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How to Build a Conflict Prevention Business

How to Build a Conflict Prevention Business

I think we mediators are predominantly in the business of peacemaking, helping others address and resolve their disputes and conflicts as amicably as possible. My guest has taken a step further and built a successful business in conflict prevention. He’s taken the principles of mediation and scaled it up. So if you think mediation is a hard sell, try selling conflict prevention – there are some great lessons in this interview around how we create a value proposition for the services we offer. In the second half of the interview Ed also talks about his involvement with a wonderful charity, Concordis International Group, that works impartially alongside those that are involved in, or affected by, armed conflict around the world. They’re involved in post conflict peace building in places like Sudan, South Sudan, Kenya and Cote d’Ivoire.

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Transcript

Full Transcript

Aled: Hi everyone. My name is Aled Davies, Founder of MediatorAcademy.com, home of the hungry and passionate mediator, and a place where mediators old and new come and listen to experienced mediators tell a story about how they’ve built their mediation career, how they’ve shaped their practice, how they’ve handled particular challenges, particular dilemmas that we all face from time to time as mediators. And what they’ve done that’s helped them become really successful at what they do but also effective mediators.

I get really excited about these interviews, you know that. I find them inspiring. I find them motivating. They encourage me to do things differently, to try things out, To take some risks, stretch my comfort zone. I hope you’ll be inspired too to take some risks and stretch your comfort zone. Do things differently so that you can go out into the world, create your own little success story or maybe you’ll decide to come back on here and share your success story with my audience.

The big question for today’s interview is this: how do you persuade a client or customer that they could utilize a benefit from your mediation or conflict management services when they don’t even have a dispute or a conflict to resolve yet? How do you build a value proposition to convince prospective clients of your value so they go out and buy your services? My guest today is breaking the mould because he isn’t a mediator in the conventional sense, yet the work he does helps to prevent, reduce and resolve conflict. He’s the CEO of ResoLex, a London-based consultancy specializing in risk monitoring and dispute prevention with an international reputation for innovation.

ResoLex also use third party neutrals. I notice they don’t refer to them as mediators but I’m sure I’ll come onto that in my interview. They use third party neutrals to identify areas of risk or potential disputes or head them off at the pass. They also have a number of specialists panels that intervene in areas such as construction, employment and patent compensation. His latest innovation is called Symfonix, an opinion monitoring system used for stakeholder engagement and community consultation.

He’s also recently taken on the role of Chair of Trustees for the Concordis International Group, a charity that works impartially alongside those that are involved in, or affected by, armed conflict around the world. They’re involved in post conflict peace building in places like Sudan, South Sudan, Kenya and Cote d’Ivoire. I’m delighted to welcome Ed Moore onto Mediator Academy. Welcome, Ed.

Ed: Good morning, Aled.

Aled: Ed, when you and I first met I think it was back in the hedonistic days of the martyr debates downstairs, just off Temple in the cellars of British American tobacco.

Ed: It was indeed. Thank you there to Michael Leathes [sounds like 00:03:27], who has been obviously an enormous supporter of the mediation process, of us as an organization, and the whole market for really being able to host those and bring a lot of what were disparate people together and introduce the likes of us together.

Aled: That’s right. He’s gone on now to create International Mediation Institute IMI, right?

Ed: Absolutely.

Aled: Which is forging ahead, although he, I asked him for an interview and he declined on the basis that he isn’t a practicing mediator but Irena Vanakova from IMI had accepted my offer but I’m just trying to nail her down for a date at the moment. Anyway, I digress, because I think one of the debate topics that we were attending was, it was something like ADR, stands for Alarming Drop in Revenue. Does that ring any bells?

Ed: I remember it well.

Aled: Alarming Drop in Revenue and the idea was that from a lawyer’s perspective, ADR wasn’t a great thing because it was an alarming drop in revenue, the unintended consequences for lawyers was that it was potentially reducing their revenue, their fees and so on and mediation, in turn. Now what you’re getting involved in could make an even more of an alarming drop in revenue because you’re in the business of conflict prevention. That right?

Ed: That’s right in so far as we’re in the conflict prevention area. What I would possibly disagree with is that it necessarily leads to a drop in revenue for our friends within the legal business. To quote the head of Construction Development, and many other things in one of the major London firms, when he supports what we do and advises their clients that they should consider using us. Because his view is when he can work with a client to prevent projects from ending up in dispute and not delivering their full potential, he’s providing much better value to that client and is still able to bill a good commercial rate but also feeling that the client is benefiting more from it than waiting until a dispute erupts, and then billing to help fight it where, let’s face it, if it goes down the litigation path, nobody ever really wins.

