The following report was provided by one of my mediation colleagues, Patrick Westerkamp.
I look forward to seeing what ACR (Association of Conflict Resolution) and we mediators can do collectively to promote our profession.
NEVER GIVE UP!
Patrick R. Westerkamp
Westerkamp ADR Services, LLC
On June 20, 2007 more than 50 members of the New Jersey Association of Professional Mediators were briefed on the Association for Conflict Resolution’s plans for a nation-wide public education initiative. The ACR’s goal is to increase public awareness of ADR, and to empower people to access appropriate dispute resolution processes.
The briefing was delivered by Jim Rosenstein and Rita Callahan, who chaired a Task Force in conjunction with implementing ACR’s mission of “enhancing the quality of practice, study, public understanding, and wide-spread use of conflict resolution.” As full-time mediators and facilitators, Rita and Jim have both experienced the dynamics of starting a neutral practice.
The Task Force opted to move forward based on the neutral community’s general understanding that the primary reason for ADR’s underutilization is the public’s lack of general awareness. The resulting Action Plan had two components:
1. A marketing/public relations initiative to communicate “awareness” and “empowerment” messages to the general public;
2. An initiative to involve ADR practioners (both within and without ACR) in the implementation of the awareness and empowerment program.
Jim and Rita left the group with several important “take aways.”
• If the public becomes more knowledgeable about ADR, marketing individual practices will become more effective;
• Mediators and arbitrators owe it to themselves, and to the profession, to assist with educating the public;
• Effective education requires avoiding jargon, e.g., ADR, mediation. Instead, use plain language to explain what we do. For example, arbitrators might say, “Did you know that Judge Judy is really an arbitrator? I do the same thing, but without the robes”;
• When educating “gatekeepers” such as attorneys about ADR, we must answer the–often unasked–question, “What’s in it for me?”; and
• Joining with your peers in educating the public increases your individual exposure.