November 9, 2011

Sustainability Research on Community Mediation

Community mediation programs regularly search for new ideas and resources to address issues of center sustainability -- and sometimes even survivability. Given the painfully slow economic recovery and several states' still worsening financial woes, I'm glad to share a recent research article specifically focusing on community mediation sustainability. 

This article was originally published this past Spring and is co-authored by myself and Wendy E. H. Corbett, Program Coordinator for Solve-It! Community Mediation Service, a Ph.D. student at ASU studying conflict resolution in market economies, a NAFCM Elder, my lovely bride, and consistent competitor for my job! It was published in the Nevada Law Journal as part of a UNLV symposium issue on Conflict Resolution and the Economic Crisis, at which we also presented our initial research findings. The article analyzes numerous surveys administered during 2009 and 2010, and provides a number of sustainability recommendations for programs continuing to feel the economic pinch. 

Thanks to the generosity of the Nevada Law Journal, you can access the complete article to read about our findings and recommendations. I've also included a short excerpt which introduces the article's recommendations section:
Community mediation centers are weathering possibly the most challenging iteration of what has become a cyclical affront to their sustainability. These centers, serving as the nation’s constructive, structured, and professionalized mechanism through which the conceptual benefits of community mediation are realized, again confront economic challenges detracting their attention from a mission-oriented community focus and toward an operational defensiveness at ever increasing acuity and regularity. This shift from a ‘community’ to ‘continuity’ concentration threatens local impact, responsiveness, and overall relevance as the hastening whirl of expending resources in pursuit of resources further stresses staff, strains optimism, and distances centers from actualizing their principled objectives. 
This shift reflects neither the desire nor intent of the field’s dedicated professionals. Rather, it highlights a historical reality of the field’s precarious parabolic coupling with larger economic booms and busts. For while it is a cyclical certainty this current economic downturn will meet its sister’s rise, the nation’s network of community mediation centers will have suffered lasting injuries from the field’s contraction and distractions.  
Decoupling the field from this subjugation, thereby hastening our current ascension and shoaling future crevasses, requires operational measures practical within current limited resource realities. The following recommendations proffer several such measures. Some focus on individual centers’ activities, while others require the collaborative efforts of broader state and national actors. Many of these recommendations have been previously suggested in times of both economic certainty and distress—a testament to their foundational importance to the field. New insights gleaned from current research are incorporated where applicable to further enhance their practical benefit. All recommendations should be considered, chosen, and implemented in light of the realities within which individual centers currently operate.  [continue reading
We hope you find this recent research practically valuable and a solid contribution to the field's growing literature. We (Wendy, especially) look forward to continuing to provide fresh research that both analyzes and informs our field.

In community,
Executive Director, NAFCM

November 7, 2011

OMA Conference Recap

Over 250 mediators from the Pacific Northwest are filtering back into their local communities; rededicated, reenergized, and freshly equipped to help those in conflict. With the Oregon Mediation Association's 25th Annual Fall Conference now a wrap, I'm plane bound with plenty of new and renewed connections, a deeper appreciation for Oregon's robust ADR landscape, a BOX of VooDoo donuts, and an already palpable anticipation for OMA's 26th!

Community Conversations

Oregon is one of our nation's shining examples of community mediation done right. The nearly 20 dispute resolution programs dotting this state's eclectic and exceptional communities offer impressive service portfolios, are guided by truly passionate staff, and attract diverse and gifted volunteers. During my short time in Portland, I had the pleasure of meeting remarkable program leaders, such as Jim Brooks from the Beaverton Dispute Resolution Program, Allan Flood from Central Oregon Mediation, Amy Cleary from Clackamas County Resolution Services, Melody Twiss from Clatsop Community Mediation Services, Chip Coker from Community Mediation Services, Inc., Marlene Putman from Conflict Solutions from Tillamook County, Cameron McCandless and Brian Graunke from Mediation Works, Betsy Coddington from Resolutions Northwest, and Marti Kantola from Six Rivers Community Mediation Services, as well as volunteers from many other Beaver State programs.

The conversations entreating these connections were all over the map, but maintained a common thread: opportunity! Betsy, Chip, and I confirmed a continuing interest in having NAFCM convene a Pacific Northwest Regional Training Institute. Brian and I brainstormed potential NAFCM benefits local member programs could share with their volunteers. Cynthia Moore, Jim, and I committed to discovering new OMA/NAFCM partnership opportunities. And Ray Shonholtz and I pondered how NAFCM's growing directory and online map of community mediation programs could increasingly incorporate initiatives beyond U.S. borders.

Ray Shonholtz

Ray provided an engaging keynote call-to-action. He first spoke of his early work establishing and leading Community Boards in San Francisco, one of our nation's first community dispute resolution organizations. Though, as Ray noted, the community mediation field was originally motivated by the "calcified, arthritic judicial system of the mid-'70s," the field now also responds to myriad social and political developments. As illustration, Ray inspired with international examples from his time with Partners for Democratic Change where he assisted numerous local communities enhance their interpersonal and institutional conflict competence.

He also shared domestic musings รก la the recent Occupy movement and his well-received assertion that the ADR profession has a unique opportunity to help bridge widening social stratifications and encourage constructive dialogue amidst increasingly polarized rhetoric. Extraordinary a feat such a call-to-action may seem, Ray placed this opportunity and more not only within our capacity, but newly within many attendees' interests. It inspired a number of conference goers to coordinate a visit to Portland's own Occupy site to explore how ADR services may be of benefit to protesters, those protested, and the broader community they all share.  


If you were unable to join us in Portland or are are already looking forward to OMA's next peerless production, be sure to reserve November 2-3, 2012 for the 26th Annual Fall Conference. I know I'm already looking forward to it!

In community,
Justin R. Corbett
Executive Director, NAFCM

November 5, 2011

Restorative Programs & Community/State Collaboration

How does a restorative justice program balance diverse community and state resources to achieve even greater impact? Is it even possible to create a right or optimal mix of resources given these stakeholders' often misaligned roles?

Ted Lewis, Executive Director of the Barron County Restorative Justice Programs (BCRJP) in Northwest Wisconsin, thinks there is an ideal collaborative structure in which community and state actors  can engage to propel RJ programs toward greater integration and impact. His recent article, published in the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention's inaugural issue of the Journal of Juvenile Justice, reviews his experiences with BCRJP and its connection with various state collaborators. Detailing BCRJP's partnerships with municipal courts, police departments, schools, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Corrections, and numerous nonprofits, Ted takes a conceptual step back to consider how this 'interdependent' nonprofit balances community and stated interests for victim and offender benefit.

"A Partnership for Balancing Community and Government Resources for Juvenile Justice Services" is a quick, informative read full of intriguing info and ideas. The article outlines BCRJP's extensive service portfolio, core program statistics, and benefits, including lower rates of recidivism, reduced higher-level interventions, reintegration of youth offenders in the community, and a tangible cost savings to the county  of $378-$392 per offender. 

The complete rundown of services and statistics are being discussed on the Restorative Practices Discussion Group, an online listserve co-hosted by NAFCM and VOMA. We encourage all our restorative colleagues to join us in this free group to discuss this and other RJ research, hot button issues, and field updates. We look forward to welcoming you into the restorative conversation!

In community,
Executive Director, NAFCM