Gini Nelson\’s Engaging Conflicts

September 29, 2006

Scientists and Engineers for America

Filed under: Theory To Practice — Gini @ 5:44 am

This new organization launched two days ago. From their website:

Today a group of scientists and concerned citizens launch a new organization, Scientists and Engineers for America, dedicated to electing public officials who respect evidence and understand the importance of using scientific and engineering advice in making public policy.

The principal role of the science and technology community is to advance human understanding. But there are times when this is not enough. Scientists and engineers have a right, indeed an obligation, to enter the political debate when the nation’s leaders systematically ignore scientific evidence and analysis, put ideological interests ahead of scientific truths, suppress valid scientific evidence and harass and threaten scientists for speaking honestly about their research.

We ask every American who values scientific integrity in decision-making to join us in endorsing a basic Bill of Rights for Scientists and Engineers. Together we will elect new leadership beginning in 2006, and we will continue to work to elect reasonable leadership in federal, state and local elections for years to come.

America needs your help. Will you join us?

These are the points in their Bill of Rights for Scientists and Engineers:

Bill of Rights for Scientists and Engineers

Effective government depends on accurate, honest and timely advice from scientists and engineers. Science demands an open, transparent process of review and access to the best scholars from around the nation and the world. Mistakes dangerous to the nation’s welfare and security have been made when governments prevent scientists from presenting the best evidence and analysis. Americans should demand that all candidates support the following Bill of Rights:

  1. Federal policy shall be made using the best available science and analysis both from within the government and from the rest of society.
  2. The federal government shall never intentionally publish false or misleading scientific information nor post such material on federal websites.
  3. Scientists conducting research or analysis with federal funding shall be free to discuss and publish the results of unclassified research after a reasonable period of review without fear of intimidation or adverse personnel action.
  4. Federal employees reporting what they believe to be manipulation of federal research and analysis for political or ideological reasons should be free to bring this information to the attention of the public and shall be protected from intimidation, retribution or adverse personnel action by effective enforcement of Whistle Blower laws.
  5. No scientists should fear reprisals or intimidation because of the results of their research.
  6. Appointments to federal scientific advisory committees shall be based on the candidate’s scientific qualifications, not political affiliation or ideology.
  7. The federal government shall not support any science education program that includes instruction in concepts that are derived from ideology and not science.
  8. While scientists may elect to withhold methods or studies that might be misused there shall be no federal prohibition on publication of basic research results. Decisions made about blocking the release of information about specific applied research and technologies for reasons of national security shall be the result of a transparent process. Classification decisions shall be made by trained professionals using a clear set of published criteria and there shall be a clear process for challenging decisions and a process for remedying mistakes and abuses of the classification system.

Science literacy: politics can affect “science”.


September 28, 2006

Cyberweek 2006 Continues With Mediation Excellence Online

Over 400 people have been participating in the ongoing Cyberweek 2006 activities. I’m lucky enough to be helping with producing, promoting and presenting the three Cyberweek teleconferences, under John DeBruyn’s tutelage. John is an attorney and mediator in Denver who is fields ahead of most of us on what internet technology can do for us.

Tuesday our panel discussed the intersection of mediation, facilitation, coaching and teaching; yesterday, mediation excellence standards developing nationally, especially in Maryland and Colorado; and today’s panel discussion will include me and fellow bloggers Diane Levin Online Guide to Mediation, and and Robert Ambrogi’s Lawsites on the potential of blogs and blog-supported online activities and resources for professional development and networking. For more information go here: Mediation Excellence in Cyberspace. Participation is free and can be via either phone or Skype.

Kenneth Cloke: Paths to Transcendence, Part One


Kenneth Cloke’s new book, The Crossroads of Conflict: A Journey Into the Heart Of Dispute Resolution, is a book by an experienced mediator about many things, including his conclusions after many years of a rich and varied practice. Ken will be interviewed this fall and early winter in Engaging Conflicts Today, and has given permission to excerpt portions of his book here. In his book, he proposes and explores the transcendent mediation style (see this earlier post on styles of mediation, and this earlier post on his definition of transcendence). Here are the first five of his ten paths to transcendence – the final five will be posted next week:

[Five of the] Ten Paths to Transcendence:


1. Engage in committed, openhearted listening, as though your life depends on what you are about to hear.

2. Use a spotlight of narrow, focused attention and a floodlight of broad, sweeping awareness to clarify what is taking place beneath the surface.

