The Internet and World Wide Web are becoming more important every day, including for mediators and other dispute resolution professionals. Tens of millions in the United States alone are already communicating daily by email, with family, friends, colleagues and clients. Professionals are discovering the web as a means of reaching out to clients and other professionals. In short time, we will be having confidential, ongoing, decision-making meetings on the web.
There are already approximately 20,000,000 American households and businesses connected to the Internet and this figure is expected to easily double in the next two years. By the year 2000, at least 100,000,000 families and businesses worldwide are expected to be connected to the Internet. You can find just about any information you want on the web and there is more every day. This includes information about mediation and mediation services.
Mediators will certainly be doing less advertising in the yellow pages and more advertising on the web, where mediators and other professionals can fully explain and even demonstrate their services. In fact, the most valuable information in your yellow page ad will soon be your website “url” (uniform resource locator)! Whereas two inches of yellow page text may cost you $100 a month, be very limited in content, and frozen in time, you can put all of your mediation promotional and educational information on the Internet for less cost, space is not a major limitation, and you can change your information any time. By providing a guest book on your website, you provide potential clients with direct electronic access to you.
Many mediators already report utilizing email as an adjunct to their physical and phone mediation efforts. Before long, your web site may also come to include audio and video, with you describing and, possibly, demonstrating your services.
In a relatively short amount of time, we will have “virtual” ongoing mediation and other confidential decision-making forums on the Internet as an augmentation of physical meetings. The savings in terms of time and cost will be tremendous when participants travel less to fewer face-to-face meetings. Argument may be made that having the option of asynchronous (not at the same time) discussions on the Internet, which allow participants to craft their contributions, as opposed to needing to respond in the moment, may enhance the thoughtfulness of agreement-reaching efforts. Parties can participate at times that are convenient and respond when they are capably prepared.
The electronic medium will also soon include the use of facilitated forums as an
extension of consulting and training services. Secure collaborative spaces for geographically diverse non-profit boards and other organizations will also soon be available.
Many mediators and mediation groups are already on the web. Trainers, regional and national mediators are successful with their websites. Increasingly, consumers are also utilizing the web to identify desired services in their own home town. One new service is an online searchable “Locate A Mediator” directory, which does not require that you have an email address nor a website to be included and benefit. If you have an email address and/or website, direct links are available to assist you in promoting your electronic office. All levels of websites can be directly accessed from the searchable directory.
The Mediation Information and Resource Center (MIRC) at www.mediate.com hosts this online database of mediators, private discussion forums, consumer mediation discussion forums, and professional discussion forums.
Public education about mediation is already being offered online by leading practitioners and mediation organizations. Online publications, articles, and resources will soon be stored at mediate.com in a searchable online database that will prove to be a lively source of information for public consideration and direct contact with authors.
In a way, it is strange that we would connect to a global network to find services in our own home town, but it works. We are now all able to share in on the wealth of all information available in all of our home towns. The world is our new hometown and the world wide web our new main street.
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