"Meet the NAFCM Board" is a series of guest blog posts designed to introduce you to those shaping the agenda and direction of our field. We invite you to welcome new Board members and reconnect with our returning leadership by leaving a comment below.
When I first became involved with the Ventura Center for Dispute Settlement in 1992, community mediation was an almost unknown but handy ancillary process in which problems too big to ignore but too small for the courts could be sent for resolution. Over the years as the success of mediation became more widely recognized, community mediation centers became more widely recognized and accepted, and the centers themselves began more aggressive outreach as they ‘marketed’ their services. Those centers developed a range of specialized programs tailored to the needs of their neighborhoods and communities, and entered into partnerships with social and governmental agencies. In different places the centers were handling landlord-tenant problems; age, race and gender based conflicts; homeowner association disputes, etc., all in addition to the historical neighborhood annoyances that had been the bread and butter of community mediation in earlier decades.
Today much has changed even as much has stayed the same. In an era of declining federal, state and local governmental budgets, and an increasingly complex and astoundingly expensive judicial system, more and more people are turning to their local community mediation centers as their ‘top of mind’ resource seeking an ever widening range of services to deal with an ever expanding range of conflicts.
Through collaboration, cooperation and shared experience, our community of neighborhood mediation centers have the ability to meet the challenges of the coming decade. We know what we have done individually; let’s share that knowledge and assist one another to develop a network of service providers which are self-sustaining, self-supporting, and so deeply ingrained in the psyche of the people that we can fulfill the hopes of the community mediation pioneers. Community mediation is on the verge of becoming THE future avenue for “access to justice” for most of our constituents. We need to make sure we receive value for our services from those who can afford it, so that we can continue to provide no cost and low cost services for those who cannot. And NAFCM is the big tent that we can all come into as we share and prepare for the demands that will be confronting us in the years to come.
Thousand Oaks, CA