This year's Southern California Mediation Association conference experimented by adding an advanced track, co-sponsored by the American Institute of Mediation. The new feature enabled more experienced mediators to attend a series of workshops on topics that might be of more interest to them. This part of the conference seemed to be well received, but I will be curious to hear more reactions to it from participants.
We felt the need to offer these kinds of programs in part to expand our reach as an organization. SCMA needs to remain relevant to more established mediators as well as introducing newcomers to the field. In order to function as a true professional organization, SCMA has to offer programs of interest to those members, and also to serve as a forum for the development of professional standards and practices, and to address issues of concern to professional mediators such as mediator certification, mediation confidentiality, and other rules and regulations applicable to the practice.
In fact, the organization needs to go even further. It should not only help train new mediators and assist established mediators, but should also serve the interests of a range of professionals who want to incorporate mediation concepts into a variety of careers, from counselors to police officers to HR professionals to ombudsmen to lawyers like myself who not only mediate but also use mediation and negotiation skills in their practice. The future of mediation is not limited to developing a cadre of professionals who call themselves mediators, but instead aims to introduce approaches to the resolution of conflict that all of us can use in every aspect of our business and personal lives.