Aled: Okay, all right. That’s interesting. It’s interesting because it sounds like, I talked about the value proposition. How do you build a value proposition whereby you’re potentially selling a service or proposing a service that doesn’t solve any problems that are currently apparent but will prevent problems arising or could prevent problems arising. One way is partnering with another provider, service provider, if you like, which is what a lawyer does or a legal service provides and almost creating a joint value proposition.

Ed: There is. I think to understand both how the value proposition, how the service that we offer works; if we take a look back at how the evolution of ResoLex has taken place, you start to get an understanding of why the process works, where the value lies and once it is, without a shadow of doubt, a very challenging commercial sell, we are making grounds and it is working where it’s being used.

Aled: Take me on that evolution from where ResoLex started to where it is and some of the process. I’m saying this because in the back of my mind I’m also mindful that people watching this interview, I know you’ve got a lot of value to add and I want to make sure that I can extract every ounce of value from you, Ed. Tell me the story from start to finish.

Ed: Absolutely. ResoLex was founded in 2000. It was the dream child of Patrick Green, now Patrick Green QC, and Steven Woodward, our project manager, both of whom have done the CEDR  mediation course. Patrick had done the Harvard Advanced Negotiation course and were absolute mediation converts. They identified that a process that was so good at resolving disputes on the court step should be used earlier and the earlier you started to use it the more value it would actually add into the process and could prevent escalation of disputes.

They launched ResoLex with a specific product called contractive mediation. This was a project based mediation service which some people are now still offering as project mediation. Where a panel of mediators followed a project and could be parachuted in at any particular time if things started to get a bit sticky. Now this, when it was taken up, it worked very well and we started to get some traction. We started to get some good results on projects.

Aled: What sort of projects?

Ed: These were infrastructure, large construction projects. There was a taxi runway for an airport, hospital, these types of things. Where they had disputes on them but the team was brought in. They worked through the given dispute but they were also able then to work with the parties around the table and say, ‘What are the other variation claims that you’ve got lurking around? What’s on the horizon? What’s about to come and bite us?’

What we found was that those projects finished with a clean bill of health rather than disputes erupting at the end of the projects. We came to a very interesting place where a, delivering on a project that didn’t have a dispute, didn’t have a major dispute during the project. The project director who had used us previously, who had received the full value of the service before, turned around at the end and said, ‘Well, this sounds odd, I didn’t receive the full value of what ResoLex can offer because we didn’t have a dispute. Now I’m at the end, we’re starting to see some smaller disputes coming through.’

What he then suggested was, ‘Well, what about if we just had a mediation a month, whether there was a dispute or not?’ Which was a very, very interesting idea. Just operating like that wasn’t practical but it sowed a seed with us of, ‘Well, is there a different way that we can go about this? Rather than waiting for disputes to erupt, how can you actually prevent them every getting to that stage? That’s where we started developing the service that we now offer, which is around that, the full prevention and the risk monitoring service.

The important thing being that we have the ability to have a confidential and without prejudice conversation personally with as many stakeholders to the project as possible. What we’re trying to do is get personal opinion and gather all of that together. Now the only practical and economically efficient way to do this was to use technology, rather than people, because that was just going to be too expensive. We developed a tool called X-Tracker. This is deployed on projects and does generally monthly project evaluation exercises with up to 100, even 150 project stakeholders. Then delivers that information back to a core ResoLex panel which sit down and they have experience at both mediation and of projects, the mix of which is very important.

They use that to try and identify where there is divergence of opinion on projects. Which, from our point of view, is the first, it’s the tinder box, it’s the first spark. Because if you have divergence of opinion between different parts of a project and they are not communicating the same message, then there is the seed of a dispute in that. There’s no reason for people to have completely differing opinions about any given facet on a project unless there is misunderstanding, there’s poor communication, there is even deceit, there is issues being hidden. That’s what we’re trying to identify and bring to the fore so that we get to know what’s being reported on a project around the table at monthly meeting is one thing. What’s being held just under the table and what would you know about your projects if you were in the pub at 5:00 talking with everyone over a pint, versus sat around the board table in the monthly project meeting.

Aled: It’s very interesting when you say that because some of the work that I do when I facilitate at team meetings, groups and so on, particularly project groups where there are divergent, and I don’t think it’s a bad thing. As I said, I think the problem is when it’s not being shared, when those views are not being shared across the group, they can unintentionally sabotage the progress that the group makes. I often say the kind of atmosphere, the kind of spirit I want to try to engender in this group, create in the group or I want the group to create really, is one where the kind of conversation you would have with each other in the toilet, at the coffee break, I want you to be having those conversations together during our sessions to create that transparency and almost like a curiosity about [inaudible 00:15:03].

