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The State of Community Mediation

by Justin Corbett
March 2012 Justin Corbett

The National Association for Community Mediation (NAFCM) has released its much-anticipated new report: The State of Community Mediation. This fieldwide assessment is the most comprehensive in nearly a decade, and includes many never-before reported statistics detailing the size, scope, and impact of the the community practice area.

Co-authored by Justin R. Corbett and Wendy E. H. Corbett, The State represents a year-long effort to capture and compile key data from throughout the field on such aspects as program structure, funding, operations, services, and impact. It analyzes and presents the experiences of over a hundred U.S. community mediation programs representing diverse geographic, operational, and programmatic contexts. Given its scope and detail, The State promises to stand as a rich resource for community mediation programs, volunteer mediators, field supporters, and researchers for many years to come.

Anticipating this broad interest, NAFCM has chosen to make this extensive resource available on its website for free! Further, an entire section of NAFCM's website (http://Go.NAFCM.org/TheState) has been developed to transform this point-in-time report into an evolving discussion about community mediation, its challenges, potential, and role within our field and broader society. This site includes a variety of opportunities to review, engage, discuss, and share this important new resource. You can start by reading the report, sharing your thoughts, contributing your own experiences, and joining the community mediation movement.

As an example of the information contained within The State, I have included below an excerpt from the report's "Field Overview":

The breadth and diversity of the community mediation field is extensive. Programs diverge on nearly every measure of structural and programmatic design, including their financial resources; staffing arrangements and size; integration of volunteers; service capacity, diversity, and focus; collaborative partnerships; outcome objectives; and much more. The field contains a diverse collection of organizations, professionals, and skilled volunteers. It encompasses entities with 40-plus-year tenures and recent start-up programs. It benefits equally from the wisdom of decades-long Executive Directors and the vitality of new hires. It contains an enormous league of volunteer mediators who partner their own wonderful diversity with state-of-the-field mediation training to serve those in conflict. It represents not only the variability found within the broader dispute resolution landscape, but also the many communal heterogeneities the field tirelessly serves.

While embracing and encouraging this diversity, the community mediation field contours itself and stands united through a number of shared tenets. These characteristics of community mediation programs, originally outlined by NAFCM over a decade ago, represent the core ideals motivating the field’s continued existence and community service. These shared tenets identify community mediation programs as characterized by and/or committed to:

  1. A private nonprofit or public agency or program thereof, with mediators, staff, and a governing/advisory board representative of the diversity of the community served;
  2. The use of trained community volunteers as providers of mediation services, with the practice of mediation open to all persons;
  3. Providing direct access to the public through self-referral and striving to reduce cultural, economic, linguistic, physical, and programmatic barriers to service;
  4. Providing service to clients regardless their ability to pay;
  5. Providing service and hiring without discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, race, color, religion, gender, age, disabilities, national origin, marital status, personal appearance, gender and/or sexual orientation, family responsibilities, matriculation, political affiliation, source of income, or other important local measures of communal diversity;
  6. Providing a forum for dispute resolution and engagement at the earliest stages of conflict;
  7. Providing an alternative to the judicial system at any stage of a conflict;
  8. Advocating, initiating, facilitating, and serving as a resource for collaborative community relationships to effect positive systemic change; and
  9. Engaging in public awareness and educational activities about the values and practices of mediation.

Thoughtfully constructed and widely ascribed, it is the adherence to and steady striving toward these characteristics that unite the eclectic collection of programs, professionals, and volunteers comprising the community mediation field. Within this aspirational framework, community mediation has grown from a small collection of organizations to an evolving field of approximately 400 U.S.-based programs, 1,300 full-time equivalent staff members, and over 20,000 volunteer mediators. Growth beyond national boundaries expands the field even further and likely doubles or more the total number of programs which stand ready to constructively engage, manage, resolve, or transform conflicts of nearly every imaginable manifestation.

Within its current form, the community mediation field is a veritable one-stop-shop for all things conflict-related. It has evolved, extended, and engrained itself within hundreds of communities as the resolution choice of increasingly earlier resort. And while the availability of any particular service and capacity of each specific program varies significantly, collectively, the community mediation field contains the expertise and enterprise to engage both the everyday and the extraordinary with similarly constructive effects. [Click here to read the rest of the report]

Biography


Justin Corbett is Executive Director at NAFCM: The National Association for Community Mediation. Justin also serves as Associate Professor of Negotiations and Alternative Dispute Resolution at Indiana University - Indianapolis. Justin is past Executive Director & Mediator at Indyspute Resolution & Dialogue Center, Inc. and received his education at Pepperdine University School of Law, Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis and The University of Cambridge.



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