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

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your excellent article. It pulls together all of the main issues that have been part of the ADR/CDR etc. 'movement' since the early days. I personally believe that the answer to sustainability feast and famine funding cycles requires practitioners to think not like a business and more like WOPR in 'War Games': 'The only winning move is not to play the game.' Or play the game differently. New models of sustainable enterprise are the only way the boom and bust, hat-in-hand approach can evolve into a true, new, effective approach to community building (which is what we're all about, right?) Give it away. Show up. Network. Connect. Ask people to pay you what they can. What they believe it is worth. Naive, maybe. But in my experience people who ask me, 'what does it cost' are making a value decision before they taste the product. "Whatever you think it's worth." It seems counter-intuitive. And it is. But we are moving into a counter-intuitive era. IMHO. Terrific work.