This presentation and these materials were offered at CADRE’s Fifth National Symposium on Dispute Resolution in Special Education during October 2011. Be sure to review CADRE’s Video Resource Center from the Symposium. Support for the Symposium and video development was generously provided by the JAMS Foundation and the Office of Special Education Programs at the U.S. Department of Education.
What, if anything, reasonably provides mediation consumers with confidence about the quality of mediators’ services?
The expansion and maturation of mediation as a practice has understandably (and laudably) led many to begin to focus attention on questions of quality assurance. Those who care about mediation might wisely look to other practices or professions for indicators of what mechanisms are most effective. A careful look at these available mechanisms, however, reveals that none of them currently operates as effectively for mediation as they do for other practices and professions.
Some mechanisms fail because of the nature of mediation practice. Some fail because of the nature of current regulation or common law doctrines related to mediation. Some fail because of the current shape of the market for mediators. Only the fact that all four of the mechanisms fail in the context of mediation makes this a remarkable and unsustainable condition.
By understanding how quality assurance works in other practices, and by understanding how those mechanisms have evolved over time, we gain an important set of insights about the possible future(s) of mediation. Building on the descriptive and predictive components of this inquiry, we can then responsibly engage in a conversation about what that future ought to look like.