January 20, 2012

D+I Week 1: Celebrating Our Progress

The first week of NAFCM's monthlong Diversity and Inclusion Discussion Series is now coming to a close, but we're not yet ready to stop the conversation! Centered around this week's theme of "Celebrating Our Progress," listserve participants have been entreated by a number of daily topics and related prompts. For those not on the list, however, I'd like to open a concurrent communication channel through this post and its comments section. 

Take a look at this week's daily topics and related prompts (below the break) and then share your comments on those that spark an interest.

In community,
Executive Director, NAFCM

Date: Wednesday (2012-01-18)

Facilitator: Justin R. Corbett
Topic: Celebrating Our Progress
Community mediation in the U.S. is a wonderfully eclectic patchwork of 400 programs, 1,300 (FTE) professional employees, and 25,000 volunteers. As practitioners and programs we vary on nearly every measure of diversity. We come together, combining our expertise and our passion, to serve our communities with all manner of conflict-assistive and educational services. As a field, we've made incredible strides toward promoting and modeling inclusiveness within our programs and our communities.

Let us take this week to celebrate our progress! Consider the questions below and share your experiences, thoughts, and encouragement on all that we've achieved on the road toward ever-greater diversity and inclusion (D+I) within our field.
Discussion Prompts:  
  1. How have your organization's efforts to embrace D+I enhanced your services or extended your reach?
  2. Are there specific examples of how your D+I focus made a profound impact on your staff members, volunteers, or service recipients?
  3. Is there a specific vignette, policy, or practice from your program which encapsulates your commitment to D+I?


  1. How has the community mediation field embraced and beneficially leveraged your own measure(s) of personal diversity?
  2. Are there specific examples of how your (embracing of) diversity positively influenced the outcome of a conflict?

Date: Thursday (2012-01-19)
Facilitator: Justin R. Corbett
Topic: Testimonials of Inclusion & its Impact
As we seek to achieve ever-greater diversity and inclusion, we're strengthened as a field, as organizations, and as practitioners. Volunteers representing new corners of our community bulster our credibility and perceived efficacy within certain conflict contexts. Staff and Board members with diverse backgrounds ensure our administration and governance is mindful of new populations and new areas of programming. The more we represent the rich diversity of our own communities, the more we engrain our services and endear ourselves to those who may benefit from them.
Discussion Prompts:
  1. How has your focus on D+I allowed you to reach and serve new populations?
  2. Share an example of how your diverse volunteer roster has lent credibility or perceived efficacy to your program.
  3. Are there other examples of how your D+I focus has made an impact on your organization? 


  1. How has mediator diversity made a positive impact within a mediation session?
  2. Does your personal diversity as a program staff or Board member influence organizational decisions?
  3. Are there other examples of how community mediation's D+I focus has made a positive impact on you as a administrator/practitioner? 

Date: Friday (2012-01-20)
Facilitator: Clay Fong
Topic: Institutionalizing Inclusion - Organizational Accomplishments
How best to define organizational accomplishments pertaining to diversity and inclusion in a community mediation context? Is it enough to say that we have a certain number of staff and volunteers that represent a certain category of gender, race, or religious belief, to name a few key categories? Or does this smack of tokenism? I would suggest that there is a very real risk of just doing things by the numbers and it reminds of an experience I had in the mid-90s as a budding mediator. I was invited to be a restorative justice community member in a case involving an Asian family that recently immigrated to the United States. I pointed out to the program staff that I might not be the ideal person. Although my family origins are Asian, the clients were of a completely different culture and nationality. Also, I'm fourth generation on my Dad's side, so I didn't feel that I could adequately speak to their experiences, and I didn't want to be the privileged guy telling them what's what (an oversimplification, but I think folks get the point). I did the best I could in that case as a community, but I felt I was sometimes at odds with facilitators.

Thus begun my exploration of these issues. Fifteen years later, my responsibilities as a program manager have led me to explore issues of diversity and inclusion. Our program has a diverse base of staff and volunteers, but the number of volunteers who are of color or speak a language other than English shouldn't be the end point in weighing our accomplishments. Perhaps the measure should be more of whether a program's mediators can understand the cultural distinctions that come into play when working with a client from Chile in dispute with a client from Mexico. Or whether there's enough cultural sensitivity to address a client's declaration that they don't like people of the majority culture. When I was tapped as a community member a long time ago, I think that program had not accomplished that level of sensitivity and awareness, although they were certainly able to point to having minority volunteers and clients.

Of course, proactive outreach is another key part of organizational accomplishment. We've worked on building relationships with the City's Human Relations Commission and Office of Human Rights (mediation is built in as a component of both the city's wage theft and human rights ordinances), ethnic affinity organizations, the Anti-Defamation League, and the police department's Latino community liaison, among others. These are means to an end, and for my money, the greatest accomplishment is when historically underserved members of the community see us as an honest broker that can help them solve their problems. Once we move beyond the easily quantifiable, enhanced by building partnerships, and can make the distinctions between mediating in culture as opposed to just in language, can we point to meaningful organizational accomplishments.
Discussion Prompts
  1. What are the organizational accomplishments that you have achieved with respect to diversity and inclusion?
  2. In support of diversity and inclusion, who are key organizations and individuals that you have reached out to?
  3. What are your goals for the upcoming year regarding organizational accomplishments?


  1. While today's topic focuses on organizational accomplishments, what can you individually contribute to your group's efforts regarding diversity and inclusion?
  2. What do you see as the biggest challenges to institutionalizing inclusion, and what are the best ways to address them?
  3. As an individual drawing upon your personal network of contacts, who can you recruit to assist with your organization's inclusion goals?

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