotiation process.

Contracts should be negotiated and executed before the facilitator begins any work.
Facilitators and sponsoring agencies should assume that all contracts could be read by all
participants without destroying trust on any side. Contracts should assure that the
facilitator has latitude to act independently of the sponsoring agency and should not
constrain his or her ability to communicate with all participants.

Recommendation 7:
The Agency and Participants Should Plan for Implementation of the Agreement from the
Beginning of the Process

There are two aspects of implementation: formal enactment and actual implementation.
Planning for implementation is integral to the process.

Many agreements developed through collaborative processes are in fact a set of
recommendations that need formal adoption. Implementation can be problematic if steps are
not taken from the beginning to ensure linkages between the collaborative process and the
mechanisms for formalizing the agreements reached. The agreement itself should set out
clear steps and stages for implementation: clarifying tasks, resources, deadlines, and
oversight responsibilities.

Recommendation 8:
Policies Governing These Processes Should Not Be Overly Prescriptive

Policymakers should resist enacting overly prescriptive laws or rules to govern these
processes. In contrast to traditional processes, consensus-based processes are effective
because of their voluntary, informal and flexible nature.

The kinds of processes encompassed by these recommendations occur within the frame-work
of traditional policymaking practices in a representative democracy. They are adjuncts
to–not replacements for–traditional practices. Collaborative approaches are based on
participants’ willingness to come together voluntarily to explore ways to reconcile
competing and conflicting interests. This kind of exploration is not likely to happen in
an atmosphere where people are required to participate or where their manner of
participation has been narrowly prescribed.

Therefore, when legislation, rules and guidelines are developed concerning these
processes, they should be limited to encouraging the use of collaborative
agreement-seeking processes, and setting broad standards for their use. Overly
prescriptive or burdensome guidelines can act as a disincentive to participation.


These recommendations are intended to help agencies and practitioners conduct more
effective collaborative agreement-seeking processes. They represent an effort to harvest
lessons from the experience of facilitators and mediators over the past two decades and
apply them to the challenges and barriers to success that have been observed. It is hoped
the recommendations will help lay a foundation for widespread adoption of these approaches
by ensuring their quality and integrity.


Appendix 1
Agency Checklist for Initial Screening to Determine Whether to Proceed

If the following factors are present, an agency can proceed toward the assessment

  1. The issues are of high priority and a decision is needed.
  2. The issues are identifiable and negotiable. The issues have been sufficiently developed
    so that parties are reasonably informed and willing to negotiate.
  3. The outcome is genuinely in doubt. Conflicting interests make development or enforcement
    of the proposed policy difficult, if not impossible, without stakeholder involvement.
  4. There is enough time and resources. Time is needed for building consensus among
    conflicting interests, and resources are necessary to support the process.
  5. The political climate is favorable. Because these kinds of negotiations discussions
    occur in the political context, leadership support and issues of timing, e.g. elections,
    are critical to determining whether to go forward.
  6. The agency is willing to use the process.
  7. The interests are identifiable. It will be possible to find representatives for affected

Appendix 2
Guidelines for Conducting the Assessment and Preparation Phase of an Agreement-Seeking
Collaborative Process

The sponsoring agency should seek the assistance of a facilitator experienced in public
policy collaborative processes to conduct this phase of the process before initiating
other activities. The following tasks should be accomplished:

  1. The agency and facilitator should jointly evaluate whether the objectives of the
    sponsoring agency are compatible with and best addressed by a collaborative process.
  2. Develop a statement outlining the purpose of the collaborative process, and its
    relationship to the sponsoring agency’s decision-making process for communication to other
    potential parties.
  3. Assess whether sufficient support for a collaborative process exists at the highest
    possible levels of leadership within the sponsoring agency.
  4. Identify parties with an interest in the objectives and issues outlined by the
    sponsoring agency, and examine the relationships among the various interest groups and the
  5. Interview potentially affected interest groups and individuals to clarify the primary
    interests and concerns associated with the issues, and related informational needs.
  6. Assess deadlines, resources available to support the process and the political
    environment associated with the issues and stakeholder groups.
  7. Evaluate the influences of racial, cultural, ethnic and socio-economic diversity,
    particularly those that could affect the ability of interest groups to participate on
    equal footing.
  8. Identify if assistance is needed by any interest group(s) to help prepare for or sustain
    involvement in the process.
  9. Clarify potential obstacles to convening the process (e.g., non-negotiable differences
    in values, unwillingness of key stakeholders to participate, insufficient time or
  10. If no major obstacles are apparent, propose a design for the process including the
    proposed number of participants (based on the range and number of major interest groups);
    the process for identifying and selecting stakeholder representatives; structure of the
    process (e.g., a committee with work groups); projected number and frequency of meetings;
    a preliminary overview of the process (e.g., identify issues, clarify interests, joint
    fact-finding, brainstorm options); summary of resources anticipated and available to
    support the process; potential roles of the sponsoring agency, other participants and the
    facilitator; proposed meeting protocols; draft agenda for the first meeting; etc.
  11. Prepare a report highlighting the results of the assessment as the basis for the
    sponsoring agency to decide whether or not to proceed. This may include actions by the
    sponsoring agency to respond explicitly to requests from other interest groups to include
    additional objectives or issues in the process. Under most conditions, the assessment
    report should be shared with the other process participants as well.
  12. Pursue commitments of potential participants based on the assessment, proposed agency
    objectives, preliminary process design and their willingness to participate in the
    collaborative process in good faith.
  13. If a major stakeholder group chooses not to participate, evaluate the implications of
    their non-participation with the sponsoring agency and other participants, recognizing
    that the process may not be able to proceed.
  14. Allow the participants an opportunity to concur with the sponsoring agency on the
    person(s) selected to facilitate the process.
  15. Incorporate participant responses into the proposed process design, meeting protocols
    and meeting agenda for initiating the next phase of the process.

