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Mediation – Profession or Not?

Mediation – Profession or Not?

Do we need to regulate the mediation profession in the UK and further afield? Can we really call ourselves professionals? Becoming an astronaut required you to have 1000hrs in command of a jet aircraft on top of a PhD or two. (I think they’ve relaxed those criteria these days). To become a flight attendant you would need 4-7 weeks training.

It takes 1 year of full-time face to face study to become a Counsellor. Yet to practice as a Commercial Mediator in the UK all you need is 40hrs of class room training. Do we need more rigour, more structure, more regulation to be taken seriously by the market? If so where do we start? Well this interview is as a good place as any.

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Full Transcript

Aled Davies: Hi, everyone. My name is Aled Davies, founder of, home of the passionate mediator. You know what we do on here. We interview mediators and thought leaders from around the world. We find out how they’ve become successful, how they handle all sorts of challenges and dilemmas and we also learn new ideas that develop our thinking, and hopefully take us a little bit further in terms of our ability, our practice and our development as mediators.

Now, when I’m talking to people about mediation, I never quite know whether I should refer to us as a profession, as a field or something else. I think that’s quite telling in terms of where we are as a group. It also bothers me because I wonder to what extent the absence of a professional body, or something like that, contributes to some of the challenges we face together in terms of growing mediation as a service and being seen as a really respected, credible and professional alternative to other formal processes out there. So, I’ve put it out there.

My guest today is a former solicitor. I emphasise the word “former” because he’s made the decision to leave that profession behind and pursue another profession, that of mediation. He’s incredibly passionate and outspoken. I think we need more mediators like him to galvanise us and drive us forward. So, I’m delighted he’s agreed to come on, again, to Mediator Academy.

I’ll just say a little bit about him. He’s an accredited family mediator and a professional practice consultant who supervises other mediators. He’s also a collaborative practitioner and writes and provides his own training for family mediators and collaborative lawyers. He belongs to a number of organisations, like Family Mediators Association, Resolution and the Association for Conflict Resolution, a regular attendee and speaker at U.K. North American conferences and his overriding aim is to see a cultural change to the way families and intimate partners are helped to resolve their problems when their relationships break down.

He’s the founder of Anderson Family Matters, an interdisciplinary family conflict resolution practice in Ipswich, Suffolk. I am delighted to welcome Stephen Anderson on to Mediator Academy. Stephen, welcome.

Stephen Anderson: Thank you Aled. What an introduction. Thank you very much. I felt like I was coming into some sort of grappling match with Jackie Pallo in the ’60s there, so great.

Aled: “In the blue corner . . . ” Okay. Profession or field, where are we?

Stephen: I would say we’re struggling to be seen as a profession. I consider myself a professional. But I’m not sure if that’s deserved, actually. What is a profession? We could spend time trying to define a profession, but I sort of think that a profession has got to have more than eight days training, doesn’t it, foundation training?

You can go from being a lawyer where you’ve had six years’ training before you’re let loose on clients. Then you do eight days training as a foundation course to become a mediator and suddenly, with some of the trainers-I’m not saying all of them, but some of the trainers-you’re considered fit to mediate couples or people. It’s extraordinary. It’s a drop in the ocean.

Aled: So, eight days to become a family mediator, is that right?

Stephen: Eight days to become a family mediator, yeah. I don’t know what it is for civil and commercial.

Aled: Five for civil and commercial.

Stephen: Five? Goodness. Aled, I must tell you. There’s a lovely story about the eight days. I don’t know if we’ve got time.

Aled: Go on. Go for it.

Stephen: I want to tell you this story. Well, certainly when I was in the States a couple of years ago, some of the old mediators there were telling a story that the reason it was eight days and not nine was very simple. They actually booked, for the very first ever training, they booked three tranches of three days. They had done the first set of three days. So, they had six days. They were coming up to the last set of three days.

When they phoned the Holiday Inn to check that all three days were booked as usual and the Holiday Inn said, “Well, no, you’ve only booked two days.” Would you believe as a consequence of that they decided to cram three days into two? In North America, at least, they never went back to the nine days because they reckoned they could do it in eight. I don’t know whether we just copied their training and brought it over here, but we do exactly the same here, three days, three days and two days.