3. Use dangerous empathy to search for the center of the conflict within yourself, then ask questions to discover whether the same might be true for others.

4. Use dangerous honesty to communicate your deepest understanding to others.

5. Use your heart to locate a heart space in the conversations, then open and expand it.

Ken’s book can be purchased directly from his publisher, Janis Publications.

September 27, 2006

Is String Theory Unraveling? Does Sprouting New Brain Cells Cure Depression?

Filed under: Theory To Practice — Gini @ 5:48 am

Scientific American magazine in a recent Science News column identified six “raging debates” in current scientific theory. The articles remind us that scientific theory is created, developed, and supported (or not) in a process involving people and time, and that its final, accepted form will seldom be the same as its earliest iterations. Here’s the introduction:

Textbooks usually make the triumph of a scientific theory seem inevitable and uncontestable. But at the time that a theory is being forged, the reality is not nearly so tidy. An experimental result is only clear-cut if researchers agree on how to interpret it. Individuals may have conflicting hunches about what nature is up to, however, and a finding that is conclusive to one scientist may be unimpressive to another. In some cases the ideal experiment is not yet possible. In others only one or a few data points exist. Disagreement is productive, though. It forces each side to clarify its views and to find experiments that will distinguish one idea from another. And in the end, researchers generally come to a new consensus. Experiments corroborate each other. Theories make defensible predictions. And new students come along who lack the prejudices of their predecessors. Science marches ahead, in other words, erasing m any records of dissent along the way. Here are six raging debates that textbooks will one day no doubt present as cut-and-dried:

Is String Theory Unraveling?

Is Global Warming Raising a Tempest?

How Does A Planet Grow?

Should Epidemiologists Swear Off Diet Trials?

Does Sprouting New Brain Cells Cure Depression?

Was the Hobbit Just a Sick Modern Human?

For example, the give-and-take process in critically challenging string theory is engaged – two recent books critical of the current state of the theory are being reviewed these days, including this review in Scientific American.

September 26, 2006

Sex Differences In the Brain

Filed under: Theory To Practice — Gini @ 8:26 am

Here’s an online Scientific American article on sex differences in the brain.

Mediation Styles Include Eclectic

Kenneth Cloke’s new book, The Crossroads of Conflict: A Journey Into the Heart Of Dispute Resolution, is a book by an experienced mediator about many things, including his conclusions after many years of a rich and varied practice. Ken will be interviewed this fall and early winter in Engaging Conflicts Today, and has given permission to excerpt portions of his book here. He identifies seven mediation styles. There is not universal agreement about all of them, and there is dispute about some:

1. Conciliative

2. Evaluative or directive

3. Facilitative

4. Transformative

5. Spiritual, heart-based, or transcendent

6. Systems design

7. Eclectic

I’m especially interested in our thinking more about “eclectic,” or “protean” styles (see this earlier post about Peter Adler’s and Robert Benjamin’s “protean” mediation or negotiation style). People are different, circumstances and settings are different, people are different in different circumstances and settings ….

Ken’s book can be purchased directly from his publisher, Janis Publications:

September 25, 2006

Science Literacy and The Female Brain

Filed under: Theory To Practice — Gini @ 4:33 pm

Many of us are fascinated by male – female differences, or, rather, by investigations into what the differences are, if any, and, further, what the differences mean, if anything. Here, too, science literacy reigns. Or, rather, should.

A new book that has generated much buzz is also generating criticism about one of the points used to promote its premise. This from ScienceBlogs, specifically from The Frontal Cortex blog:

Factchecking the Female Brain

Category: Neuroscience
Posted on: September 25, 2006 10:36 AM, by Jonah Lehrer

It’s a shame that exaggerating the extent of brain differences between men and women can be such a boon for book sales. (Call it the Mars and Venus phenomenon.) This publishing truism has been most recently demonstrated by Louann Brizendine, a researcher at UCSF who wroteThe Female Brain. But now the backlash has begun. The Boston Globe ran a nice column dismantling Brizendine’s oft cited claim that women use 20,000 words per day while men only use 7,000.

