John Sturrock reflects on changes in the mediation arena
How have things been in the mediation world given the restrictions imposed by the pandemic? It is quite remarkable really. After a downturn initially, we have seen a real upsurge in the conducting of mediation online. I am stunned by how effective it has been. We’ve been able to improvise in ways that would not have been so easy face to face. We’ve now got much more flexibility in how we prepare for and set up mediation. It doesn’t need to be the one-day set piece which had become the norm. There is scope to arrange a series of meetings, if helpful, to optimise the prospects of a successful outcome. Parties have been able to engage well and we’ve had the kind of candid and rigorous conversations that in the past we would have thought were only possible in the same physical room. I am a convert.
What about the future?
I believe that, even after the pandemic passes, there will be many situations where conducting mediation on Zoom (my preferred platform) will remain more efficient and effective – and may become the norm. This fits with a commitment we are all making to be more environmentally aware in our work. Reducing travel, use of heating and lighting in offices and hard copy documents all makes sense. In that context, I am pleased to have facilitated the establishment of the World Mediators Alliance on Climate Change (www.womacc.org) with its Green Pledge.
What does this Green Pledge entail?
Core is now committed to do what we can to reduce our carbon footprint, by minimising the environmental impact of each mediation in which we are involved, including avoiding unnecessary travel and using electronic technology wherever possible. We’re also committed to encouraging those with whom we mediate to minimise their carbon emissions. Undoubtedly, this will need careful assessment each time we mediate. There is no one prescriptive rule for all situations.
How about Core’s training courses?
We’ve already hosted two three-day flagship courses online. I can honestly say that some of the sessions were as exhilarating and challenging as if we’d been in the same physical space. Participants have been able to conduct workshop sessions, simulate real life negotiations and receive coaching feedback. Recently, I did something I never imagined I would. Put on a wetsuit and swam in the cold waters of the Outer Hebrides. This whole pandemic and online experience is a bit like that. Talk about taking the plunge or going in at the deep end! Metaphors abound.
How do you see mediation developing in the years ahead?
We’ve seen progress in both awareness and use. Recommendations to enhance the availability of mediation are now with the Scottish Government, courts and others. But it is still slow. Recently, a group of businesspeople and senior lawyers issued a call to action for greater use of mediation, not least to help reduce the growing backlog in the courts and to help businesses, communities and individuals to deal with difficult situations and address disputes quickly. Their words say it all: “Mediation is a fast and cost-effective method for public sector, not-for-profit and business stakeholders to find solutions to the range of economic and social issues arising from Covid 19 – and more generally. It has a very good track record already. Mediation can be one of the cures to help alleviate some of the difficult challenges facing our economy and society as a whole.”
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