But I thought it was lovely that an accident caused the training to be shortened down to eight days, which says something. I don’t know what, but it says something.

Aled: It does. Okay. So, profession or field-I like to think of myself as a professional. The amount of books I’ve read, the courses I’ve been on over the past ten years, I’ve certainly developed my thinking. But I still don’t feel any affiliation to any particular organisation. I don’t feel part of a group. I just don’t get that sense that I belong anywhere.

It’s quite interesting. I just did a little bit of research before we came on. Just in the commercial mediation, you’ve got the CMC. You’ve got the Professional Mediators Association, the group that David Liddle set up. You’ve got the Society of Mediators, which is what the London School of Mediation and that group have set up. You’ve got the College of Mediators. You’ve got IMI. And goodness knows how many other bodies, groups are sort of floating around out there. It seems really, really peculiar.

Stephen: That’s just on the civil side.

Aled: That’s just on the civil side.

Stephen: I would say if we’re going to be a profession then we shouldn’t have two sides. There shouldn’t be a civil side and a family side. We should just be mediators.

Aled: Why is there a division, then? Why can’t we just come together, all sit around the table? We’re mediators after all, right?

Stephen: I agree. I think the reason why there is a division is historical because apparently family mediators at a time thought their standards probably were higher and therefore they wanted to set themselves apart. But now it doesn’t help in order to develop a proper mediation profession. Not only is the family mediation side of things separate from civil, but within family you’ve got five organisations vying to the Family Mediation Council table. So, it’s an awful lot of dissipated energy going into just making decisions. I’d quite like to see a mediation council. That’s it, end of.

Aled: Yeah.

Stephen: And probably the only way that will happen is if it becomes regulated by legislation. I don’t see that happening. So, the medium-term future doesn’t look to me to be that bright for the professionalisation of mediation.

Aled: What’s the big argument against becoming regulated?

Stephen: Well, I’m not a mediator who mixes in those circles, if you like. So, I’m not a political mediator. I don’t sit there. I know the government has said to the Family Mediation Council, “Get your act together or we will regulate.” So, they’re desperately trying to get their act together because, I guess, there’s a sense that self-regulation is better than imposed regulation.

Aled: Yeah.

Stephen: But I haven’t thought that through, I’m afraid. So, I couldn’t answer it. But again, it seems to me that . . . imagine if there was a Law Society for family lawyers and a Law Society for everyone else. It’s barking, isn’t it?

Aled: It is. You wonder what the market thinks. Looking at these groups of people trying to make sense of what-it’s almost like . . . what’s that show with Jim Carrey and he’s living in a little cocoon?

Stephen: I know what you mean. Yeah.

Aled: Everyone is sort of looking in at all these mediators in their little cocoon doing their own thing.

Stephen: Or it feels to me like the Wild West, frankly. Really, there aren’t any rules. In order to practice as a family mediator, you’re supposed to be a member of the Family Mediation Council. But there’s no law that says you have to be. So, anyone could call themselves a mediator and practice family mediation. There’s not anything that can be done to stop that.

Aled: Here are some interesting stats, not really stats, but. . . Let’s compare other professions or fields with mediation, right?

Stephen: Yeah.

Aled: Mediation, if you think about the skills, the knowledge that you need as a mediator. You need some kind of understanding, knowledge, appreciation of conflict theory, of human psychology and all the spectrum of different psychological models and methodologies, transactional analysis, psychotherapy . . .

Stephen: You’re making me feel inadequate already.

Aled: I think it’s important to have that awareness, so you can make really good choices and decisions. Then you’ve got negotiation theory. I think one of the most important aspects of being a really effective mediator is having a high degree of awareness, self-awareness so that you are aware of your unconscious bias and moments when you are most susceptible to becoming ineffective, or things that interfere with . . . I think it’s a really, really difficult, challenging profession to undertake. Of course, to do that in five days, amazing, right?