Ed: Absolutely. The idea of that differing opinions
Yes. I think we need to instill that differing opinions is a very good and is a very healthy thing. That’s where we get innovation. That’s where we can get excellence from,but you need a safe process for managing that so that it doesn’t become dispute and becomes a positive attribute rather than a negative one.

Aled: X-Tracker is a way of getting thoughts, views and opinions from as many stakeholders as possible in the most efficient way possible. All in one place, so that a group of experts, both mediation experts but also project based experts can then look at that data and go, ‘Do we need to intervene? Do we need to mediate?’ What are the next steps?

Ed: The same as in a mediation and whilst we don’t actually advertise it as such. Each piece of communication that takes place through the X-Tracker is actually held under a mediation agreement. But the same as when mediating, our belief and the strength in the service comes from the knowledge that the skills and information to solve the issues, to drive the project forward, are based in the project team and around the table.

What they may need some help with is identifying the areas that they need to focus on. Our role is very, very specific in using the privileged position of a third party neutral to be able to tease out where there are sticking points, what are the areas on this project, in this relationship that need to be addressed and need to be focused on?

Then it’s the team members within the project team themselves that are the ones that need to do this because it’s important. It’s their project. They have the knowledge and the capacity to do it as long as they’re pointed in the right direction.

Aled: Ed, I love what you’ve done. It sounds like you’ve taken the principles of mediation and just have applied them to something innovative, different to achieve a similar outcome. Brilliant. I’ve got to congratulate you on that. Partly because I’m a big, I love technology. I love innovation. I get very excited about that and thinking that you’ve done this with something else that I’m really passionate about, mediation, is fantastic.

Here’s what I want to understand because I get it. You don’t need to sell it to me. If I’m a mediator and I’m thinking, ‘You know what? Actually I’ve got some contacts in construction or I’ve got a construction background. I’ve got some project management background or I’ve got a network that I could tap into. How could I, what kind of conversations could I be having where I could talk about the kind of value I could bring to their projects?

Help me understand what kind of value you’ve achieved with some of these projects and see if we can translate that into a value proposition I could take to one of my clients, for example.

Ed: I think what we have understood is that the value proposition is actually two scale. There is the avoidance of major disputes on projects. That’s the, in actual fact, the big money, the big value offering in the middle of this but that is one that you can’t sell because it is not something that people will buy either prior to the commencement of a project or before they are in a dispute environment. What we have to do is, in effect, provide enough value in better communication, in providing ongoing support for the project as far as the proactive monitoring side goes and the biggest value add is really sort of just left there on the table and some will probably not even realise the full impact that it’s having on a project and just take it for a process of improved communication, improved collaboration, of team working. Others will identify that what it has achieved in terms of timely resolution of issues before they escalate and realise that that’s where the enormous value is.

One of the things that we have done over time is tried to quantify that just in terms of the value in dealing with things quickly and the ability to be able to spot them. What we have is, we sometimes use an information and time graph which it just so happens I have a prop, look. I don’t know if you can see that.

Aled: Okay. Hold it up a bit closer. Okay, yeah.

Ed: What we have is a moment in time.

Aled: Yeah.

Ed: We have all of the information on a project that will resolve any issues that need to be resolved on there. Whether they are the seeds of a dispute, whether it’s a technical issue, all of the skill and the information is present on that project. What we then have is time, and as time marches on, we get a natural wastage of information and of knowledge on that project.

John leaves to go and work for a different project management company, subcontractors change on-site and suddenly you’re left with only half of the information and when you finally come to settle, final account and out come the variation claims, and out come the disputes we are all the way, we’re down over here and you can see there’s only a little bit of information left. But to actually get to the stage of processing that claim, you’ve got to rebuild all of this information, and who is it that rebuilds that? It’s not the subcontractors. It’s not the contractors. It’s not the project management team, it’s your legal team. And you are then paying for them to rebuild that information that was already there. Had you dealt with it at that moment in time, the cost of your legal team regenerating all of that information is just, that’s money and that’s cash that was sitting within the project, had you had the facility to be able to use it at that moment in time. In terms of a value offering and recognizing the hard cash monetary value, then that is one way of looking at it.

