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

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