2020 Vision

2020 Vision – Where in the world will Mediation be in ten years?

Read the article, then check out the comments below.

Where will mediation be in 10 years time?
Will it still be a field, a movement, an occupation, a hobby?
Or will its market, by then, perceive it as a truly independent profession?
Can mediation’s stakeholders realistically exert a significant positive influence on the future?

As we start the second decade of the 21st Century, a ‘glocal’ debate is about to begin on the progression of mediation over the medium term.  We invite you to participate and share your own vision and practical ideas.

Share your ideas and send comments here, and let us know how you would like to participate.

The following are a selection of developing discussions and comments received in response to the article published in November 2010.

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  • Where will Mediation be in ten years time? (IMI Certified Mediators Group)
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General Comments

“With the cost of both litigation & arbitration so high, mediation will be the key, not only in 10 years, but NOW!”

Harvey Haber

“Congratulations on the article published at mediate.com! It is useful, insightful and thought provoking.”

J. Arthur Vasconcelos

“I think that in 10 years mediation will be stronger, more consolidated, well seated and it will be used more. The growth and popularity of mediation in the last years is a proof that it is increasing its influence in more places of the world and in more fields.  As well, through the years the people are more acquainted to mediation, recognize as a very important ADR method and are more prone to use it. In 10 years, all this could be more and bigger.

To say that mediation could be a hobby is not so appropriate; not only because of the reasons allowed in the lines before but also because is something useful to live in community. This is why the lawyers and the society take mediation as an occupation each day more. As well, in some places –like in Colombia- there are professionals that dedicate only to mediation although is still a field that has so much to explore. But if we push and encourage working for and in mediation, certainly in 10 years could be truly an independent profession.

Finally, the role of the mediator is essential not only from the perspective of each case that is resolved thought this ADR method. The important task that mediators achieve transcends the parties to the society, enacting the culture of resolving disputes peacefully and, from there, to the different circles of the community to embrace different ways to solve conflicts. To the extent that mediators are aware of this, there will be a work of positioning and strengthening of the mediation; otherwise mediators and all the people that work in mediation can make a real damage.”

Rafael Guillermo Bernal Gutierrez
Center for Arbitration and Conciliation of the Chamber of Commerce of Bogotá

“One concern that I do have is an exclusive focus on the top end of mediator practice. Whilst I strongly believe that there is a necessity for the professionalisation of mediator practice as envisaged by the IMI and in your article, I think that sight should not be lost of other levels of mediation. I am not saying that you are doing that but I am just cautioning against it.

Unlike in law and medicine where there are strong arguments for a single high level profession, I think mediation can be practiced at a wide range of different levels. For example mediators who mediate high level commercial disputes need higher level qualifications and greater experience than a “fuss-buster” in the playground or an in-house mediator in the workplace. I think that if mediation is to realise its full potential in society then a range of grades of mediator need to be recognised so that mediation is not considered to be the exclusive preserve of an elite group of professionals.

In Africa where informal mediation by community leaders has traditionally been a central feature of dispute resolution and where relatively informal community mediation continues to play an important role, it would not be appropriate to exclude those mediators who do these mediations and, worse still, to prevent them from practising unless they met the same standards as an international commercial mediator.

I think we should think of mediators similarly to people who, for example, practice karate. They should be able to qualify for the equivalent of a white belt up to a black belt. The challenge is to set the standards for each level and to enable users to be able to confidently choose a mediator who has the requisite level of qualification and experience.

I appreciate that the IMI has limited resources and needs to do one thing at a time. I also think that what it has done so far has been extremely valuable. I only put up these ideas in the context of a longer term vision and in the hope that in the near future it is able to move into the area of entry level mediator standards.”

John Brand

South Africa

“The article is excellent and quite correct, of course in its recommendations.  I foresee two problems that focus on what is not in the article: first, professionalism has a downside, at least in competitive market economies like the US, which is the effort to restrict practice in ways that will decrease supply, increase demand, and result in higher wages.  This creates problems for community mediators, beginners, and attorney vs. non-attorney mediators, and has already produced a really rather vicious set of exchanges between otherwise rational mediators in LA.  “True” professionalism, of course, can be defined to minimize this tendency, but it is quite real and needs to be discussed. The second is that professionalism, as in all professions, can be turned into an argument against innovation, creativity, intuition, and what I think of as a “necessary” set of dangers that we all face whenever we open a conflict conversation.  It can become a source of mediocrity, cronyism, and egotism.  Here also, as in all professions, a battle can be waged for excellence, open-mindedness, generosity and humility, but again, there is something to what Emerson said: “Everyone wants to be settled, but only insofar as they are unsettled is there any hope for them.”  Clearly we need a genuine, mature professionalism that avoids the worst of what happens when people try to fix what is actually flowing, or to stuff round objects into square holes, taking all the life out of them.  Clearly mediation offers us a way to do this, through interest-based methods.  What we need, I think, is a discussion of the potential downsides of this happening rigidly or greedily, and proposals for a mediative style of professionalism that can overcome them.”

