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<xTITLE>Occupy and Mediation: Two Movements That Offer One Another Massive Opportunity </xTITLE>

Occupy and Mediation: Two Movements That Offer One Another Massive Opportunity

by Jim Melamed
November 2011 Jim Melamed
Without seeking or wanting to take a political position on whether the Occupy Movement has positively moved critical national discussions forward, or whether it is just a bunch of young folks in need of showers and jobs, one thing is perhaps clear: mediation is emerging as the preferred Occupy dispute resolution process of choice. How could it be otherwise?

To begin with, any person who has ever facilitated a group must be impressed by Occupy general assemblies and both their ability to “self-amplify” with their "human mic" to make sure that everyone can hear, and also by their consensual “fingering” of their level of support for a proposition. This is truly a level of self-facilitation rarely evidenced. In fact, I am not sure that I have seen a better large group general consensus identifying process.

Next, when there have been conflicts within the Occupy group, it is clear that they have selected to utilize mediation to resolve the disputes. This is valuable both in the assembly being able to efficiently refer the most difficult matters for dedicated discussion amongst all interest groups and also to ensure that all who want to be heard are heard. See these articles about the Occupy Movement’s use of mediation: Occupy Wall Street vs. The Drum Circle and Occupy Wall Street: Drumming, Mediation and the Occupation.

Of particular interest to the author is how the Occupy Movement, including in its dispute resolution efforts and consensus building, has also extensively relied upon the Internet for dialogue and decision-making. And so, while the Occupy Movement is at one level very “brick and mortar” (really rip-stop nylon and duct tape), at another level the movement is very cyber, and it is clear that online communication capacities are the lifeblood of the movement and complimenting all aspects of their operations, including online discussions being an important part of the Occupy Movement's dispute resolution and mediation efforts.

It does seem that there is a certain congruence between mediation and the Occupy Movement. To the extent that the movement is a new expression of “pure democracy,” it is clear that there is high value placed on allowing participants to be heard, there is also support for dissenting views, and a primacy of seeking effective and voluntary agreed-upon solutions. I particularly note that, in pursuing dispute resolution options, we do not exactly see the Occupy movement relying on the courthouse for “justice,” or do we?

As it turns out, the Occupy movement will eclectically utilize the full range of dispute resolution options, including the courts. See for example these two recent articles: Occupy Boston will attend mediation with City, BPD, and Rose Kennedy Greenway and Court: OccupyBoston can stay, but has to appoint mediators and abide by final ruling.

And so we see that, even when matters make their way into the courts, when it comes to the Occupy Movement, the answer is mediation! What other flexible and durable answer could there be?

And so, to get to my bottom-line, I would like to issue a challenge to the Occupy Movement. I ask the movement to recognize mediation as the movement’s preferred dispute resolution process. Some progressive states, like my home state of Oregon, have done exactly this. If you review Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS) 36.100, you will find the following language:

“It is the policy and purpose of [the State of Oregon] that, when two or more persons cannot settle a dispute directly between themselves, it is preferable that the disputants be encouraged and assisted to resolve their dispute with the assistance of a trusted and competent third party mediator, whenever possible, rather than the dispute remaining unresolved or resulting in litigation.”

And so I issue this challenge to the Occupy Movement: Identify mediation as the Occupy Movement’s preferred dispute resolution process. If you will do this, we can not only change the conversations that takes place in our society, but how those conversations take place. Enough polarized stalemates already!

It is time for us to be inclusive and to be smart. It is time for us to do things in better ways . . . to do things in "best ways." All of us at hope that the Occupy Movement recognizes the actual and symbolic value of adopting a powerful policy of mediation as a preferred dispute resolution process. Together, we can shine this guiding light for the world.


Jim Melamed co-founded in 1996 and served as CEO of through June 2020 (25 years).  During Jim's tenure, received the American Bar Association's 2010 Institutional Problem Solver Award.  Before, Jim founded The Mediation Center in Eugene, Oregon in 1983 and served as Executive Director of the Academy of Family Mediators (AFM) from 1987 to 1993. Jim was also the first President and Executive Director of the Oregon Mediation Association (1985-86). Jim's undergraduate degree is in psychology from Stanford University and his law degree is from the University of Oregon.

Jim has received the following awards: The Oregon Mediation Association's 2003 Award for Excellence; The Oregon State Bar's 2006 Sidney Lezak Award of Excellence; The Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR) 2007 John Haynes Distinguished Mediator Award; The 2012 Academy of Professional Family Mediators (APFM) "Getting To Yes" Award; The APFM's first Outstanding Mediator Award (2018); and the Oregon Mediation Association's 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award.

Additional articles by Jim Melamed