The author of the Boston Globe column is Mark Liberman, Trustee Professor of Phonetics at the University of Pennsylvania. After reviewing what appears to be Ms. Brizendine’s source for the claim, and the existing research literature, he concludes:

I haven’t been able to find any scientific studies that reliably count the entire daily word usage of a reasonable sample of men and women. But based on the research I’ve read and conducted, I’m willing to make a bet about what such a study would show. Whatever the average female vs. male difference turns out to be, it will be small compared to the variation among women and among men; and there will also be big differences, for any given individual, from one social setting to another.

I haven’t read the book yet, and I haven’t reviewed the studies, but I think the Boston Globe article is interesting, and exemplifies some of generalizable themes I hope to explore through this blog’s Science and Science Literacy categories: emphasis on some divides, such as a male-female divide can be, well, divisive and a source of conflict; if we are considering classifications that can be divisive, like gender, race or religion, we may want to be particularly careful about the sources for our information and be confident they are credible; and when we do use them, we will want to be careful to use them in ways that acknowledge their limits, too. Inappropriately or improperly emphasizing a male – female difference may divert us from remembering male-female similarities, and, further, may divert us from recognizing that individual differences within a gender, and particular social settings, may explain more.

September 21, 2006

Science, Borderline Science, Pseudoscience, and Why Science Literacy Matter: The Series

Filed under: Theory To Practice — Gini @ 9:58 am

There are other sources for definitions, but, for ease, let me start with the categories included in a well-considered and stated post done by the A Blog Around The Clock blog, published by a Ph.D. student named Bora Zivkovic. His blog, as he describes it, “regularly covers many areas of biology including neurobiology of behavior within ecological and evolutionary contexts, science education, higher education and science communication, as well as intersection between science and politics – this not so much about science policy, but rather what science can tell us about the way people acquire their political ideology and why they vote the way they do.” In a post originally published August 5, 2005, but subsequently republished, most recently on August 31, 2006, he wrote:

According to Michael Shermer [author of The Borderlines of Science: Where Science Meets Nonsense; also the Founding Publisher of Skeptic magazine] there are:

– science
– borderlands science
– pseudoscience, and
– nonsense

Science is a methodology of figuring out, with as great confidence as possible, how the world works. Evolutionary theory is one of the biggest, strongest and best-supported bodies of all of science.

Borderland Science refers to first small steps in acquiring realistic knowledge about a not-well-understood aspect of the world. It aspires to become Science, but is often held back by various factors, e.g., difficulty in studying the phenomenon of interest, biases of the investigators, social biases against investigations of such phenomena, etc.

For instance, very little is known about hypnosis. It is a real phenomenon but very difficult to study. There is not much funding for it as there is a social bias against such research. Thus, it is still doing its first small pioneering steps and has not resulted in data that are good enough to place it in the realm of real Science.

Another example is Evolutionary Psychology – it is done by psychologists (thus real scientists) who understand biology very poorly, yet strive to make their research scientific. Their own biases make them go up wrong alleys and bark up wrong trees (I love adding up mixed metaphors, sorry). Yet, they are asking real questions about real phenomena and it is expected that at some point evolutionary psychology (lowercase) will get its methodology straight and make enough advances to become real Science.

Pseudoscience is an attempt to sell out-of-ass beliefs as scientific by using hifallutin’ terminology, perform meaningless calculations, draw elaborate charts etc. Examples are many (peruse past editions of the Skeptic’s Circle for examples) and include astrology, biorhythms, pyramid force, Feng Shui, crystal balls, alternative medicine, Holocaust denial, Intelligent Design Creationism, and many, many others. The main goal, usually, is making a quick buck, although more sinister motivations are sometimes behind such ideas, i.e., these may serve as methods for making an unrespectable ideology (e.g., Nazism) respectable again, or there is political gain to be had.

Nonsense does not even pretend to be scientific, e.g., Old Earth Creationism.

Knowing the differences between science and pseudoscience is important because, as he states in another recent well-considered post:

People argue bad science, pseudoscience and nonsense for a variety of reasons, some religiously motivated, some politically motivated, some out of ignorance, some out of arrogance, some out emotional needs, some due to psychological problems.