Aled: As you were talking, I’m just scribbling a couple of notes here. As you were talking I was sort of transported back to when I was, I did a year out from university as an assistant quantity surveyor on a construction project in Cardiff Bay. It was just, it was probably the second thing to be built in Cardiff Bay and I was put in charge of doing all the drainage schedules. Now for anyone that’s non-construction based, you’ve got to lay pipes in the ground to take away the waste and bring in the fresh stuff.

Now Cardiff Bay was a dockland so there was lots of, it wasn’t as straight forward as digging a field where you knew there was soil. There were all sorts of things in the ground that meant, you needed to go onto day works [sounds like 00:24:30], anyway, I had to plot these massive drainage schedules and that was my job for almost the entire year. I worked on a couple of other, anyway, when I left, and I didn’t work for that company anymore. I went back to university and then I left the field of construction. Some years later I bumped into the QS who’s in charge of that and I’m talking like six years later, was in charge of this project and he said to me, those drainage schedules, they were a real problem. We couldn’t find them and we had a massive dispute. I’m laughing now. I shouldn’t be.

That was a just really good example. I left in the middle of the project. Left all the drainage schedules with the senior QS. He put them somewhere, filed them away, couldn’t find them and there was a huge claim at the end from the subcontractor and that ended up in a messy litigation. There were lots of other problems as well. There’s a good example.

Ed: And I think you’ll find that’s fairly common.

Aled: Absolutely. You’re saying it’s hard to, kind of, the value proposition of, ‘Look, it’s going to help you avoid litigation and disputes at the end of the project.’ That’s a hard sell, particularly when . . .

Ed: It’s an exceedingly hard sell.

Aled: Because?

Ed: Because everybody knows that this next project’s going to be different and we’re not actually going to have any disputes, so despite the fact that everyone we’ve previously worked on has had them, miraculously this next one’s going to be different and not.

Now what we also we have, very interestingly, on some quite high profile projects that we were trying to work on but didn’t actually get, we were told that the senior management couldn’t be seen to accept the possibility that there would be disputes because that would be defeatist. Their approach was that it was better to bury their heads in the sand and just say, ‘It’s not going to happen’ than make a proactive plan to manage it if it did.

You also get to the stage there where they have a safety fall back of what, we totally agree with you. That your approach to managing these disputes and stopping the escalation is exactly right. What we will do is we’ll come to you, now that we know where you are and that you do [inaudible 00:27:36] job, we’ll come to you when we get a dispute. Which is exactly a week too late, of course because when you needed us it was the week before you had the dispute, not the week after.

It is a very difficult sell to go in and say we will help prevent disputes, however, if that is a by product of a process which helps monitor risk, which helps them to understand the dynamics of the team that is delivering. Make sure that it improves communication, improves the collaborative behavior of the team. Actually just the addition of an organization whose raison d’Ítre is to help the project. So the entity of the project rather than any specific party on it, but so let this project achieve its successful outcomes is very powerful because often the project doesn’t have any specific support. All you have is support for the different parties on the project.

Aled: I want to pick up on a couple of points but when you’re talking about the, I think it’s a psychological phenomenon where people deny, there’s no empirical data to suggest that they’re not going to encounter a dispute on this but it’s a bit like, I think, childbirth. They’re probably the same kind of thing that kicks in, even though you know it’s probably one of the most painful, not that I know, of course, but even though it looks really painful, you forget all of that so that you do it next time.

Ed: Absolutely.

Aled: Could be. Maybe there’s a PhD in there somewhere for me.

Ed: I think there are specific internal drugs that help with forgetting the labour pains. I’m not sure that it’s the same as construction projects but it might be.

Aled: Maybe there’s a market there. A little bit of vertical integration with . . .

Ed: Absolutely.

Aled: Take this blue pill if you experience this problem and this red pill if
Look, on a serious note. You talked about the timely resolution of issues before they escalate, when I’m thinking of a value proposition, benefits, the features, advantages, benefits, I think you’ve described some of the features of a dispute prevention service: so improved communication, improved collaboration and I think we could all say that our work contributes to enhancing collaboration and communication. I guess what would help me understand is, the benefits. Improved communication so that you help the project to achieve its successful outcomes, for example. What other thoughts can you provide there to really help drill down into tangible benefits?

Ed: The tangible benefits are around the, I suppose, what we need to remember and which is very easy to just let slide, is that projects are managed and delivered by people, by individuals. And there are a set of personal needs attached to each one of those individuals. There are a set of organisational needs attached to each group, and there are a set of project needs attached to the whole project. The benefits start when you enable the individuals involved to articulate their personal needs and to start to have those recognised and to be achieved.