So, if you want to become an astronaut, NASA require you to have completed 1,000 hours in command of a jet aircraft, among other things. They’ve relaxed the rules a little bit recently. So, it’s only 800 hours. So, that’s an astronaut. A flight attendant, people that do all that, 4-7 weeks’ training.

Stephen: Really?

Aled: Yeah, on top of some basic training, foundation, some expectation is you’ve got to be taller than 5’2″.

Stephen: Right.

Aled: I just squeeze in there. A driving instructor, cars. Driving instructor six-twelve months, but there is a fast track, three months intensive.

Stephen: Right, okay. Yeah.

Aled: A commercial diver-

Stephen: Sorry, driving is something where if we pass the test we can all drive. So, you need an additional three to six months?

Aled: Indeed.

Stephen: Extraordinary.

Aled: A commercial diver, ten weeks full-time. I should know because I’m a commercial diver.

Stephen: I thought that’s where that came from.

Aled: Which is an underwater labourer, really. It’s not very glamorous. But ten weeks, it’s intensive.

Stephen: Yeah.

Aled: Bus driver, by the way, I thought you’d like this one, two weeks of theory and practical followed by a 90-minute assessment for a bus driver.

Stephen: Right.

Aled: An executive coach. So, let’s move into the fields that are in the same sort of territory, shall we say, as mediation. An executive coach, the International Coaching Federation is one of the most prominent bodies that govern, accrediting . . .

Stephen: Yeah.

Aled: Between 100-200 hours of training in conjunction with between 700-2,000 hours of practice. Of practical experience coaching.

Stephen: Yes.

Aled: Counselling-

Stephen: Now you’re talking.

Aled: Bog standard counselling, one year full-time minimum or two years’ part time but with 100 hours of supervised, face-to-face placement.

Stephen: There you are.

Aled: Mediation, commercial mediation. 40 hours. Boom.

Stephen: Yeah. Done.

Aled: I rest my case.

Stephen: You’re pushing at an open door here.

Aled: Yeah.

Stephen: In fact, I was wondering if you’ve come up with train conductors because genuinely, and I’ve learned this from a colleague of mine. Train conductors regularly deal with disputes. They’re dispute resolvers. I’d just be interested to know if they get more on-the-job training than mediators. That would be fascinating.

Aled: I’ve run workshops for clients, including big corporate organisations, where I’ve run a two to three day workshop on just how you have a difficult conversation at work. So, it’s just a thin slice of your overall, but two or three days to develop your thinking. Again, you only just, in those two to three days, what you learn is just a small bit of what you need to learn to be an effective communicator. But of course it’s enough to get you through. But five days, I still maintain it’s . . .

Stephen: It’s not just five days of the initial foundation course. But then it’s something like only eight hours CPD a year or ten hours CPD. It depends on your organisation. But the number of continuing hours professional development is minimal.

Aled: Yeah.

Stephen: I’m sure, like me, you do many, many hours a year. If it came down to just having to do eight, I would never be able to develop my practice.

Aled: This is why I think we need regulation. Imagine you and I deciding to put our heads together and go, “You know what? Let’s create a two-year basic mediation training course.” When we open the doors, I don’t think anyone would turn up because they can get one for 40 hours down the road.

Stephen: Absolutely.

Aled: So, I think regulation needs to be in place and they need to develop some kind of rigorous mediator-development path.

Stephen: I suppose cynically, the organisations that are currently in charge of, if you like, certainly on my side of the fence, family mediation, which is the five membership organisations that make up the Family Mediation Council. Some of them have got a stake in mediation training at the moment. So, if it was regulated, it went out to, maybe, established colleges, then that would be an enormous source of income revenue which they would be losing.

I’m a vegetarian so I can’t think of the right euphemism. But it’s like shooting, help me out here.

Aled: Shooting fish in a barrel.

Stephen: Not shooting fish in a barrel. I was going to say something about turkey at Christmas. You’re not going to, as a mediation organisation say, “Vote for regulation,” if it means that your largest source of income is going to be taken away from you. At least, I think that’s how you would see it in the short-term. Of course in the medium-term, there’s all the ongoing professional development training, which they could still participate in or deliver. So, there are huge opportunities there.