When they encroach onto the scientific turf and argue nonsense within a scientific domain, they use a limited set of rhetorical tools. The exact choice of tools depends on the motivation, as well as the forum where they advocate the nonsense. Some, the generals in the army in War On Science, have big soapboxes, e.g., TV, radio and newspapers. Some teach and preach in schools and churches. Some run blogs, and some – the footsoldiers of The War – troll on other people’s blogs.

So, when the motivation is political, when they are pushing for debunked conservative ideas, from femiphobic stances on anti-abortion and anti-stem-cell-research, through thinly-veiled racism of the War On Terror, to failed economic policies (“trickle-down”) and global-warming denial, they mainly use one set of rhetorical strategies.

When the motivation is religious, as in Creationism, the strategies are similar, but not exactly the same. Loony fringe pseudoscience, from the Left or the Right (and sometimes it is difficult to figure out if they come from the Left or the Right) – appears to employ very similar rhetorical devices as the religiously motivated pseudoscience, suggesting that perhaps both are sharing the same underlying emotional disturbances.

The links for both these posts are: on pseudoscience; on uses of bad science. I don’t agree with everything he says and concludes, but I read and consider them. His premise, which I share, is that there is much threatening political activity related to misuses of science and in conjunction with attacks on science, such that we critically need science literacy.

For me, there’s another, equally important need for science literacy — the fact that we are in a time of immense, even revolutionary developments in science, and will be for perhaps the next decade or two (for now). What are these developments? How will they relate to our practices as conflict specialists and otherwise to our lives in the world?

Five Philosophical Propositions on Conflict Resolution, Part Two

Kenneth Cloke’s new book, The Crossroads of Conflict: A Journey Into the Heart Of Dispute Resolution, is a book by an experienced mediator about many things, including his conclusions after many years of a rich and varied practice. Ken will be interviewed this fall and early winter in Engaging Conflicts Today, and has given permission to excerpt portions of his book here. Here’s a partial list of philosophical assumptions he makes about conflict — the earlier propositions were posted earlier in the week:

6. Chronic conflicts are systemic, and all systems, be they personal, familial, relational, organizational, social, economic, or political, defend themselves against change, even when it is essential for their survival.

7. Every conflict is holographic and systemic, so that each part contains and recapitulates the whole.

8. Every conflict reveals an internal crossroads, with each path branching and leading off in radically different directions.

9. Every conflict offers opportunities to evolve to higher levels of skill and awareness in how people respond to their opponents and problems.

10. At the center or heart of every conflict lies a pathway to resolution, forgiveness, and reconciliation.

Ken’s book can be purchased directly from his publisher, Janis Publications:

OneWebDay, An “Earth Day For the Web”

Filed under: Wikis and Podcasts and Blogs, Oh My! — Gini @ 5:19 am

Cyberweek 2006 is also support OneWebDay. Here’s the OneWebDay press release:

New York, NY–Sept. 18, 2006–OneWebDay (, an “Earth Day for the Web,” the first global holiday to celebrate the web and how it has changed our lives, is planned for September 22, 2006 (and every September 22 thereafter). As with Earth Day–an inspiration and model for OneWebDay–it’s up to individuals, organizations and communities to decide how to celebrate.

OneWebDay is planning to create an historic event to mark the launch of OneWebDay by facilitating the largest global online photo collaboration resulting in a visualization of the web made up of photos posted by millions of people around the world. This visualization will show the power of online collaboration. OneWebDay is working with CNET Networks’ Webshots, a global photo-sharing community, to make it easy for web users globally to contribute a digital photo and label it with “onewebday.”

“The internet has become such a ubiquitous force in our lives that it’s easy to forget how it has changed the world. We shouldn’t take the Internet for granted, and we should do everything we can to make it more visible to people around the globe. OneWebDay provides an opportunity to celebrate the web both online and in public events in cities around the world,” said Susan Crawford, associate professor at the Cardozo School of Law, who initiated OneWebDay. “We’re delighted to be working with CNET’s Webshots on this exciting project to have people around the globe post their photos and have these photos become part of a giant collage.”

“When people around the globe can ‘see’ the web, we’ll think about how the web helps humans to work together and how much it means to us. This big picture is a way of seeing the web as the human space that it is,” Crawford added.

Internet pioneers, organizations and companies are planning events around the world.