What that does is empowers and creates an environment in which that individual will excel and when the different individuals excel, then the teams start to excel. When the team excels, the project will be a greater success. It will deliver against or it will exceed expectations in terms of delivery output. It will go a step further every time to making sure that it understands what the needs of the end users of the facility: whatever it is that’s being created, to make sure that it’s addressing, down at a personal needs base right the way through that process to generate the absolute optimum project outcome at the end.

I think that’s where it has to be understood that the benefits go right from the project, right the way down to every individual involved on it.

Aled: That’s what I was trying to get at. That’s a lovely way of explaining it. Everyone involved in the project has got personal needs and I think sometimes there isn’t room or scope to express those needs, and where there isn’t room or scope to express those needs, people hold on to them, so if they have concerns and they haven’t been asked to share their concerns or the culture in that organisation or project isn’t one that makes it easy for people to voice their concerns.

Ed: Absolutely. The number of times we get communications back saying, ‘I have never had an environment before in which I could raise these issues, in which I could talk about these things but they are hugely important to me and will have an impact on the project unless they’re sorted.’

Aled: Okay, okay. Wonderful. You’ve given a couple of examples now. It sounds like that it’s mainly construction or large infrastructure projects that you get involved in. Is that right or does this have other applications elsewhere?

Ed: That answer’s twofold. You’re correct insofar as yes, where we have it deployed has been construction and infrastructure projects. That is due to resource, due to uptake and getting out there.

Where we see it going is outside of that area as well into IT projects. There’s absolutely no reason why it wouldn’t provide enormous value for IT projects. Also in outsourcing relationships, as more businesses start to go down the outsourcing route for, whether it be facilities management, HR, IT, you’re entering into a long term commercial arrangement, where it’s very important that each party involved realises how they are being perceived and has a full feedback loop.

Here I talk about the advent of IT, help desks and the outsourcing of that, where if we take the example, I was working in an organisation that did, it outsourced. Previously, I knew the telephone number of the IT support and by haranguing them could probably get some support within about ten minutes. Now the organisation, when it went through its outsourcing process, it created some KPIs, and its service level was to provide support within, I think it was 45 minutes.

Now six months down the line I have an issue and I’m getting support within 25 minutes. Now as far as the outsourcing company’s concerned, it’s beating its service level by half. It’s over the moon. As far as I’m concerned, I don’t know what commercial arrangement they’ve done with my company, it’s twice as long as I used to get internally. I’m really hacked off with this. And I think it’s a rubbish service and therefore my behaviour towards it changes and makes it more and more difficult for that service provider to provide me a good service because I’m just getting angrier and angrier with someone who thinks they’re providing me with a wonderful service. We start to get, again, this divergence because we’re not all equipped with all of the information to make a sound judgment.

We’re just basing this on perception, my perception, their perception. We’re both talking about the same thing. I think it’s a rubbish service. They think it’s a wonderful service. Well, we’re both right. What you need is a feedback mechanism to be able to get this understood so that we’re not just basing our decisions on technical information, we’re basing it on understanding the perception of the people involved because to me, as in that case, the IT user, my perception is reality. Well, it’s worse than it used to be, it’s rubbish. I’m fed up.

The overall, the process, the value offering I think has huge application, as I say, in outsourcing, in PPP and some of PFI, whatever that’s going to be called, where you have long term relationships that have got to survive. You need a mechanism for making sure that you understand what the issues are so that you can deal with them.

Aled: Very interesting. That’s a really good example of the service provider thinking they’re offering a great service and the receiver of that service thinking it’s a rubbish service and both of them are right based on the lenses that they’re looking through.

Ed: That’s what you’ve got to really make a difference and to get the best value out of this. You’ve got to have access to those lenses. We call it the project grapevine. But it’s access to that information because that is what is affecting each individual’s behaviour and it’s the behaviour that creates a successful project or an unsuccessful one.

Aled: I want to come back to, you mentioned that you use third party neutrals. You have a number of different panels, why third party neutrals and not mediators? Do you see them differently or the same or is it, the reason behind the term that you use there?

Ed: There is. It’s purely marketing. A third party neutral is somebody who is effectively a mediator. In the market, so far as mediation is recognized, and I think we all have an enormous job still to do in getting business users to actually understand what mediation is and what mediators do. The perception out there is it is a legal fight and therefore, the term ‘mediation’, when we’re talking about avoiding the escalation of disputes can put people off.

Aled: That’s, is that feedback that you’ve had, data that you’ve got to support that?