Yeah. We’re singing it from the same hymn sheet there.

Aled: Okay. So, I think we agree that training needs to be far more rigorous, both theoretical and practical, and there needs to be far more rigorous or a high-grade expectation on continuous professional development.

But what do we do in the meantime? How do we move ourselves forward as a profession? How do we unite the different strands, pull everyone together? What’s the common thread?

Stephen: Train together.

Aled: Train together.

Stephen: Training together. I certainly undertake as much training as I can in the next year so that I’m a mediator. I’m going to do my civil and commercial training, my workplace training and, if I can, some neighborhood training. Because I understand they’ve all got their own convening processes, their own rules about caucusing and about shuttling and skills I can learn from that.

But I need to know how you train, how everyone else trains in other mediation fields so that I can feel like I’m a complete mediator. That’s not saying I want to go out after the workplace mediation work, necessarily or commercial disputes, but I feel as a family mediator I’ve only got half the toolkit. There’s another half-toolkit spread out amongst all you guys. I think I’d like some of those tools.

Aled: Here’s where it gets complicated because what you’re describing, I think is, in terms of civil, commercial, workplace, family, those are just different processes.

Stephen: Yeah.

Aled: The methodologies interest me more than the processes. So, the methodology, the theoretical underpinnings of transformative mediation, for example, or narrative mediation. I mean, narrative mediation really interests me. I’d love to train in narrative mediation because I think just expanding that awareness and just having additional tools to help parties develop their thinking, challenge their own assumptions, create richer narratives so they don’t have limited perspectives.

Stephen: Of course I agree with you. But I’m looking for me in the short-term. Yeah. It is just processes. You’re absolutely right. There are some skills involved in convening with twenty people instead of just two. But you’re right. There is so much to learn. The more we learn, the more we realise we don’t know. I go on countless workshops and come away thinking, “That’s even more I don’t know and more I’ve got to learn.”

So, you’re just making me rethink about what I’m going to be doing next year, maybe it will include some transformative-mediation education training. But frankly, where do we go for that? That’s the problem. It’s such a fractured market that if I go to any of the mediation organisations’ websites, I can find out what they’re all offering. But I can’t go to one place and just find out what’s on offer this week or what’s on offer next week in the mediation training world, which would be perfect for me, I’m sure for you as well.

Aled: It’s also the vast range of price points, as well, for courses. So, you’ve got the high end. I’m not going to name any brands, but you’ve got the high-end commercial mediation training, five days, ?4,000-?5,000 sterling. Pound notes, serious money.

Stephen: Yes.

Aled: And then on the other end of the spectrum, you’ve got four or five-day trainings coming in at around ?2,000.

Stephen: Which is more common in my field, I have to say. That sort of figure is much more common in family mediation.

Aled: I don’t know what the difference in quality would be between one and the other. If I’m a mediator or if I’m looking to become an accredited mediator or a professional mediator, how do I make an informed decision? Reading testimonials, for example, no one is going to publish a shockingly bad testimonial on their website.

Stephen: Yes. “Everyone said that my training was rubbish.”

Aled: And actually, I’m sure you could go on different training courses and they’d be different for different reasons. You’d still get value from them. But again, how does that help the market?

Stephen: So, this is all good reason you’re presenting here, all good reason for regulation.

Aled: I think so.

Stephen: This is why it’s got to be regulated.

Aled: I can’t see any other way. I can’t see any other way that we’re going to get commercial organisations that are profit-driven to go, “Oh, you know what? I’ll drop my prices by ?2,000-?3,000 just to fit in with the market.” I don’t know. It just doesn’t work that way.

Stephen: Well, that’s top-down professionalism, isn’t it? I think we’ve got two ways to professionalise. One is the top-down, which is where regulation comes in. The other is bottom-up, what we can do for ourselves. Grassroots level for us as individuals to become more professional.

Aled: What can we do at a grassroots level, then?

