Mediate.com is publishing a series of peer reviewed articles under the collective title Seven Keys to Unlock Mediation’s Golden Age. The objective of the Seven Keys is to encourage discussion among all stakeholders on navigating mediation’s best future. Table of Contents here.
The seven keys are: Leadership, Data, Education, Profession, Technology, Government and Usage, each with supportive articles, contributed by some 40 leading authors around the world.
The Seven Keys articles recognize mediation’s extraordinary versatility: a) resolving disputes, b) deal making, c) managing interpersonal disputes in families and communities, e) designing systems for schools and the workplace, f) peace-making between groups, g) and national public policy decision-making. Each key is a jigsaw piece that forms a vibrant, exciting vision of how the field can dramatically improve and prosper.
Mediate.com supports convening the field’s stakeholders to collaboratively grow mediation over the next decade. This is the goal of our upcoming online conference Mediation 20/20: Navigating Mediation’s Best Future on September 30-October 2, 2020.
2nd Key-Data: Run the Global Pound Conference (GPC) Series every 5-7 Years
The Global Pound Conference (GPC) Series 2016–17 was an ambitious project involving a series of 28 events held in 22 countries across the globe. Led by the International Mediation Institute (IMI), chaired by a user and supported financially by many outstanding sponsors, and chaired by a user (i.e. party), its purpose was to collect actionable data and stimulate conversation on shaping the future of commercial dispute resolution and improving access to justice.
The GPC was attended by 4,000 stakeholders who, with the aid of a dedicated voting app, were invited to express their views on issues at the forefront of dispute resolution. The use of cloud-based technology meant that many trends and patterns emerged in real time, prompting rigorous discussion among the delegates and experts in attendance. In adopting an approach that enabled both instant and longer-term results, the GPC generated data using methods not previously considered, in ways not previously possible, and at an unprecedented scale.
As insights and priorities continue to emerge from the data, its unique value becomes increasingly apparent. For example, based on the findings from the GPC, we are now able to identify distinct party profiles. These can be used by lawyers and other practitioners to better understand parties, including what they will need to increase the likelihood of reaching a resolution. The next step is to commit to regular GPCs to enable ongoing data collection to help improve all forms of dispute resolution, including mediation.
Stakeholders from across dispute resolution were represented at each event: Parties (disputants/users such as companies, other organizations, business owners, in-house counsel); advisors (lawyers, finance experts); non-adjudicative providers (mediators, facilitators); adjudicative providers (judges, arbitrators); and influencers (scholars, skills trainers, policy makers, government officials, Chambers of Commerce). The commercial parties that attended gave the GPC a vital party-centric approach. In the spirit of promoting ongoing research and conversation, the data is publicly available.
The value of holding periodic GPC Series events
A global perspective: The GPC Series 2016-17 was a global endeavour. As the events were held in 22 countries, it provided global perspectives. It was also global in the sense that it included participation from a variety of stakeholders across the dispute resolution spectrum, thus allowing mediation to be viewed through a much wider lens. This enabled us to see mediation’s impact both as a stand-alone process, and when used with other processes. In facilitating global input, we can compare data locally, regionally and globally across jurisdictions, and therefore learn from each other.
Monitoring progress: By conducting GPC events regularly over an extended period, it becomes possible to monitor and share progress against targets and priorities and ascertain trends. For example, the recent GPC North America Report identified several top priorities:
- Including ADR as a mandatory part of law school curricula and continuing legal education for lawyers and judges, and suggested inclusion in business school curricula;
- Increasing diversity of ADR providers/practitioners;
- Developing principles of proportionate discovery to reduce delays, costs and complexity and increase opportunities for early resolution;
- Conducting a systematic review of arbitration - specifically complexity, timeliness, costs and access to justice;
- Developing a strategic plan to manage the growing influence of mediation; and
- Shifting the focus to a party-centric approach to dispute resolution by prioritising the identification of parties’ needs, wants and expectations, and then matching these to the dispute resolution processes most likely to achieve parties’ desired outcomes. This contrasts with practices that focus on helping parties shoehorn their desired outcomes to fit processes offered by the practitioner/provider or specified by contract.
