Where will mediation be in 10 years time? Will it be a field, a movement, an occupation, a hobby? Will the marketplace perceive it as a truly independent profession?
IMI, the International Mediation Institute, is gathering answers to these questions from mediators worldwide. Emma Ewart of IMI contacted me with the questions and I decided to blog my responses.
Where will mediation be in 10 years time?
If the dispute resolution field continues to evolve on the trajectory it’s on now, I concur with Baruch Bush’s comments at the ACR opening plenary in 2005: The word “mediation” will have been adjunctified to the practice of law and the public will understand mediation as just another legal process. Am I troubled by that? Yes and no.
Yes, because mediation’s roots aren’t solely in the legal field and there are volumes of practicing mediators who hail from professions of origin that aren’t law-related. No, because mediation won’t be adjunctified — only the word will be. The rest of us who practice different forms of mediation will still be doing our work but we’ll be calling it something else. What? Don’t know yet. Let’s have a creative contest for ideas.
Will it be a field, a movement, an occupation, a hobby?
There’s debate now as to whether or not mediation technically rises to the level of a true “field” or profession, with most academic analysts landing on “not yet” and saying the field is dispute resolution, within which mediation is a single process among many. That feels about right from where I sit, but lest my response so far get sidetracked into a debate of “is or isn’t” (which I’m generally bored by), let me comment on the more important part of the question.
I think our world will continue to need people who are willing to step into the middle of conflict and help resolve matters in a way that reduces or eliminates permanent damage to the relationships with our family, neighbors, friends, colleagues, countrymen and international neighbors. Some of us will do this as our occupation. Many of us will do conflict resolution work as part of another profession. Some of us will do it as avocation. Will anything be different than it is now, in terms of mediators’ ability to choose this work as primary occupation and expect to succeed in the marketplace?
Yes. I still believe the rising wave will crest and that the dispute resolution field will progress in much the way the counseling and psychiatric fields progressed. It will take mediators thinking differently about what we offer the public. Which, of course, is why I wrote my book.
Will the marketplace perceive it as a truly independent profession?
I think the marketplace will come to perceive mediators as attorneys, as referenced in my response to the first question. I think the marketplace will also continue to grow in its understanding that there are dispute resolution professionals whose work is completely unrelated to the practice of law and who have much to offer people in the distress of conflict – if mediators step up individually to help making this happen and stop relying on their state and national associations to do it for them.
What do you think? IMI’s inviting your comments and contributions…head on over there or leave a comment here to join the conversation (if you’re reading this in your email, click the article title to head to the article’s web page, where you can leave a comment using the comment box at the foot of the article).