Stephen: We can do more training for ourselves. We can take more responsibility for our own training. Rather than look at the minimum requirements, we can actually undertake a hell of a lot more. But I was thinking more of how we view ourselves. I’m not sure if many mediators really view themselves as professionals. I wonder.

How many professionals would give away a product as cheaply as some of us do? There are some mediators who charge less for their mediation than they do for their work as a lawyer. The value you’re getting or delivering, as a mediator, exceeds probably eight times in terms of costs, the value that you can deliver as a lawyer in most cases. Yet quite often, they’ll be charging less.

Now, there are all sorts of reasons for that. One of them is actually they don’t believe in it, themselves, necessarily. And they don’t really understand the value that they can deliver. They want some experience so they will say, “We’ll mediate anyway. We’ll do it at any price.” A lot of mediators are a bit upset the government has said that it will fund a mediation session where one person qualifies for Legal Aid and the other doesn’t. A lot of mediators are saying that in the past, they would have been able to charge that person who didn’t qualify. Now they’re going to have to do it on Legal Aid or refer them to a legal aid mediator.

Aled: Yeah. But isn’t that just basic economic principles, supply and demand? Mediation, I think, if you’ve got a saturated market full of mediators, I don’t know. What do you say to that? If I’m a mediator and I’ve just done my 40 hours of mediation training, I’m feeling a bit confident, I’m doing a bit of networking, I get an opportunity to mediate. My man across the street is charging ?2,000 or ?1,500 for the mediation. I say, “I’ll tell you what, ?750 all in.”

Stephen: Fine. I don’t have any problem with anyone valuing themselves differently to a competitor. But they’re not valuing themselves differently. They’re valuing the product differently because quite often they’re valuing themselves very highly when it comes to hourly rate work. They might do mediation on an hourly rate. I do fixed pricing for all my mediations.

Aled: Do you mind me asking what you charge?

Stephen: Well, I say fixed pricing, it’s sessional pricing. So, it’s ?199 per person, per session.

Aled: Okay.

Stephen: That includes preparation and follow-up work.

Aled: How long is a session then?

Stephen: Typically 90 minutes. I suppose it’s about two and a half hours’ work in total.

Aled: Yeah. Okay. So, ?400 for those two and a half hours.

Stephen: Yeah. Plenty. Well, I feel that’s a good reward.

Aled: How do people react to that level of fee?

Stephen: I’ve not yet, for a long time anyway, I can’t remember, most people are very comfortable with that. But in a sense it’s sometimes quite easy for me because I know that the alternative cost of going through lawyers is going to be eight to ten times as much.

So I’m presenting them with a value choice here. It can be just about the money. It may produce a better outcome for them. It may not. It may do. But with a lot of people going through a parenting dispute or a divorce, they can see that the cost of it is going to be a fraction and that’s attractive. And it’s fixed, there’s no ongoing bill. The bill is not going to keep coming. Once they stop mediation, that’s the end of it.

Aled: So, that’s one of the real benefits of mediation. You get some sense of-

Stephen: Control.

Aled: Control over cost, time as well, I imagine. So, how many sessions typically would a normal assignment be?

Stephen: I suppose four to six, three to six. It all depends. Once they’ve got six, if you haven’t helped them after six, then they’re probably not going to get much further. But of course it all depends how deeply in conflict they are and where they’ve come from. So I’ve had a case recently where they were effectively referred by the court, where the court had had a final hearing. There had been domestic abuse, Social Services involved, the police, child abuse, quite literally child abuse.

It ended up with myself and a colleague who’s a family systems practitioner or ex-practitioner. It took eight sessions of two hours, but I think we managed to help them. Up until then, they’d spent something like ?60,000 on the court process and it had failed. So, eight hours with two mediators seemed pretty good value, I suppose.

Aled: Okay. So, if we move away from commoditising our service in time, it’s almost like a value-based fee.

Stephen: Yeah.

Aled: I did an interview with Matt Rushton, Matthew Rushton. Have you come across Matthew Rushton?

Stephen: No.

