Conflict is often about the underlying stories that are not heard or understood by the other person in the conflict
Whether the conflict involves family members, staff within an organization, or entire communities, mediation is more cost effective and can make difficult situations much better than using a formal grievance process or the mainstream legal system. Transformative mediation encourages every individual to be heard, relationships to be strengthened, and communities to grow. At M. Thorpe & Associates, our dispute resolution practices focus on the ability to transform the seeming failures of the past into renewed efforts to move forward. We help our clients to see “the big picture,” and deal with their challenges in order to move toward mutually satisfactory outcomes.
We have mediated hundreds of situations throughout Canada and the United States for federal and provincial institutions, Aboriginal communities, Human Rights Commission, Schools as well as Child and Family Services. Cases have involved working towards resolution with victims and offenders, unions and management, human rights complainants, federal and provincial courts, teachers and students, family and Aboriginal community members; each case posing specific, and in some ways, unique challenges.
Our practice combines general negotiation concepts with a “transformational” approach, encouraging participants to examine past histories of painful, self-destructive behavior and low self-esteem. This perspective is frequently instrumental in helping parties understand the roots of their conflict. Consequently, these mediation techniques have proven to be very successful in reaching long-lasting results. The parties in dispute are often incapable of voicing their perspectives without recourse to violence or self-destructive behavior. As mediators, our role includes assisting parties to find a “vocabulary” for peaceful, workable resolutions.
From Interest-Based to Insight Mediation
A lot of my mediation experience involves aboriginal clients, and often takes place in small, rural locations and institutions. Many aspects of my practice are designed to respond to the particular needs of this group. The cases pose specific, and in some ways, unique challenges.
Mainstream, interest-based techniques are vital to ensuring that the rights and responsibilities of all parties are upheld, in accordance with the principles guiding the Canadian Human Rights Commission’s mandate. But within my client group, social marginalization, mental illness, educational/employment deficiencies and intergenerational dysfunction mean that the mediation process must, at the same time, build professional, emotional, physical, mental capacity and create authentic relationships in the affected workplace, institution or community. It must recognize the underlying “Stories” and cultural concerns that, in the aboriginal sector, often place a premium on group cohesiveness. Parties to a dispute need a “safe” place in which to express unsafe things and explore new insights and arrive at mutually respectful way of “being” in their environment.
Often information regarding the importance of federally guaranteed individual right’s is needed, as well as efforts to ensure the community can restore the vital bonds that contribute to its members’ sense of identity and purpose. As a result, my mediations combine general negotiation concepts with a “transformational” approach, encouraging participants to examine past histories of painful, self-destructive behavior and low levels of self-esteem. This perspective is frequently instrumental in helping parties understand the root of their conflict. Consequently, these mediation techniques are usually very successful.
From 1993 to 1999, I served as a Native Liaison Advisor in a number of Federal Institutions, working to establish links between Aboriginal Offenders, Correctional Authority and the community at large. This responsibility required skills in dispute resolution and sensitivity to a diverse range of perspectives. Some of the mediations I participated in, and often orchestrated, at that time-involved issues of inter-racial conflict. The processes had to be highly sensitive to cultural concerns, and also involved risk management components not usually present in other environments. The parties in dispute were often incapable of voicing their perspectives without recourse to violence or self-destructive behavior.
As mediator, my role included assisting parties to find a “vocabulary” for peaceful, workable resolutions. The practical knowledge I gained through my work with Correctional Service of Canada, Human Rights Commission, Child and Family Services, Canada Post and Federal/Provincial Governments to name a few clients, has afforded me a genuine understanding of some very important aspects of the professional and culturally sensitive mediator’s role.
In all my mediations, I place true value on formats that allow all participants not only to be heard, but also to gain a deeper awareness of equality and interpersonal responsibility. I am deeply committed to the importance of impartiality; flexibility, confidentiality and insights in helping disputants create a new way of being in their life and workplace.