Ed: It’s from conversations, from experience over the last five, six years where we’ve been doing this side of things, where we’re not waiting for an identified dispute to erupt. That seems to be the point at the moment where the accepted term mediation comes into play is when there’s an identified dispute as opposed to where it’s not.

Aled: Really interesting because in some of the work I’ve done in organisations where someone’s approached me and they’ve go, ‘Look, these two people have fallen out, it’s problematic. Can you mediate, but please don’t call it mediation,’ because it stirs up all sorts of thoughts, connotations.

Ed: Absolutely.

Aled: I think I interviewed someone recently who talked about using a different term. I think Michael Lind, also referred to it and I think, you talk about marketing, I think people attribute so much meaning to a word and I think we as mediators underestimate how much meaning people attribute to what we do.

Ed: Absolutely.

Aled: And how much misunderstanding that can create.

Ed: Yeah. The obvious term would be facilitator but that has been amazingly undervalued or devalued as a term because if you want a facilitator for a meeting you just grab John next door. Everyone knows that. It doesn’t take any skills. It’s just
.

Aled: Or you get someone in who arrives wearing sandals and socks, right.

Ed: Absolutely. That’s right. And anyone who knits their own sweaters from bean curd is welcome. But it’s what hopefully we get to is a point where the recognition of the skills that a mediator has are very specific but are not solely useful within a dispute environment. What they are doing is using their skills within the confines of a negotiation and it’s a combination of those two things that make success. That can be in negotiating a settlement to a dispute, it can be assisted deal making where the use of a neutral within a deal creation environment can generate an enormous amount of value.

There was a wonderful study done at Harvard and I’m trying to remember which, it’s written up in a number of negotiation books from the Harvard Negotiation course, where [tape cut off]

Aled: Dropped off again.

Ed: . . . their teams, these are professional negotiators, are sent off, negotiate an agreement and they are both given a set of criteria that they’ve got to negotiate around. Half of the course are given straight bilateral negotiation as their mechanism for doing the deal, the other half have a mediator, a deal mediator involved. Now for both of these groups, half of them were actually given corresponding criteria.

Let’s take that it was you and I leading the two teams. My top criteria was that I had to sell my glass. I had to get you to buy this glass. The top of your list was you had to buy the glass from me and then there’s another string of ten different things underneath that we wanted out of this. What happened in there, and I can find the references because it’s really interesting to read, was that in the bilateral negotiation most of the negotiating teams didn’t manage to do what was at the top of their list. I didn’t sell this to you and you didn’t buy it because it was our most important thing and therefore, we held it tight and I didn’t want you, the last thing I can do is let you know that I’ve got to sell this to you and the last thing you can do is allow me to know that you’ve got to buy it from me. So it never gets done. The biggest value part of our deal is left on the table undone, whereas in the mediated negotiations every time the top value item was negotiated through and formed part of the deal.

Aled: Fascinating.

Ed: I think in there you’ve got this wonderful description of where even just the mediation process, that process of going from a bilateral position of you versus me, putting in a neutral party, in that instance a deal mediator, enables such a different process and such a different communication so that we’ve got the same people with the same skill sets, will come to a higher value outcome than left to their own devices.

Aled: I think mediators have a bit of work to do. I think some mediators are waiting for the world to change and people to come knocking on the door and mediations to appear from somewhere and I don’t think there’s a shortage of conflicts in this world and disputes in this world that can’t be resolved. I think mediators, we’ve got to be a lot more proactive and really savvy in the way we go about promoting what we do.

You talked about how do we get businesses to really understand what mediation is and the value that we can bring. I think we’ve got to get a little bit personal in that maybe it’s not what value mediators can bring but it’s, ‘Look Ed, I need to tell you what value I can bring and the skills and knowledge that I’ve got to help improve communication, improve collaboration, radically reduce the risk of litigation at the end of this project for you. I can really help you get a timely resolution to a lot of the issues that, I know and you know, will surface during the course of this project.

It’s almost, we don’t even bring the term mediation in. We’ve got to really think differently, do things differently, which is really what I’m trying to achieve, partly what I’m trying to achieve with all these interviews is, ‘How do we think differently? What other ideas are out there can we take on board and use and apply so that we try doing things differently rather than doing the same thing over and over again. The definition of insanity is do the same thing, expect a different result.

Ed: Absolutely.

Aled: If people are not buying it, for whatever reason, then we’ll continue on this path and we’ll continue getting what we’re currently getting, so we’ve got to think differently, act differently.