Aled: I think he’s running an organisation in the U.K. Have you come across JAMS in the U.S.? They’re a big ADR organisation in the U.S., I think one of the biggest. He’s just setup their U.K. operation. He’s a mediator but he doesn’t practice as a mediator. But he’s a really interesting mediator with a journalist background. Anyway, JAMS have got mediators on their books in America that, some, earn seven-figure fees for a single mediation.

Stephen: Right. That’s not the cents on the end, then. The seven-figure is . . .

Aled: Seven-figure fee for one.

Stephen: Tempt me a bit more, to believe this. What sort of mediation would warrant that sort of price?

Aled: A fairly juicy one.

Stephen: Civil case.

Aled: Yeah, a civil case. I don’t know. It could be sort of a big oil and gas, hundreds of millions of dollars in dispute. But it’s a fee. It’s not just the odd one or two. There are a number of them earning serious money in the U.S. on mediation.

Stephen: I can see that. Taking the oil spill in the Gulf a few years back, was it BP?

Aled: Yeah.

Stephen: I wonder if mediation had become central to that, whether that would have cost quite as much as it did in the end? Such as the high-speed link, the high-speed train link here. That’s going to end up costing a lot of money with enquiries and protests. I wonder where we as mediators could actually help facilitate community acceptance of the high-speed link by allowing convening meetings where, actually, our needs are addressed. It’s not coming through my neck of the woods, so I don’t know.

I can see huge value cases for mediators. Absolutely. Out in the Middle East, who wouldn’t want to pay mediators millions? That’s not where they’re getting paid millions, but to resolve the differences out in the Middle East. Every penny.

Aled: Yeah. All right. So, we’ve covered regulation, top-down, bottom-up approach in terms of professionalising mediation. We’ve touched on training, making it more rigorous. We’ve talked about continuous professional development, great expectation, more responsibility, accountability at an individual level to develop one’s thinking and one’s skills. We’re talking about how we value ourselves and the service that we offer. We’ve touched on fees.

What else? What else can we do? To what extent is all of this affecting public perception of mediation. To what extent is it maybe holding us back? It’s almost like we’re in a pen, chomping to get out of this pen because there’s conflict everywhere for us to resolve. But until we meet some criteria that the markets need in place, then we’re not going to be let out of this pen.

Stephen: Well, let me ask you a question. I come back to family work, but I think it probably applies to civil work as well.

Aled: That’s not the way it works. I ask the questions. You give me the answers. No, just kidding. Go on. Fire away.

Stephen: Who do you think the public perceive as the greatest, most authoritative dispute resolution professionals in the country?

Aled: Lawyers.

Stephen: Lawyers. And at the top of the lawyer heap are . . .

Aled: Judges.

Stephen: Judges. In fact, I was looking today at how many days’ training judges undertake. In this country, it’s something like five is the initial number of days, whereas in some American states, you can train as a judge straight out of college, basically. So, you’re getting some really good judicial experience training there. I think judges are perceived as the very apex. Whereas mediators are seen to sort of take the work, keep the work off judges’ desks. So, judges are important.

I know I get a lot of criticism from people for saying this. But there’s definitely a pyramid. Mediators are quite some way down at the bottom because what we do is help prevent more important people like judges from having too much unnecessary work. So, I’d quite like to see that reversed.

Again, not popular, but there are many judges who take positions of presidential positions with mediation membership organisations. I think if you’re a membership organisation for mediators, why do you want judges or barristers as your presidents? Why don’t you have a really great mediator as your president? So even mediators sort of put judges and barristers on a pedestal.

Aled: Yeah.

Stephen: I think we’re not helping ourselves there.

Aled: I wonder to what extent that’s more to do with trying to influence policy or trying to influence, in some way . . .

Stephen: But what way? How does it influence? Who are the people we want to influence? Do we want to influence judges? Judges are doing a perfectly good job of judging. I’ve got nothing but respect for judges who do a good job of judging. But we don’t need to influence judges. What we need to do is influence the public. It’s the public that needs to understand how dispute resolution can help them. How we can help them in a different way, not the judges. I think that’s the wrong way around.

