I spent two days working with people from worker coops on the theory and practice of mediation. The first day also coincided with the UN International Year of Cooperatives.
We started by looking at and discussing what mediation means –
- what mediation is and how it differs from other dispute resolution approaches
- some understanding conflict tools – conflict mapping, PIN, impact/influence, process/content models. (PIN stands for positions, interests and needs. See the resources page for more.)
- that it’s not just the people and their issues – there are also structural and contextual issues to consider
Then we moved on to reviewing and developing some core skills…in two parts
- state of mind – being neutral, impartial and non-judgemental…what this is like to experience…can we be totally non-judgemental (about what we think, but not about how we are understanding the dialogue)…the questions that might be good to ask to seek clarity
- active listening – how it is different from everyday conversation…feels clunky at first, but like any skills needs to be developed…enables people to own their solutions – the problem is the parties’, not the mediators
And then a fair bit of practice…1st contact meetings…face to face mediation practice…debriefing
We also had plenty of discussions to understand scenarios and possibilities. And looked at some of the complexity of applying mediation – the need to amend confidentiality (disclose stuff where you say you’ll harm yourself or others)…the difficulty of having two roles – mediator and personnel worker…the need for a referral process (Cooperatives UK to draft, group to review)…what a mediator network might look like and how to make it so…further developmental needs.
The handouts we used are available on the resources page.
People were asked to evaluate the training too. Overall it scored 8.89 out of 10. I’ve included some comments below, but it also struck me, from the evaluation, that we need to get some more info on the kinds of disputes that happen in coops (as opposed to other workplaces) to enhance the case studies/role plays.
Some comments about what was found useful –
Structuring the process of mediation – making it less scary
Opening my eyes to the positive potential of mediation within my organisation
Charts, diagrams – very useful tools to explain the process quickly and simply
The ability to put what we were talking about into practice through role play
Some about what was less useful –
Role plays too tame. Get people to act naughty.
Each part seemed to be useful and serve its purpose, so its hard to pick the ‘least useful’ bits.
What was missing –
Nothing I can think of. More detail/practice would be useful, but I feel that as much was packed into the time available as was possible.
More information about mediation theory, but this probably wasn’t possible in the time
Rhizome’s mediation guides are available on our Resources page