Ed: I think so and what we may well find is that over time there is a natural, sort of division or divisions within the, what is at the moment a cottage industry of mediation. Taking different facets and offering different value sets where there is a market for mid-litigation dispute resolution using mediation and that is a specific identified product which people can buy.

There is then the use of the skill set of mediators and the individuals in project-based work, the type of thing that we’re doing, preventing the escalation of disputes. Then there is deal mediation out there. There’s assisted deal making. It grows with the overall message that the process involved in bringing a neutral party into any situation changes the dynamics and changes them in a very positive way.

Aled: Great. There’s so many things I want to burrow into and I want to make sure that in this interview we get to hear about the work that you’re doing with Concordis and again, thinking about mediators out there who may be a little bit disillusioned, a little bit frustrated. They’ve got the right spirit and the right attitude and approach and the mindset and they want to get involved in making a difference, but are struggling to do it within a commercial context or civil, or whatever. There are many different ways that mediators can add value in this world. Tell me about what Concordis does and how a mediator watching this interview could get involved and maybe that could be a career direction for them.

Ed: Certainly. Well, the charity Concordis is about the use of [tape cut off 00:52:10-00:52:15] within war torn areas, within areas of recent conflict, to enable the creation of a sustainable peace process. And in the same way as we spoke about individual’s needs on projects, it’s identical within regions, within individuals in the population. There is a process for generating the information, the knowledge about what are the needs of individuals, of communities, of areas, of regions that needs to be communicated up to national levels so that the policies that are being generated can encompass the right results, the right issues. To be able to address those needs and address them well with a rationale that will work at a local level as well as a national.

The process of mediation within that is very important to the work that Concordis does. Historically what we’ve tended to do was start with what we term as conferences focusing on a very specific technical issue. We did a lot of work around the border issue when Sudan and South Sudan were separating to become two separate countries. There you’re creating a border where there are nomadic farmers, where you have ancestral grazing rights, where you’re separating families. How do you put a border through this and how do you even get to a process where you can discuss it, where you can talk about it when you are dealing with warring factions?

That was very, very interesting and the application of how it’s done was what first interested me in Concordis in the first place where they could take a technical element, border management, there are specific internationally accepted mechanisms for state borders. I have no idea. I’m no expert on them but what the charity Concordis was able to do was to bring international experts on that to a conference outside of Sudan and then bring selected and invited regional and national leaders to a conference.

It wasn’t about peace building. It wasn’t about reconciliation. It was about a technical issue of how do you create a border given the unique environment in which it must sit. Suddenly people, when focused on a given topic could sit around a table and could get some way towards reconciling differences on that topic. From there you have the seed of other reconciliation because they become people, not enemies.

It’s work starting from that and then going out into the regions. We’ve been running these conferences right the way through the border states in Sudan and South Sudan where you can have up to 150 people now out there addressing, what are the needs? How can you both deliver a border that works and manage it in a sustainable way, that delivers a workable solution on the ground in what is still a very, very tense environment?

The interesting story in there in terms of how can a mediator do this, we have an operations director now who runs the Sudan project, South Sudan. These are multi-million pound EU funded projects. They are major, major projects. We’ve got over 35 people, staff in the country. We’ve got seven offices around Sudan and South Sudan. Our operations director is called Richard King. He was a successful barrister and commercial mediator. He started getting involved as a volunteer going out and acting as the, you’d probably call it convener for these conferences, but acting as mediator as a mediation role within the conferences.

He ended up stopping his career at the bar. He’s done a Masters in Development Conflict at King’s and now lives his life doing this work, doing this conflicts prevention and peace building work full-time with Concordis.

There is now going to be a new generation of those conference conveners. We train people in- country as well. We work with partners in Cote d’Ivoire and Kenya and Sudan and South Sudan training them up as well locally on what does it mean? How does it work? What is a good mediator in those situations?

There are opportunities for complete life changing moments when you follow the mediation route. Absolutely.

Aled: Fantastic. Fantastic story. I think what was interesting is the parallel that you drew between how the work that you’ve done with sort of with ResoLex and X-Tracker, for example, where you described the individual’s needs, the team’s needs, the organisation’s needs, the project needs. Parallel that with farmers on the border and other members of the community that will be affected by any decision, what needs they’ve got and how those kind of feed up into policy. Very interesting. Are you able to use some of the theory or some of the technology that you’re using with Concordis or…?

Ed: Not the technological side because when you look at the budgets, the risk registers, the processes that the two sides of my life look at, it’s quite amazing. With my ResoLex hat on we look at computer systems. We look at budget lines for new laptops. We’ll have a look at a budget line on Concordis where you have bought three cows because you’ve got to cater at this conference, which is somewhere near the border in South Sudan.