In collectively identifying this list of priorities for shaping the future of dispute resolution based on clear data, North America is now better-equipped to evaluate the impact of setting such priorities, measuring progress towards these goals, identifying the facilitating and inhibiting factors, and assessing the extent to which such priorities continue to be relevant. It also means the mediation community can take a more informed and strategic approach to promoting mediation within the context of the priorities identified as important for meeting the needs of parties.
Change over time: By adopting a systematic data collection process through repeat GPCs, the global dispute resolution field can identify changing attitudes and the impact of major turning points. For example, one of the themes to emerge from the GPC Series 2016-17 was parties’ reluctance to adopt mediation because of concerns about lack of enforceability of mediation settlement agreements. With the advent of the Singapore Convention on Mediation, we can monitor the ongoing impact of this international mediation enforcement mechanism on the needs, wants and expectations of parties involved in commercial dispute resolution. We have the unique potential to discover whether the impact is felt equally across jurisdictions or if local enforcement issues remain a major stumbling block. Crucially, such reflections and any subsequent response will not be anecdotal, but evidence based.
In terms of change over time, it may also be that we need to revisit the way that we conceptualise the key players in commercial dispute resolution. In future GPCs, additional stakeholders such as those with a role in helping parties build strong agreements and therefore prevent disputes, could be included. This may see business managers and other ‘negotiators’ take their own distinct place alongside the existing stakeholders as vital players in the commercial dispute resolution landscape. Exploring these opportunities by gathering data on what stakeholders think and desire on this subject in future GPCs is an exciting prospect.
Multi-modal data collection: Using multiple modes of data collection allowed the GPC Series 2016-17 to satisfy dual needs. Firstly, allowing quantitative data to be available to delegates in real time prompted robust conversation during each event. Secondly, conducting focus groups provided a source of rich qualitative data that could be analysed over time.
Multiple-choice questions enable participants to respond to matters identified as important by the researchers. Focus group questions, however, give participants scope to express their ideas about issues that they, themselves, deem important. Adopting this dual modality allows for checks and balances that ensure the research designers do not inadvertently confine responses to their areas of interest. There is wisdom in continuing to adopt this approach when conducting future GPC events. This is particularly important given the calls for a more objective or evidence-based approach to the search for what really works.
The GPC Series 2016-17 was a huge success. It generated invaluable data.
Let’s do it again.
1st and 2nd endnotes are the author bios below.
 The data was supplemented by online voting that incorporated information from people unable to attend a live event.
 The need to consider a range of methodologies, some of which may be new to mediation, and prioritize evidence-based practice is discussed in “Bring Objective Science to Mediation” by Ava J. Abramowitz & Kenneth E. Webb. For more information on the cross-disciplinary approach to data collection and analysis by the GPC Series, see the GPC North America Report here.
 For the overall data from the multiple choice questions asked, click here. For a summary report explaining global data trends and regional differences, click here. These documents are on the website of the International Mediation Institute, which initiated the GPC Series and can be found here and here.
 This idea is discussed further in “Establish strong, collaborative, mediative leadership” by Kenneth Cloke, Joan Goldsmith, Rosemary Howell and Alan Limbury (compiled by Valeri Primo).
 This idea is discussed further in “Teach mediation as a core subject aligned to real world needs” by Barney Jordaan and Deborah Masucci.
 For a full review of the Singapore Convention, see: The Singapore Convention on Mediation: A Commentary by Nadja Alexander and Shouyu Chong, Wolters Kluwer 2019. See also “Sign, ratify and implement the Singapore Convention on Mediation” by George Lim.
 The methodology adopted by the GPC has also been used extensively in the development of professional standards. With the advent of the Singapore Mediation Convention, and specifically Articles 5.1(e) and (f) which reference specific standards of mediator practice, it may be useful to consider other contexts within which the GPC methodology may make a contribution within the field of mediation e.g. in “Act to ensure mediation is respected as a true professional practice” by Pierrick Le Goff.
 This idea is discussed in “Bring Objective Science to Mediation” by Ava J. Abramowitz & Kenneth E. Webb.