Thursday, June 27, 2013

Crisis and Opportunity

I've been working with my co-chair Robyn Weinstein to put together SCMA's 25th annual fall conference, to take place in Malibu on November 2, 2013. Our theme this year is "Crisis and Opportunity: Expanding the Field of Conflict Resolution." The theme is drawn in part from our organization's efforts to create new opportunities for mediators in the wake of the unexpected closing of the Los Angeles County Superior Court ADR program.

But there are plenty of other crises all around. Take your pick of them. Our aim is to get people thinking about how the tools and tricks of our trade can be used to solve a myriad of problems, from international conflict to partisan gridlock in Washington to environmental pollution to gun violence. Mediated solutions can help ameliorate all of these problems and more.

The application of conflict resolution skills to our most pressing social and political problems will not only help save the world, but might also have practical value for our professional lives. We need to expand the definition of mediation beyond that of a professional hired to persuade people to settle a lawsuit, to a whole range of other applications. Workplace conflicts; labor conflicts (a traditional area for mediated solutions way before the use of mediation to help resolve lawsuits); public policy disputes; land use decisions; conflicts within schools and other institutions. All of these areas are ripe for intervention by people applying modern techniques of conflict resolution. Maybe we can even teach lawyers to resolve disputes in a more cost-effective and less destructive manner.

That brings up a new feature we are planning to add to the conference this year: a track geared toward legal and other types of advocates, both to emphasize the use of negotiating skills in formalized mediation sessions, and the application of conflict resolution techniques to solve clients' problems. We're also going to touch on other pressing issues in the field including mediator certification and regulation, ethical issues in the conduct of mediation, and mediation in specific substantive contexts. And we plan to continue the advanced track begun last year, to attract experienced mediators to the conference. And lots of other stuff. Stay tuned at scmediation.org where we will soon have up a schedule of the planned panels and other materials relating to the fall conference.


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