Well, these cows have got to be bought. They’ve got to be butchered. They’ve got to be cooked. The risk register that we’re looking at on ResoLex where the planning permission for something may well be delayed by two months, where the cladding might not look as nice as it once was, through to our risk register on the other side which, as you can imagine, in a war zone is very different and we are constantly looking at the safety, the welfare and the death risk to our staff of operating in a war zone.

It is an amazing comparison between the two and one is certainly living at the sharp end of where mediation sits in the world, and does offer me a wonderfully clear perspective on some of the issues which seem to be exceedingly large in a corporate environment but when you actually step back and look at them, are fairly meaningless in the grand scheme of things.

Aled: I want to extract a little bit of learning from that. I think getting involved in some of the work that you’re doing at Concordis actually can help one get perspective in the other work that we do.

Ed: Absolutely.

Aled: I can really relate to that, some of the community mediations that I do help me get perspective, sometimes not just in the work that I do professionally but also just in my own personal life and how I my life gets more enriched with the more people and situations that I encounter and interact with. Not just thinking it from a sense of, from a commercial perspective or of a, kind of a peace generating, creating perspective but actually just from a self-actualising perspective, how we learn and grow and develop and our thinking is influenced by different experiences.

Ed: Absolutely. I think the overriding thing that I take right through that and bring back into the commercial environment it’s so easy to forget about the individual, yet everything that we do starts with an individual. If they’re not understood, if they are not, if their needs aren’t met, if they are not valued, they will not provide successful outcomes and that’s the same within a peace building environment. That’s the same within an IT project. That’s also the same within the resolution of a dispute. What are the real issues? What are the needs that are trying to be addressed with this piece of conflict, whether it be a partnership which is dissolving, whether it be an employment dispute, whether it be a land issue, we mustn’t forget about getting to understand the real needs and the real motivation points that are behind it all.

Aled: Absolutely. Ed, look. I know you’ve been really generous with your time already. I know you’ve just gone through a successful round of funding for another project so I know you’ve got a lot on your plate. This interview feels… I think I’ve been on a bit of journey in this interview actually because we started off talking very, sort of, technically about things and about value propositions and selling and making a difference and now we’re getting a bit more, I don’t know, to the more meaningful personal, emotional elements of the work that we do and the work that you do. I’ve really enjoyed that. I’ve really, really enjoyed that.

Ed: It’s always good to talk to you and great fun that we can do this and hopefully share some experiences and get people thinking outside of the box as far as mediation goes and thinking, ‘What else can we do,’ because the beauty of it is that it is a flexible process and it is a process that is owned wholly by the people who are within the mediation. Other than that there’s no rules, so we have completely, we have, the world is our oyster.

Aled: I agree wholeheartedly. What a wonderful note to end. Ed, look. I know people are going to want to say thank you and reach out to you, maybe want to find out and get involved in Concordis. What’s the best way for them to be able to do that?

Ed: Well the website for Concordis is www.concordisinternational.org. You can find out more information about ResoLex on www.Resolex.com. I am on LinkedIn and anyone who want to connect to have discussion is very welcome.

Aled: Underneath the video I’ll put the details of Concordis, link to that. I’ll put the details of ResoLex so people can link to that. Also put a link to your LinkedIn profile so if people want to reach out to you, connect, say thank you, they can do that that way. Is that all right?

Ed: Absolutely. That’d be grand.

Aled: Perfect. I want to be the first to say, ‘Thank you, Ed.’ Really appreciate your time today. I notice the sirens in the background. They’re obviously coming to get you so you need time to get out of the building?

Ed: [inaudible 01:06:55]

Aled: I’m really looking forward to coming up to town and maybe reliving some of those hedonistic days, not quite to the extent that we did but certainly reminiscing on some of those martyr debates.

Ed: Absolutely. I wish you good luck. For those that don’t know, whilst Aled is there smiling at the moment, he’s got a 50 mile run coming up in a couple of days, so you go do your best at that and I look forward to seeing you very soon.

Aled: A whole world of pain. Thank you, Ed.

Ed: Absolutely. Cheers, Aled.


About the mediator

Edward Moore Profile Pic

Ed is the CEO of ResoLex, a London-based consultancy specialising in risk monitoring and dispute prevention with an international reputation for innovation. ResoLex also use third party neutrals to identify areas of risk or potential disputes or head them off at the pass. They also have a number of specialists panels that intervene in areas such as construction, employment and patent compensation. His latest innovation is called Symfonix, an o... View Mediator