Recently, Mediate.com serialized a jigsaw of 23 pieces by 40 authors in 16 countries, in the form of both articles and author interviews, all part of the over-arching theme Seven Keys to Unlock Mediation’s Golden Age. This articles summarizes these 23 pieces.
The simultaneous occurrence of several ideas
or events that appear causally unrelated,
yet when experienced together result
in something exceptional.
The jigsaw of 23 pieces by 40 authors in 16 countries, all part of the over-arching theme Seven Keys to Unlock Mediation’s Golden Age (#7KeysMediate), aims to mobilize an energetic dialogue among the conflict resolution field’s stakeholders on new approaches and attitudes to take mediation to higher, deeper and wider levels.
The Seven Keys sets out to inspire the field’s practitioners, service providers, educators and trainers, aided by scholars and users, to provide a collaborative, mediative leadership where they simultaneously lead and serve. A leadership characterized by a commitment to empower all stakeholders to become joint owners, not just renters, of mediation’s future.
The opening contribution to the Seven Keys characterizes mediative leadership as:
… giv[ing] everyone the ability to become a collaborative leader, sharing the responsibility to pursue a joint mission in the common interest. …The field of mediation requires visibly concerted leadership that can inspire and orchestrate the co-development of the profession globally.
The Seven Keys invites stakeholders to imagine a new, collaborative vision for the mediation field based on mediative leadership to create a whole greater than the sum of its parts. Not best practice, but next practice.
A new alliance
Having interacted closely with all Seven Keys’ authors to explore the essence of their propositions and the trends they perceive, we were struck by a strong sense of synchronicity. The propositions, and the thinking and attitudes underpinning them, do more than inter-connect. In combination they reach a metaphysical plane, a new realisation, that potentially opens the way to a radical vision of mediation’s future, and its role in dispute resolution and beyond. A vision that hopefully all stakeholders can believe in, support and deliver.
Several authors noted that mediators are natural leaders. Mediative leadership is an instinctive, but often latent, phenomenon in this field; latent because, at this still relatively early stage in the field’s development, mediation is understandably focused on its vast range of processes, techniques and skills – the very things that render it flexible and adaptable to situations, customs and cultures. However, mediation is also a mindset, a way of thinking, of acting and behaving. Some authors noted that mediation’s very diversity makes it exceptionally complex, fragmented and competitive. All of which can inhibit the field from practicing mediative leadership in the ways needed to shape its collective future.
To overcome this natural inhibition, the field needs to strive for purposeful and deliberate practice aimed at the common good of the field in order to chart the future collaboratively. Part of this next practice could be a network of facilitators whose role would be to harvest opinions about the field’s future, enable them to be openly expressed, discussed and understood, and encourage a consensus to emerge on the field’s future for the benefit of all. The resulting consensus could form the basis of a substantial funding program to materialize the next steps for next practice.
The facilitation network
The network could comprise highly respected, expert, trusted, neutral figures in the negotiation field from around the world. Mediation’s leaders – whom we might define as those having the capacity to inspire action – would engage with their local/national facilitators in order to plan the future of the field together. The facilitators would start by helping the leaders to establish an agreed process and framework aimed at identifying a shared vision and mission for the longer-term future of mediation that would be widely acceptable to practitioners and service providers. It would form the basis of a credible and fund-able plan and an inter-connected strategic alliance.
Owing to the diversity of mediation practice, facilitators may encourage discussions on different visions, missions, plans and funding methods for different practice areas and markets. Diversity needs not imply divergence; cross-pollination opportunities will lie at the heart of the facilitators’ role. The network of facilitators around the world would inter-relate, sharing proposals and insights to configure synchronized plans for the field.
To function effectively, the facilitators would be individuals with the standing and skills to encourage contributions and help the field to negotiate a consensus on its future. They may potentially convene under the auspices of a neutral host organization. Some or all may be volunteers. They would have the individual and collective ability to process and distill a wide variety of opinions in a collaborative, mediative manner. They may be scholars, educators, trainers and users of mediation services. Each would be skilled in mediating, but, to maintain their neutrality, not currently be practicing as mediators or affiliated to a major mediation service provider. They would represent diverse countries, cultures and professional backgrounds.
The end result would be a strategic plan, or a number of inter-connected plans, that would map out the many projects that need to be implemented, how, by whom, at what cost, in which time frame and with what payback. It would be fund-able on a large scale.
In Thinking, Fast & Slow, Daniel Kahneman comments: we can be blind to the obvious, and we are also blind to our blindness.
Mediators’ skills include helping parties become unblinded. Appreciating the power and success of neutral facilitation to help them envisage the field’s future together ought to be perceived by mediators as natural, even “obvious”. Mediators habitually steer parties to collaborate and forge options for mutual gain, so why not apply the same for the mediation field itself? The field knows that neutral facilitation mechanisms such as Dispute Resolution Boards really do work. Provided the facilitators are genuinely perceived as neutral and expert, they would be respected and trusted in this role.
Hopefully, mediation’s leading stakeholders will see the opportunity and find the best way to apply the principles they practice to the common good by effectively “mediating mediation”, expanding the field and benefitting all, including themselves. We believe they will, because they can.
The jigsaw will synchronize. Mediation will mobilize.
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