In New York, Craig Newmark of craigslist fame; Scott Heiferman, co-founder of Meetup and Fotolog; Gale Brewer, NYC City Council member; and Drew Schutte, publisher, Wired magazine, will talk about how the Internet is changing people’s lives every day. The event, sponsored by Microsoft Internet Explorer 7, Union Square Ventures, DFJGotham and Cardozo Law School, will take place on Friday, Sept. 22, Noon to 2 p.m. ET, at The Battery, near Castle Clinton, in the park at the southern tip of Manhattan.

details here.

Events have also been scheduled in Austin, TX ; Boston, MA; Champaign-Urbana, IL; Chicago, IL; London and other places in the UK; Los Angeles; Naples, Italy; Philippines; San Francisco, CA; Sofia, Bulgaria; Tokyo, Japan; Vancouver, BC; Vienna, Austria; Westport, CT.

In addition to the giant collage, online activities in conjunction with OneWebDay include:

• Making videos in honor of OneWebDay and posting them on — tagged “onewebday”. They will be part of a OneWebDay presentation on

• A contest for users to talk about the creative ways they’ve used craigslist (submissions go to volunteer AT onewebday DOT org

• Encouraging users to take one web-related action that helps someone else: Teaching someone how to edit a wiki, start a blog, or post a picture online; or adding computers and connectivity at local senior centers; or by creating more wireless hotspots.

Here’s the link:

September 20, 2006

VoIP, Skype and Cyberweek 2006 Teleconferences

Filed under: Business,Wikis and Podcasts and Blogs, Oh My! — Gini @ 5:58 am

You have probably seen television ads or received direct mail advertisements for some of the commercial VoIP offerings, but there is also a free service, Skype. Because it’s free, you can try it out very cheaply, to see if it is a technology you want for your home or office.

VoIP, known as “voice over internet protocol,” allows you to place and receive phone calls (and text and instant messages, and conference calls) over your computer’s internet connection line. I just signed up with Skype last week, and it was easy. First, you need at least a dsl speed internet connection (dial up doesn’t work well); second, you download the free software from the website that allows you to access the program; third, you add the equipment you will use to listen and talk during a phone call – I am using a usb-connection headset with a skype-quality microphone (cost me $40), but I could easily have bought a usb-connected handset phone (also for $40); and, finally, you enter the phone number you are calling, either into the progam in your computer (if you are using a headset) or into the handset of the handset phone, if you are using that. The sound quality can vary, but it seems to be at least as good as that of a cell phone, and is truly excellent in some circumstances.

Skype’s service is free for calls between Skype subscribers, where ever they are — I could talk with another Skype subscriber in another country for as long as I wanted, at no charge to either of us. Normally, calls to ordinary landline or mobile telephones are not free, but you can buy that service from Skype for the cost of a good, cheap long distance calling card. But – and here’s the really fun part – Skype has a promotion going that really makes this the time to try VoIP out. Through December 2006, Skype is providing free calls to ordinary landline and mobile phones (within the US and Canada).

So, for example, you could call in to all three of the Cyberweek 2006 teleconferences on Skype and pay no long distance charges for the calls. Indeed, what a great way to try VoIP at the same time as learning other innovative uses of the internet for conflict resolution!

For way more information about VoIP than you probably want at this time, here’s one detailed resource:

September 19, 2006

Five Philosophical Propositions on Conflict Resolution, Part One

Kenneth Cloke’s new book, The Crossroads of Conflict: A Journey Into the Heart Of Dispute Resolution, is a book by an experienced mediator about many things, including his conclusions after many years of a rich and varied practice. Ken will be interviewed this fall and early winter in Engaging Conflicts Today, and has given permission to excerpt portions of his book here. Here’s a partial list of philosophical assumptions he makes about conflict — the remaining propositions will be posted later in the week:

1. No two human beings are the same.

2. No single human being is the same from one moment to the next.

3. The interactions and relationships between human beings are complex, multidetermined, subtle, and unpredictable, if only because they involve two or more different, constantly changing individuals.

4. Conflicts are even more complex, multidetermined, subtle, and unpredictable.

5. Most conflicts take place beneath the surface, well below the superficial topics over which people are fighting, and often hidden from their conscious awareness.