Aled: Okay. So, we need to influence the public. But you could say we need to get our own house in order before we . . .

Stephen: Back to that, isn’t it?

Aled: Going out into the market, I had my jaw-dropping moment last week. I was with a client, running a workshop. It was a two-day workshop on conflict and difficult conversations in the workplace. There was a senior HR manager, one of the participants in the group, we were doing a little role play and at coffee he took me aside and said, “This is a bit like mediation in a way, isn’t it?” I said, “Well, there are certainly some of the principles that I’m espousing here are rooted . . . I would approach mediation in the same way.”

And then he said something like, “Yeah, it’s the stop-start, stop-start, do more of.” And I said, “What’s that?” “Well, that’s mediation, isn’t it?” He said, “Well, in our organisation,” and this is a big organisation. I’m not going to name them, but they’re a big organisation. They have a mediation policy in their grievance process, a mediation clause. But they don’t call a mediator in or train internal mediators. They activate this clause.

All it involves is the HR manager, they call it “mediation”. The HR manager sits the parties down and says, “What are you going to stop doing and what are you going to stop doing? What are you going to start doing differently and what are you going to start doing differently? And what are you going to be doing more of together?” And that’s mediation. And he said, “Is there more to it than that?”

Stephen: Well, in the early days when I used to do what was loosely termed “in-court mediation”, but it was actually “in-court assessment for mediation”, not in-court mediation. I remember the judges, this was like four or five years ago and again I can’t name them, but they said to me, “Well, that’s what we do. When we get them and bring them into the courtroom together, and we bang their heads together.” It’s like, “All right. Okay. That’s exactly what we do, Judge.”

Aled: Yeah.

Stephen: So, I think the term “mediation” is not understood. It’s not understood by many mediators. It’s not understood by the public or by other professionals. Sorry about that.

Aled: That’s all right. All right, let’s stay with the idea of the bottom-up approach then. I want to bring this to a close now. With a bottom-up approach, what can we do? What should we be doing as mediators? Given that there are so many organisations to affiliate with, how do we empower ourselves to just bring each other together? You talked about training together. What can we actively do?

Stephen: Well, I can only say what I’m doing.

Aled: Yeah. What are you doing?

Stephen: It’s a slow process. I can’t say too much in a public video. But I’m really very, very keen to see the FMC and the CMC work together. I can’t say how I’m going to try and achieve that.

Aled: No one’s watching . . .

Stephen: Well, I think the FMC, frankly, what I’m going to do is say to the CMC, “Would you like me to be a member as a family mediator? Is there any reason why the CMC shouldn’t have family mediators on board?” What I’d like to see is them say, “No, but what we’d like is to merge with the FMC,” and I’d like to see one mediation organisation.

So I’m going to try and join the CMC by training as a civil mediator. I would like to see civil mediators joining the FMC by training as family mediators. And then for us all once we’re all mediators in all these different categories, then it’s going to be easier to say, “Well, what’s the point of having two organisations?”

So, that’s part of the theory behind getting all these badges which, I appreciate, is just process. But actually it means I’m going to be able to walk into any mediation room full of any type of mediation and I’m going to be one of them. I’m going to be one of you. I’m going to be one of the neighborhood mediators. Maybe then it would be easier for us, people like myself, and others who think the same way such that a lot of the people in the College of Mediators to actually say, “Look, this is a nonsense. Let’s streamline this. Let’s professionalise it.” That’s the idea.

Aled: You know what we should do? How about you and I organise a meeting with some of the stakeholders from all of these different organisations and see who turns up and just have a cup of tea and a chat.

Stephen: Yeah. I’d be on for that. I’d be on for that.

Aled: Why not?

Stephen: I’d suspect, though, genuinely I’d suspect there would be very few people turn up.

Aled: See, that’s what I like about social media. I don’t want to shame people into doing it.

Stephen: Let me do that.

Aled: Get everyone together and just let’s have a chat and see what people’s concerns are or aspirations are, goals are. I reckon if I spoke separately to all of these different organisations, they’d all agree that having one group is beneficial.