Steps 12-15 may occur as part of an organizational meeting of all parties during which
the parties jointly decide to proceed and plan future phases together.

After completing the assessment and preparation phase, resolving any major obstacles to
the process and obtaining the commitment of the sponsoring agency and major stakeholders
to proceed, conditions are appropriate for moving forward.

Appendix 3
Formulating Ground Rules for Agreement-Seeking Processes

Ground rules usually address the following issues:

  1. The purpose and scope of the process.
  2. Participation: role of agency staff; whether participation of alternates is permissible;
    provision for inclusion of new parties; observers; other interested parties.
  3. The roles of participants: whether all participants will have relatively equivalent
  4. Decision rules: the meaning of consensus as well as what will happen if consensus is not
  5. The end product: gaining ratification; what the agency will do with the agreement; the
    degree of commitment by participants to abide by any agreement.
  6. Understandings about participants’ activities in other proceedings: whether ‘good faith’
    participation will constrain the activities of participants or their constituents in other
    forums, such as a legislative session, administrative hearing or judicial proceeding.
  7. Responsibilities of representatives for keeping their constituencies informed and
    gaining ratification of agreements reached at the negotiating table.
  8. Informing those not at the table: who will be kept informed of progress and how this
    will happen.
  9. Organization and conduct of the meetings: agendas; record keeping; responsibilities of
    the facilitator.
  10. Selection and removal of the facilitator: the role of participants in the selection,
    evaluation or payment of a mediator or facilitator. Provision for replacing the
    facilitator if the participants feel he or she is biased or ineffective.
  11. Withdrawal of a participant: If a participant withdraws, everyone left at the table
    should determine whether the process can go forward. If the participants want some other
    default procedure, they should agree to it beforehand and include it in the protocols.
  12. Communications with the media: how and by whom.
  13. The timetable or schedule.
  14. Provision for use of caucuses.
  15. Information: provisions for sharing information; confidentiality.

Appendix 4
Best Practices for Facilitators or Mediators in Agreement-Seeking Processes

The following guidelines should govern facilitators or mediators as they conduct
agreement-seeking processes:

  1. Facilitators or mediators should not participate in any process that is misrepresented
    as to its purpose or that is intended to circumvent legal requirements.
  2. Facilitators or mediators should serve as advocates for the principles that underlie
    collaborative decision-making processes, including structuring and managing the process to
    ensure representation and effective participation by all key stakeholders, whatever their
    cultural, racial, religious or economic backgrounds.
  3. Facilitators or mediators should not be advocates for any participant’s point of view on
    any substantive issue.
  4. Facilitators or mediators should protect the confidentiality of private communications
    with any of the participants.
  5. Facilitators or mediators should gain the agreement of all participants to the ground
    rules for the process and to any subsequent modification to them. Once ground rules have
    been mutually agreed upon, facilitators or mediators should enforce them impartially.
  6. Facilitators or mediators should address situations where it appears that any
    participant is not acting in good faith.
  7. Facilitators or mediators should not be inhibited by any attempt of the sponsoring or
    funding agency to control the process through them, such as inhibiting their ability to
    communicate or manage communications with other participants. As a last resort, if the
    matter cannot be resolved satisfactorily, they should withdraw from the process.
  8. Facilitators or mediators should advise the parties when, in their opinion, the process
    no longer appears to be meeting its objectives.
  9. Facilitators or mediators should withdraw from the process if their continuing
    involvement is not acceptable to the group.
  10. Facilitators or mediators should not be engaged to carry out other kinds of non-neutral
    activities for the sponsoring agency at the same time they are under contract to
    facilitate an agreement-seeking process. Facilitators or mediators should disclose when
    they have continuing or frequent contractual relationships with one or more of the

Copyright © 1997 by SPIDR. Photocopying portions of this report and its
appendices is encouraged for the purpose of informing users about relevant best practices.
Photocopying portions of this report for any fee-for-service activities requires written
permission from SPIDR.


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