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Promoting the Mediation Process

Promoting the Mediation Process

How can we grow and promote mediation?

 

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My sense is, in Scotland, that almost the lack of encouragement from the courts has pushed mediation out in some very interesting directions. So I think we probably do need social entrepreneurs, you know? People who have a vision and who are going to take the new mediation interest.

 

For example, in Scotland there’s an initiative in homelessness mediation, which has actually got some Government funding and is now called the Scottish Centre for Conflict Resolution off the back off that. They’re working with vulnerable young people, trying to help them not be homeless and rebuild social connection with their families.

 

I think there’s, off the back of that work, it’s another example of how a mediatory approach has got enormous mileage. It might not be that you train another professional mediator, it might be that you train a housing officer how to take a mediatory approach. I came across some fascinating research from Holland and Denmark about, technically, it’s about handling complaints against public authorities.

 

So you might not think very promising, but in fact, what they were doing there was based on procedural justice literature. Which is another thing we cover in this theory course. That’s one of the contributions of law into all of this. Based on that, they have this idea that if you could teach civil servants to take a mediatory approach to the public, they might be able to reduce the number of appeals that were lodged, the number of complaints that were made.

 

Well, it turned out in both Holland and Denmark, not only did it do that, it also increased the job satisfaction of the civil servants. The simple, simple device of picking up the phone and calling somebody and saying, ‘I’m probably going to make an adverse decision, but would you like a chat about it?’ Instead of the very typical reaction of public servants would be, ‘We’ll put it in writing and we’ll send a letter.’

 

That increased job satisfaction to something like 25% to 30%. These are very interesting areas with, I would say, a mediatory approach, the whole field of employment. I think it’s fascinating. That’s a growth area, I would say. From experience, I know a number of mediators in Scotland who are beginning to . . . I wouldn’t say it’s a huge full-time living for anyone, yet, but there is more and more around. Again, huge flexibility is called for. I’m involved with [inaudible 00:39:28] coaching, sometimes it’s called conflict coaching I’m sometimes involved in training, team building, working with groups, facilitating group discussions. Now, is that mediation? I think the boundaries are quite blurry, and for what it’s worth, I think mediators are probably better qualified, when you’ve got a few years of mediation under your belt, to offer those skills in a very wide array of situations.

 

It’s not really growth of the mediation field. I think, what I’m saying is I can see a career development path for people who, get conflict resolution skills under their belts, becoming very useful in organisations and in settings of conflict. Can I say, quite a number of students now – we’re in our fifth year now – most of the students I would say are people who are doing something else.

 

They’re coming from and HR or a management background, some from a legal background, some from education. They’re not necessarily intending to be professional mediators. Some are and some aren’t, but they’re integrating this stuff into their existing career. I’m very comfortable with that, those seem to be people who’d get a lot out of an understanding of a mediatory approach. One module that’s been a revelation to me was, I do one on negotiation and it’s absolutely fascinating. That’s such a core activity for everybody, and yet very little-covered and particularly on a critical-theoretical level. Very few negotiators in Britain have any sense of any theory underpinning what they do.

About the mediator

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A solicitor and former professional musician, Charlie Irvine has developed Strathclyde Law School’s LLM/MSc in Mediation and Conflict Resolution, on which he is Course Leader and Senior Teaching Fellow. Additional teaching duties include an Elective in Mediation for PEAT1 students; Negotiation and Mediation on Strathclyde’s LLM in Advocacy; Negotiation on the Clinical LLB; and Legal Process for undergraduates. He has also founded Universi... View Mediator