Find Mediators Near You: 20/20 Conference’s 25th Anniversary 20/20 Conference

This article reviews the key ideas from the 20/20 Conference, celebrating’s 25th anniversary.

Conference resources are available here: Day 1; Day 2; Day 3

Going into the conference, I was looking forward to getting to hear from some of the most influential and insightful dispute resolvers around the world. Sure enough, their panels were powerful and inspiring. But there were a few things I didn’t expect.

1) Witnessing a Masterpiece

Many of us are fortunate to have attended mediation conferences. We know different mediators’ talking points and styles. However, this conference grouped attendees into breakout rooms, and then asked the panelists to moderate, facilitate, and mediate the differing goals and ideas of the attendees. What this means is we had the rare opportunity to witness mediators actually doing their thing–mediating.

These sessions were masterful due to the experience of the mediators. They were

  • completely in the moment,
  • approached every participant with genuine curiosity about their ideas,
  • gently and delicately summarized the key points and moved on to the next participant,
  • and swiftly drilled through participants’ stories to the key idea.

To summarize, what made this experience so powerful was watching how the best mediators faded into the background and just made their participants feel like they were the center of the world.

It reinforced the need to establish a stronger mediator/mentor/connecting community. Stay tuned for steps 2 and 3, below!

2) Strong Community

A teacher recently told me that for her first time in 23 years of teaching her grad students wondered if she would be there next year. “They needed the stability and connection of knowing that in the midst of the world’s chaos, they would still have a friend.”

At this conference, mediators expressed a deep appreciation for each other, simply enjoying that we were all out there and ready to support each other. Donna Silverberg commented, “I have just been looking at all of your faces and my heart is full.” While we have always appreciated spending time with each other at conferences, it took on special meaning after 6 months of isolation. Hearing how people around the world have helped their communities made us all realize how lucky we are to be in this field. For many, it was a time of recommitting to the original values of the field: we are here to help.

A culminating moment of the conference was on the last day. Colin Rule mentioned that it was his birthday. A few hundred people began spontaneously singing Happy Birthday, many in their native language. It was the perfect reminder that after the approaches, the data, the techniques, this field is about the people and that is what we have missed the most.

3) It’s a Small World After All

Initial reactions to the conference was the talent of the mediators gathered and enjoying spending time with each other.

But this should not overshadow the depth of the content. The conference included participants from 46 countries, and just as many fields, approaches, techniques, etc. Some mediators were still studying the field, some had been practicing for 40 years. There were judges, attorneys, public policy facilitators, students, arbitrators, divorce attorneys, therapists, and social workers.

They all discussed the original values of the field–grassroots, community disputes, founders like John Helie and Peter Adler. Looking back on the vision that Jim Melamed has helped create over the past 25 years. Then the proliferation, strengthening, and standardizing of the field. But crossing the world and crossing the different fields was a common thread: Reach Out.

Dispute resolution practitioners all agreed that we have been focused on strengthening our field and improving ourselves, and now it is time to expand. Participant discussed expanding in 3 unique areas:

a. Reach out in your community. Bring your skills to community meeting, public policy dialogues, facilitate town halls. We are skilled peace-makers–let’s bring peace to our communities.

b. Reach out to other professions. We all benefit from the cross-pollination of professions. Take time to form connections with fields different than our own: therapists, social workers, HR, court administrators, notaries, etc. Not only will be able to make referrals for our clients, but by being exposed to new approaches of helping can only strengthen us as mediators. Plus, they might be able to refer more clients to us!

c. Reach out to those different than you. Initially, participants said that they couldn’t mentor mediators because their clients needed confidentiality. As the conversation deepened, many realized that being online might make it easier to bring in a mentee. Or they could meet with a mentee for breakfast, or observe their mediations. Those who had mentored others mentioned the value of working with someone different than them. “Don’t seek out someone you connect with. Seek to mentor someone you don’t understand–this is where the value is,” one attendee mentioned. It is incumbent upon all of us to reach out to new mediators, young mediators, old mediators, those with a different background and viewpoint than us. Because by teaching them, we are growing ourselves.

Many groups and initiatives have spin out of the conference, which we look forward to discussing over the next few months. And I hope that we find more opportunities to discuss and share ideas. Whatever the next steps, I think we can all agree on one thing–we are lucky to work in this field.


Clare Fowler

Clare Fowler is Executive Vice-President and Managing Editor at, as well as a mediator and trainer. Clare received her Master's of Dispute Resolution from the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution at the Pepperdine University School of Law and her Doctorate in Organizational Leadership, focused on reducing workplace conflicts, from Pepperdine… MORE >

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