Wednesday, November 9, 2011
CADRE Conference Keynote- Mediation as Engagement Rather than Resolution
I have been raving about the recent CADRE conference, and so have the other participants whom I have spoken with. It was an excellent conference for many reasons. One that I have not discussed in detail so far is the keynote sessions. As usual, CADRE recruited top-notch professionals in dispute resolution to share some wisdom at the conference. All were excellent.
My favorite though was Professor Bernie Mayer of Creighton University. He talked about enduring conflict. Any wonder why this topic might resonate with special ed folks? He made some very interesting and provocative points. He suggested that we might move away from more traditional models of conflict: resolution or transformation. Instead for enduring conflict he suggested that we shift our focus to engagement. By this he means helping people engage with difficult issues in as constructive a way as possible. (I don't know what other special education mediators think, but this kind of sounds like what we do.)
He suggested that we focus on engagement and confront avoidance. He advocates framing the issue for the long term and establishing durable patterns of communication.
He said that we need to change our narrative from prevention to anticipation, from management to support and from resolution to engagement. He suggested that we consider asking a different question: instead of- what can we do to resolve or deescalate this conflict? he suggested asking - How can we help people prepare to engage with this issue over time?
He also said something that has never occurred to me and at first was surprising. He suggested that at times our role might even be to escalate conflict. One doesn't hear mediators use such language. But as I think about the statement, it to resonates. Avoidance of some enduring issues is not good; escalation may be a much better way to go.
I'd be interested in the reactions of other mediators to these thought provoking ideas.
Finally here is definitive proof that the conference was in fact held in Eugene. This is a photo of me eating a seaweed cookie substance called smart food! Please add your own punchline here......