Comments: Keystone Conference: No, We Are Not A Field and Here is Why the Question Matters

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Jon , Ottawa On   01/24/07
Is mediation a
As a family mediation practicioner I found the articles about the “field” issue interesting and informative. My conclusions after reading them are as follows: 1 Conflict Resolution is the field 2 Mediation is a discipline within the field 3 Within the mediation discipline there are sub-disciplines of which family mediation is one 4 That in today’s world, where “professions” are usually determined by governmental geographical boundaries (e.g states and provinces), some places do have strong recognizable family mediation professions ( self regulating with governmental/legislative recognition e.g Quebec, Canada); others have (quasi)(weak)(self proclaimed?) professions [unenforceable self regulation without government/legislative recognition (e.g Ontario, Canada)]; and some have only practitioners (no self regulation, no government/legislative recognition (wherever). The interesting argument for me is whether the second category above can be truly called a profession where there is no governmental approval. Is what matters the definition or the perception of the persons the discipline serves. I may consider myself a “professional” because I fit into all the criteria listed by the authors of the articles; but if the “family mediator” in the building next door has none of the qualifications but advertises to the public the same services as myself, with impunity, is family mediation really a “profession” in the modern sense of the term? Is the make or break point on being called a profession today governmental licensing or recognition? I suspect in the mind of the general public it probably is. Probably the first step to obtaining that recognition and thus designation, is creating a self regulating organization that meets the definition of “professional” and then lobbying the relevant government for the necessary licensing authority.

Victoria Pynchon, Beverly Hills CA     10/30/06
Are We Professionals
Great think piece, raising all of the important interests that underly such on-going debates as the benefits and detriments of pro bono court annexed mediation panels. The fact that we ask this question demonstrates that we are, as a profession, still in our infancy. (a good thing! it means we can still grow in as many directions as possible) Since I'll always have the J.D. and Esq. hovering after my name, I don't much care whether mediation itself is considered a profession or whether the people whose disputes I help resolve consider me to be a "professional." I'm happy to be considered, in this order, a fallible human being among fallible others, all of whom are trying to do good as well as to do well; a better partner to my husband and friend to my friends than I generally manage to actually be; a poet and writer; a mediator, largely of commercial disputes; a community mediator, largely of neighborhood disputes; a perpetual student, particularly of all matters pertaining to conflict, including psychology, sociology, anthropology, political science, religion, international diplomacy, and the like; a peer counselor; a negotiator; and, a lawyer. I happen to be female, but don't much think about it unless it's called to my attention in a negative way. This doesn't mean that I'd trade men's 23 or so cents on the dollar to my gender's average income for the pleasures and benefits of being a woman in 21st Century America. But that's another topic. I don't think we should try to pigeon-hole ourselves into one box or another. I'd rather call mediators artists than anything else since that's as broad a category I can think of. And I don't think anyone will take issue with me that mediation is an art. I believe we should stay as broad as we possibly can as a "profession." The only point I don't agree with is that "professionals" must be REGULATED by the State. Though they often ARE, let's not confuse the government's desire to pigeon-hole, restrict, "reify," dominate, tax, license, and discipline with professionalism. Thanks for the great article and the opportunity to do some additional thinking myself on this important topic.

Dr A     10/29/06
We are not a field and here is why the question matters
COMMENTS ON ‘NO, WE ARE NOT A FIELD AND HERE IS WHY THE QUESTION MATTERS • I read with some interest the paper presented by Dr Adler at the Keystone Conference. I was surprised and disappointed with Dr Adler’s conclusions. Perhaps I should put my cards on the table. I am not a mediator and nor am I a conflict resolution expert. I have an academic interest in mediation. I would start with the word ‘reify’. Chambers dictionary defines it as ‘to materialise’. I think when a dispute or conflict is resolved, a result has materialised. There is nothing abstract about it. The joy in solving the dispute while maintaining a good relationship with one’s adversary, is real and the relief is really felt Mediators have greater commonality within their profession than in many other professions. Similarities unite this profession more than differences divide them. The February 2001 draft of the Uniform Mediation Act (UMA) defines ‘mediator’ as follows: ‘Mediator’ means an individual, of any profession or background, who conducts a mediation. The common feature is that all of them conduct “mediation.” The law-makers in the US have recognised that despite its wide coverage ( mediation to commercial mediation) it has lot in common to enable it to be recognised as a single profession of mediation. I would acknowledge that there are some doubts about whether mediation is a profession or trade. “A profession is an ‘occupation’ that requires ‘extensive training’ and the study and mastery of ‘specialised knowledge” Is mediation not an occupation? Then what is it? Don’t mediators have specialised skills and knowledge? This question of training and accreditation is certainly being hotly debated in the mediation community now. The profession is characterised by “usually having a professional association, ethical code and process of certification (or licensing).” A quick scan of the literature reveals that mediators all over the world are addressing these issues. This should be done in consultation with all the stake holders and should include inter alia practitioners, the practice and the public. In fact I would suggest that it is in the interest of the profession as well as the public at large that the mediators should form an ‘association’, ‘society’ or perhaps a ‘guild’. This will enable the members to decide on such urgent issues as ethical standards to be followed by the profession (or trade), training & accreditation. I would argue that Mediators are not part of some form of ‘multifaceted social movement’. Please spare me the blushes! Isn’t it somewhat presumptuous of the mediation community to take on the mettle of the reformer who wants to ‘strategically change our societies for the better?’ Whether mediation is a profession or trade certainly needs serious discussion. It is worth examining the way guilds of plumbers and painters and decorators function. Dr Adler argues that mediators professional identities are bound to substantive application areas and less to procedural commonalities. This is not unusual. It happens with medics. I would like to draw your attention to a section of the editorial in the May issue of Mediation in Practice, which read, “Other occupations can draw some support from their national representative organisations. In the UK mediators urgently need a single national representative body to break down the divisions between the different contexts of mediation.” A practitioner wrote in the same issue,“(Scottish Mediation Network) brings together mediators from all branches of the profession in a deliberately, even calculatingly, collaborative way. And it has certainly blown away the cobwebs. For the first time, I found myself sharing information, insight and practice with community mediators, restorative justice practitioners, commercial mediators and others too numerous to mention. How refreshing?” I would agree that the current situation of a confusing array of unfederated skill-based organisation is not good for anyone.