- synchronicity : noun
The simultaneous occurrence of several ideas
or events that appear causally unrelated,
yet when experienced together result
in something exceptional.
Recently, Mediate.com serialised a jigsaw of 23 pieces by 40 authors in 16 countries, in the form of both articles and author interviews, all part of the over-arching theme Seven Keys to Unlock Mediation’s Golden Age (#7KeysMediate). It aims to mobilize an energetic dialogue among the conflict resolution field’s stakeholders on new approaches and attitudes that will take mediation to higher, deeper and wider levels.
The Seven Keys sets out to inspire the field’s service providers, educators and trainers - aided by scholars and users - to provide a collaborative, mediative leadership where they simultaneously lead and serve. A leadership characterized by a commitment to empower all stakeholders to become joint owners, not just renters, of mediation’s future. To apply purposeful and deliberate practice aimed at the common good of the field in order to chart the future collaboratively.
Modern mediation has begun its 5th decade. The worldwide experience and wisdom gained over 40 years has brought mediation to a point slightly beyond adolescence but far short of maturity. The Seven Keys seeks to identify significant shortfalls in mediation’s development that, if recognized by the field, can be addressed and harnessed to create new, synchronistic opportunities. The 23 peer-reviewed propositions, each expressed in 1,111 words or less, offer a broad collection of important practical steps for the future covering opportunities, approaches and ways for the field to collaborate:
- Establish strong, collaborative, mediative leadership
- Making peer mediation a universal skill and mindset incubated in schools;
- Seeing mediators openly declare what they believe;
- Moving from anecdote-based practice to evidence-based practice;
- Repeating the Global Pound Conference series periodically;
- Developing a “Negotiation Index”, an app packed with instant user-friendly information and evidence to aid mediators and parties;
- Widely teaching mediation as a core subject to develop broad mediation literacy;
- Helping inexperienced mediators gain a practice foothold with mentoring and practice programmes;
- Training mediators more thoroughly in psychology and neuroscience;
- Training mediators to be culture-wise;
- Ensuring mediation is publicly respected as a true professional practice;
- Modernize legal practice culture;
- Ensuring mediation is more systemically encouraged and fused into arbitration;
- Subscribing to a Code of Disclosure;
- Taking full advantage of ODR;
- Leveraging new technologies;
- Giving all disputants the right to access mediation through a formal opportunity to understand and try mediation before and during litigation;
- Implementing the Singapore Convention on Mediation;
- Leveraging the value of women mediators;
- Engendering visible Government engagement;
- Proactively marketing mediation to users;
- Extending mediation techniques and mindsets to deal facilitation; and finally,
- If the main players collaborate to share leadership internationally and develop a single vision with a credible mission and a comprehensive budget, it should be fundable on a worldwide scale - it’s been done before!
The Seven Keys invites stakeholders to imagine a new order that creates a whole greater than the sum of its parts. Not best practice, but next practice.
Facilitating the Future
Having interacted closely with all the Seven Keys’ authors to explore the essence of their propositions and the trends they perceive, we were struck by a strong sense of synchronicity. The propositions, and the thinking and attitudes underpinning them do more than inter-connect. In combination they reach a supervening, metaphysical plane, a new realisation, potentially opening the way to a radical vision of mediation’s future, and its role in dispute resolution and beyond, that hopefully all stakeholders can believe in, support and deliver.
Several authors noted that mediators are natural leaders. Mediative leadership is an instinctive, but often latent, phenomenon in this field; latent because, at this relatively early stage in mediation’s development, mediation is understandably focused on its vast range of processes, techniques and skills - the very things that render mediation flexible and adaptable to situations, customs and cultures. However, mediation is also a mindset, a way of thinking, acting and behaving. Some authors noted that mediation’s very diversity makes it exceptionally complex, fragmented and competitive. All of which inhibits the field from practicing mediative leadership at the level needed to shape its collective future.
To deal with this wonderful heterogeneity, we seem to need a further jigsaw piece, one familiar to everyone - an appropriate, neutral facility purposefully designed to convene and help empower mediators worldwide to walk their talk and define the field’s future together. A mechanism for convening, creativity and consensus. The Xhosa, Zulu and Swazi have for centuries used a single word to describe a process of discussion to reach common ground among people holding varying views on an important topic: their word is Indaba, or Indzaba. In English we need two words: deal facilitation.
In a nutshell, a deal facilitation approach could begin with a convened network of highly respected, trusted, neutral figures in the negotiation field from around the world, such as scholars, educators, trainers and users not affiliated to any service providers. They would be from diverse countries, cultures and backgrounds. Their role would be to help the global mediation field to establish an agreed deal facilitation process and framework, and the issues that need to be addressed to helping the field lead its own way to a shared vision and mission using mediative principles.
Once a process and framework can be identified and broadly agreed, a strategic plan for the field could be developed with the full engagement of mediators and other stakeholders on a worldwide scale.
In Thinking, Fast & Slow, Daniel Kahneman comments: we can be blind to the obvious, and we are also blind to our blindness.
Mediators’ skills include helping parties become unblinded. Appreciating the power and success of neutral facilitation to help them envisage the field’s future together ought to be perceived by mediators as natural, even “obvious”. Mediators habitually steer parties to collaborate and forge options for mutual gain so why not apply the same for the mediation field itself? The field knows that deal facilitation mechanisms such as Dispute Resolution Boards really do work. Provided the deal facilitators are genuinely perceived as neutral and expert, they would be respected and trusted in this role.
Hopefully, mediation’s leading stakeholders will see the opportunity and find the best way to apply the principles they practice to the common good by effectively “mediating mediation”, expanding the field and benefiting all, including themselves. We believe they will.
The jigsaw will synchronize. Mediation will mobilize.
Author bios are below
 Seven Keys to Unlock Mediation’s Golden Age was serialised by Mediate.com in June and July 2020 and is downloadable as a consolidated e-book. Manon’s interviews with Seven Keys authors are viewable in each article here.
 See: Peak: How all of us can achieve extraordinary things by Anders Ericsson & Robert Pool (2016)
 Mediation is often said to be Confucian in origin, and has been used in various largely informal ways in community and workplace environments for well over a century. The 1976 Pound Conference, the seminal book Getting To Yes and other developments in the 1970s and early 80s are what we mean by “modern” mediation.
 Deal facilitation in the modern literature was conceptualized by Howard Raiffa of Harvard Business School in his 1982 work The Art and Science of Negotiation. Others, have built upon these ideas. See also one of the propositions in the Seven Keys: Extend the value of mediation into deal making by Véronique Fraser and Joan Stearns Johnsen.