Looking for a Transformative Mediator?
As a mediator, who values the principles of conflict transformation, I operate from the premise that conflict offers parties the opportunity to change and grow in their interactions within the presenting conflict and within the context of their ongoing human interactions. Not all parties are interested or willing to view their conflict as an opportunity for growth. In those cases I honor their wishes and provide my best effort to help them resolve the conflict at hand.
My confidence in conflict transformation is based in 27 years of experience working with communities, businesses, and individuals in conflict. I have had the privilege of helping communities move from riot level potential for violence to multiracial, cooperative problem solving communities. I have had the privilege of helping parents move from destructive, conflict interactions to cooperative, co-parenting models. I believe in conflict transformation. I do not believe everyone or every situation is open to the potential for growth afforded by conflict transformation, but I am prepared and interested in helping those who are ready.
An Introduction to Transformative Mediation
The transformative approach to mediation was popularized by Robert A. Baruch Bush and Joseph P. Folger in their book, The Promise of Mediation: Responding to Conflict Through Empowerment and Recognition, published in 1994 by Jossey-Bass. Bush and Folger built their model on the premise that when mediation focuses on settlement and resolution it falls short of the real promise of what mediation offers parties in dispute and society as a whole.
From Bush and Folger’s perspective “Conflict is relational in nature and represents a challenge to the quality of the interaction among participants.” Their focus is on the transformation of the conflict interaction of the parties. In other words, the parties’ ability to own their part in the conflict and believe they have the power to exercise options to resolve or not to resolve the dispute. Further, each party will be aided in his or her ability to take self-directed actions by the willingness and ability of the other party to understand his or her position. The role of the mediator in this model is to assist the parties in owning their own “stuff,” believing they can be self-directed, and understanding the position of the other party. There is a comparable resolution rate in this approach to mediation. However, even if resolution does not occur, there is benefit to the parties in being empowered to make choices and recognize or understand the position of the other party. The conflict interaction between the parties can be transformed, even when there is no resolution.
In The Little Book of Conflict Transformation by John Paul Lederach, published in 2003 by Good Books, conflict resolution and conflict management are contrasted to conflict transformation. Lederach takes the position that conflict resolution and conflict management might solve a symptom of conflict but not the causes. His approach is focused more on community conflict and social justice issues. Conflict creates the spark that ignites recognition that change is needed in social systems. Resolving the presenting conflict may only delay the changes needed in systems to provide for social justice.
“A transformational approach recognizes that conflict is a normal and continuous dynamic within human relationships. Moreover, conflict brings with it the potential for constructive change. Positive change does not always happen, of course. As we know too well, many times conflict results in long-standing cycles of hurt and destruction. But the key to transformation is a proactive bias toward seeing conflict as a potential catalyst for growth.” (Lederach, p. 15)