Ken Cloke
President, Mediators Beyond Borders; Director, Center for Dispute Resolution United States

Comments on Mediation in Education

“I believe that the future of mediation lies in a massive availability of mediation techniques to all segments of society. Once our kids start learning mediation techniques regularly at the pre-school and elementary school levels preventive dispute resolution will become so ubiquitous that it will be used everywhere, all of the time. As a society we will just communicate on a new level, individuals empowered to prevent their own misunderstandings and avoid conflicts on their own, once the disputes are discovered early. This does not mean we will diminish the role of the mediators in the similar way our societies might redefine the role of the lawyers in the meantime, it just means that more and more conflicts are going to be resolved by their owners as a matter of course and less and less conflicts might be created in the first place. If we add into this combination a likely emergence of some kind of brain-machine interface (BMI) during the next decade, we will also need to learn to deal with new kind of misunderstandings. The fact that once we will have the BMI as a technology deployed, practically this will lead to some kind of non-verbal communication not only between the machines and individuals but also between the individuals, machines and other individuals. This will bring a completely new meaning to the term “online mediation”. Interesting times ahead!”

Mladen Vukmir

“I agree with the problems with the use of the term ‘alternative dispute resolution; I much prefer the term ‘appropriate dispute resolution, taking in the full range of dispute resolution process options from consultation to litigation and everything in between.

Interestingly ADR developed in SA in the mid-1980s, earlier than in most other countries. It happened at a time of extreme political conflict, under the apartheid regime, in response to the need in the economy for credible independent dispute resolution services. We drew a lot on the experience of the FMCS and AAA in the US, and ACAS in the UK, but have since developed our own training materials, case studies and unique methodologies such as ARB-MED. It is really important that the African experience be acknowledged, that African mediators are recognised and encouraged and that mediation and dispute resolution training is promoted in Africa. Is this something the IMI could do whenever the opportunity arises?

Then finally, it might be worth noting that the idea of OBE might not resonate positively in all contexts. In SA for example the switch to OBE in education has been a disaster and is apparently being ditched as a concept, although I am sure in reality the principles will be sustained but it will be called something else.”

Felicity Steadman
South Africa

“National Education Standards:  I believe mediation will become more of an independent profession and that there will be more schools and certifications for mediators that will identify licensed mediators to disputing consumers.  Thus, there has to be a national education standard for mediators and approved educational institutions.  Mediators require certain knowledge and skills that must be learned.  Perhaps there should be different levels of mediators some pro bono community mediators (requiring the least educational requirement) and commercial and construction (requiring much more), with international (requiring the most).  Each level of mediation should have different standards.  I believe there are too many people who hold themselves out as mediators with insufficient training or skills.

Marketing:  Use of mediators depends on acceptance and use by the courts and acceptance and use by the legal community.  The courts, for the most part, are accepting mediation as a viable dispute resolution process and efforts should be made to expand use of mediation in the courts.  The courts are becoming the training ground for new mediators.  When the courts accept mediation, the public at large become more comfortable with its use, as well as the legal profession.  Thus, the market for mediation, educating the public about the use of mediation,  really is being developed by the courts.

The biggest selling point is the limited cost of mediation.  A half day to a single day is usually the norm for most disputes while it is obviously possible that a complex dispute may take significantly longer.  Research should be updated on the success rate for mediations.  However, in my opinion, complex disputes do not normally evolve from litigation.  Usually there is a contractual provision that forces the use of mediation, prior to instituting litigation, or the parties themselves determine that mediation should be employed before using any other dispute resolution process.

Mediation Practice:  Mediators, I believe will join in groups to form a company, or will be sole practitioners, or will be under the umbrella of some larger professional entity, i.e. American Arbitration Association, JAMS, Endispute, etc.”

Judge Joyce J. George
United States

“What I would add to the text is about mediation education at every level of education…Education must be provided at every level, from kindergarten to post-graduate courses. The schools which deal directly with conflicts should maintain Mediation as an updated subject in their curricula.

…in the law schools, Mediation should be added as a required course in the basic curriculum for all law students. It should also be offered in business schools, in university psychology departments and other areas where conflict plays an important role”.

Nazareth Serpa
Specialist in educational aspects of mediation and ADR, Brasil.

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