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Transformative Mediation, Slovenia, and the Wright Brothers

Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation by Dan Simon

Guest blogger, Janet Mueller is a mediator, trainer and case manager for the Dayton Mediation Center. She is a “Certified Transformative Mediator” and a Fellow with the Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation, Inc. In addition to 19 years of professional conflict engagement experience, Janet earned a Master of Science degree in Conflict Analysis and Resolution from the Department of Conflict Analysis and Resolution at Nova Southeastern University, Ft. Lauderdale, FL, and a Bachelor of Arts in Applied Conflict Management from Kent State University, Kent, OH.

Inspirational, challenging, and exciting. These are the words I’d use to describe my experience attending the 2nd International Congress on Transformative Mediation in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

I was lucky to attend this Congress as a representative of the ISCT and to present to the attendees about teambuilding from the Transformative Approach and about building collaborations to grow one’s mediation practice. I was inspired by the conversations that happened during the workshops I led, hearing about the work people were doing all over the world, and seeing how insights from my own practice helped them think of things in new ways. I found myself dreaming big about transformative mediation and all the great ways it can help people deal with conflicts.

Many times throughout the Congress, I saw mediators explore various aspects of the transformative approach– how it looks in practice, what it means to be non-directive, how to talk to clients as a transformative mediator. These rich conversations continued on, through lunch and dinner. We grappled with what this work means to us and to our clients. We discussed ways to help people understand this different approach to conflict resolution. The participants were willing to embrace the challenges of applying the Transformative Approach to their practice and wrestle with them. There aren’t easy answers to these questions. But the beauty of this model is that the foundation is clear and practitioners know their purpose. Having a dialogue that included the core values of this approach helped participants get clearer and surer about their practice.

Our closing plenary helped the group explore how to market transformative mediation to potential clients or collaborators. To look at marketing in a different way, the presenters shared this TED Talks video: TED talk by Simon Sinek: Start with Why. In it, Sinek proposes that all the great and inspiring leaders and think, act, and communicate in a similar way and that their way differs from everyone else. He calls this the golden circle. The three parts of the golden circle are What, How and Why. He says most people know What they sell some even know How, but few know Why. Usually when people try to sell things they start with what they know best, the What. Great leaders take the opposite path. They start with Why – the purpose, the cause, the value.

In the video, Sinek begins a story about the Wright brothers (starting at about 8:00). At that moment, I shouted hooray! And many of the other attendees cheered, knowing that I came from Dayton as well. What an exciting moment for me. I’ve always been inspired by the Wright Brothers and their determination. And to learn how the Wright brothers’ clear sense of purpose gave them something others trying to create a flying machine didn’t have, gave me a new reason to be inspired by them. While it is a very different thing we transformative mediators are creating, I feel inspired, challenged, and excited to part of an international group of people who, like the Wright brothers, have a clear purpose and dream big.


Dan Simon

Dan is a leader in the field of transformative mediation. He is the author of the chapter on divorce mediation in the Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation's ("ISCT") TRANSFORMATIVE MEDIATION SOURCEBOOK. He is a Past Chair of the Minnesota State Bar Association's Alternative Dispute Resolution Section. He served… MORE >

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