April 16, 2011

ABA Dispute Resolution Conference Recap - Day 2

The second full day of general sessions is now a wrap at the ABA Section of Dispute Resolution's Spring Conference. What a day it was! From complexity theory to therapeutic dogs, I'm flying away with some interesting experiences and truly out-of-the-box thoughts. I'm also leaving with some new and renewed connections with colleagues involved in or supportive of community mediation.

Here's the community mediation recap for day two. Share your thoughts and respond to the questions by submitting a comment!

Topic: Engaging Conflict Before It Matures - Using Deliberative Dialogue to Assist Communities and Members of the Armed Services Bridge their Differing Cultures
Question: What is your community doing to help service members re-integrate into civilian life following deployment(s)?  Is there a way your program may be able to plug-in to and supplement these efforts?
Question: Could multi-stakeholder community dialogues focusing on the challenges facing re-integrating service members help bridge the military-civilian cultural divide? 

Resource: Learn about NAFCM's previous work supporting the re-integration of reservist service members.

Topic: Conflict Resolution and Creativity as Emergent Characteristics of Weak-Tie Networks and Small Worlds
Question: How many community dispute resolution centers are engaged in conflict prevention work, and what (beyond training) are they doing on this front?
Question: What is the right mix of conflict prevention, conflict engagement, and conflict resolution services?  Is there a "right" or "optimal" mix of these services for the entire field, or is it inherently contextually/community-based?
Resource: The Werner Institute for Negotiation and Dispute Resolution

Topic: Stories Mediators Tell
Question: Do you share your mediator stories?  If so, with whom (mediation program staff, fellow volunteers, others)?

Question: Would there be value in NAFCM creating a new repository of community mediation stories and/or outcomes?  Could we do such a thing and ensure confidentiality?
Resource: Medley of Mediation Stories created from participants of the NAFCM and VOMA listserves.
Resource: How would you categorize your favorite community mediation story? Love fest, horror novel, heart-warming, pure comedy, something else? Share your favorite story headline!

Finally, there were dozens of hallway conversations that kept the ideas flowing and connections strong.  In between sessions I was able to further the community mediation connection with JAMS Foundation's dedicated staff, Mediate.com's tech marvels, the nation's foreclosure mediation guru, court ADR resource and research powerhouses, and folks from CADRE, the ABA Section of Dispute Resolution, Pepperdine's Straus Institute, Creighton's Werner Institute, and many other brilliant and wonderful colleagues.

One specific conversation leaving me both smiling and scratching my head was with a mediator who uses trained, therapy dogs to ease tensions that arise during mediations. She said these dogs are trained to walk toward those expressing anger and calmly place their heads upon the laps of those whose anger is rising. "Who can stay mad when there's a cute dog calmly sitting by your side," she asked. Good point! Made me wonder if these pups were simply more advanced versions of koosh balls many mediation programs keep table-side to ease table tensions.  Also had me scratching my head about whether such purposeful use of service animals by the mediator may run afoul of any standards or ethical guides. While allergies may be at risk, confidentiality, it's safe to assume, wouldn't be jeopardized!

Throughout the conference we were also providing micro-updates and interesting links on our Twitter account.  Don't miss a quip!  Follow us as we head to other conferences and continue our exciting work.  

If yesterday's overview and today's recap have you feeling you missed out, be sure to mark your calendar for next year's 14th Annual Spring Conference in Washington D.C. on April 18-21, 2012. We'll reach out and work with the Section to find ways we can make next year's conference an even better, more accessible event for community mediation folks, especially those near our nation's capital.

Enjoy the weekend!

In community,
Executive Director, NAFCM

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