This week I attended a fascinating presentation by Helen Shurven, from the National Native Title Tribunal. Helen’s presentation brought to life the complexity of these dynamic and responsive processes. Some key messages that resonated for me were:
- Holding a space with integrity: The concept of the mediator as having a responsibility to the parties for constructing spaces that serve the parties’ needs and interests, i.e. by implementing or adjusting the process, in collaboration with the parties, in such a way that allows the parties to engage with their content fully and effectively.
- Relational awareness: Multi-party mediation requires an awareness of the multiple relationships “in the Room”. These relationships can be fluid throughout. Coalitions may form and dissolve in ways that may require adjustments to the process. Helen also described the ‘kaleidoscopic’ nature of BATNA analysis, essentially as the various relationships change, this can alter the objectives and expectations of parties.
- Process management: In multi-party mediation conducted over time, participants may change, and new information or events may become relevant. These can profoundly alter the landscape of the conflict and therefore the opportunities and possibilities for resolution. The mediation process needs to be flexible and responsive, such as re-visiting steps and stages to adjust to changing expectations and objectives. This requires a conscious awareness by the mediator of the changing requirements and how to respond appropriately.
- Session synopses/process mapping: When multiple sessions between various groupings may be required and substantial content may be covered in various combinations, it is important to track who is involved and what information is shared in each session, so as to maintain the integrity of the process. A summary of participants, content and action can assist in maintaining transparency of the process as well as confidentiality of content. Mapping process adjustments that are made along the way can likewise offer transparency and accountability.