Stephen: Yeah. It’s got to be. We’ve just got all these mediations. It’s like a ghetto, isn’t it? We’ve got all these ghettos of mediators. Of course, individually, the FMA has X-hundred members, the College of Mediators has X-hundred members, CEDR has X-hundred, all these people, they’re very small on their own. The only one with any real numbers is Resolution, the family lawyers group. They’ve got 6,500 members. So, they’re pretty mighty. But everyone else, you’re talking about hundreds. Collectively, we’d be so much more powerful.

Aled: Yeah. Definitely. It makes sense. We can even have an arm-wrestling competition and the winner . . . If everyone was in agreement that just one body, we could just boil it down to a little arm wrestle or Conkers. We could have a conker fight and the winner gets to lead the organisation.

You can tell it’s been a long day.

Stephen: I know. You’ve worked very hard today. You worked very hard yesterday and the day before, didn’t you? So, I think you should tell the listeners and the viewers what you were doing over the last two days, how tired you are.

Aled: I walked a long way. I ran a long way, but this isn’t about me, Stephen. This is about us mediators just grabbing the profession by the scruff of the neck and going, “Come on, everyone. Let’s sort this world out. Let’s make sure that we leave this world a better place than we found it, a more peaceful place.” That would be a lovely thing to do. I think we can accomplish it. We’ve just got to put our own agendas to one side and collaborate and work together and sort it all out.

Stephen: Yeah. Music to my ears.

Aled: All right.

Stephen: It’s a big task I think. It’s a big ask and a big task.

Aled: Elephants, all about eating elephants. You’ve got to start somewhere.

Stephen: You’ve got to start somewhere.

Aled: With a toenail.

Stephen: Which organisations are you in?

Aled: I’m not in any of them. I refuse to join any of them.

Stephen: You refuse? As a family mediator, you have to be in a membership organisation in order to practice.

Aled: When I come across a credible one, I’ll let you know. I don’t know. I’m quite keen to see if we can unite as an organisation. Just sort all that out. I think that might be my mission for next year, actually.

Stephen: Sounds like one that I’m going to be running alongside you with. I’d be very invested in that, very interested.

Aled: We could then start an organisation called the “People’s Front of . . .”

Stephen: But you’ve already got an organisation, Aled. You’ve got the Mediator Academy.

Aled: But the purpose of that is a learning organisation. It’s for mutual learning.

Stephen: Isn’t that where it starts?

Aled: Well, yeah. Maybe that’s a starting point where we can just get the debate going, really, get the discussion going, get the conversation going. That’s what I’m hoping to do. We’ll be a lot stronger if we were one voice.

Stephen: Absolutely.

Aled: Okay. I’m sufficiently motivated now to take action. I’ve just got to figure out what the next step is.

Stephen: Direct action, Aled. It’s got to be direct action. We’ve got to be out there on the barricades.

Aled: Yeah. I reckon I’ll get a few placards made. We’ll get some costumes like Superman or Batman and Robin, ’cause you’re a little bit taller than me.

Stephen: Just a little bit. We’ll climb the Houses of Parliament. “We require regulation. We’re not coming down until you regulate.”

Aled: I’ll bring the sandwiches. You bring the tea.

Stephen: Okay. Thank you very much.

Aled: Stephen, it’s been a real pleasure. I think people watching this interview, hopefully some of the things we talked about will resonate with them. I’m sure we’ll take this conversation forward somehow, somewhere and people watching us can join us on this quest.

Stephen: Absolutely. Thank you very much.

Aled: Have a lovely week.

Stephen: Thank you, Aled, and you. I hope we bump into each other again soon.

Aled: Definitely.

About the mediator

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Stephen is an accredited family mediator and a professional practice consultant who supervises other mediators. He is also a former solicitor and collaborative practitioner and writes and provides his own training for family mediators and collaborative lawyers. He belongs to the Family Mediators Association, Resolution and the Association for Conflict Resolution, and is a regular attendee and presenter on the UK and North American conference c... View Mediator