Ken’s book can be purchased directly from his publisher, Janis Publications:

September 18, 2006

Lawyers Blog More Than Mediators (and Mediators Blog Hardly At All)

Filed under: Business,Wikis and Podcasts and Blogs, Oh My! — Gini @ 9:23 am

Lawyer bloggers are ahead of mediator bloggers. Law blogs emerged in 2002, and, from a handful, the number has grown to over 1,500, according to a recent article published on the American Bar Association web site. Mediator blogs, in comparison, languish as an active “sport.” Indeed, Diane Levin, a mediator, trainer and attorney in the Greater Boston area, reports that there are today perhaps only 59 – yes, 59 – active blogs either devoted to alternative dispute resolution or regularly featuring posts about ADR, including Engaging Conflicts. Her blog, Online Guide to Mediation, was one of the first (in January 2005, I think). A leader then, she has maintained her commitment to excellence in blogging, and has started a new project, a directory of ADR blogs, found here.

September 15, 2006

Jim Melamed of Interviewed In Engaging Conflicts Today

Today’s issue of Engaging Conflicts Today is in the mail. We perhaps best know Jim Melamed through his innovative and entrepreneurial work at and through, which supports conflict specialists working to establish and maintain their niches. During the interview, after identifying some of his conflict resolution heros, Jim expanded on some of the programs sponsored by

[T]his is exactly the purpose of the ‘Views from the Eye of the Storm’ project, to put the most capable faces on the field of mediation and to help both professionals and the public to best understand so many worthy endeavors. Leading mediators are great people doing great work and the combination is often jaw dropping. We are excited to sponsor a conference bringing together 100 of these leaders at Keystone CO Oct. 8-11, 2006, and we will also be video recording this ‘Consolidating Our Wisdom Conference’ as well. All of this is an example of our seeking to consolidate our best learning and then to use technology, both video and the Internet, to help best tell ‘the mediation story.’ I believe that these efforts are compelling.

The interview with Jim continues in Vol 1, #3 of the newsletter. If you haven’t already, please sign up today — it’s free and easy!

September 14, 2006

Why We Get Stuck In Conflict

Kenneth Cloke’s new book, The Crossroads of Conflict: A Journey Into the Heart Of Dispute Resolution, is a book by an experienced  mediator about many things, including his conclusions after many years of a rich and varied practice. Ken will be interviewed this fall and early winter in Engaging Conflicts Today, and has given permission to excerpt portions of his book here. Here’s his list of explanations why we get stuck in conflict:

Ten Reasons Why We Get Stuck in Conflict:

1.         Conflict defines us and gives our lives meaning.

2.         Conflict gives us energy.

3.         Conflict ennobles our misery.

4.         Conflict safeguards our personal space

5.         Conflict creates intimacy (even if it is only the transient, negative intimacy of fear, rage, attachment and loss).

6.         Conflict camouflages our weaknesses.

7.         Conflict powerfully communicates what we honestly feel (even while it may increase stress and emotional suffering in others).

8.         Conflict gets results (it forces others to heed us).

9.         Conflict makes us feel righteous (by encouraging us to believe we are opposing evil behaviors and rewarding those that are good).

10.       Conflict prompts change (which feels better than impasses and stagnation).

Ken’s book can be purchased directly from his publisher, Janis Publications, here:

September 12, 2006

The Crossroads of Conflict, by Kenneth Cloke

Kenneth Cloke’s new book, The Crossroads of Conflict: A Journey Into the Heart Of Dispute Resolution, speaks from a transforming perspective to conflict resolution;in his book, he urges a goal of transcendence. Ken will be interviewed this fall and early winter in Engaging Conflicts Today, and has given permission to excerpt portions of his book here. I’ll start with some easy pieces — some of the basic definitions he uses:

Resolution … means working through the content, or underlying reasons for conflict, and abandoning the old ways of thinking and behaving that led to them. Transformation means altering the contour, form, or shape of the conflict, both within the parties and in their relationships, communications, and perceptions of the issues over which they are fighting. Transcendence means moving beyond form and content to change the context, system, environment, and meaning of the conflict. This implies that the parties have learned how to evolve, outgrown, or rise above what was keeping them stuck, and are now ready to handle a higher level of conflict and order of resolution.

Ken’s book can be purchased directly from his publisher, Janis Publications:

September 11, 2006

The Best Blogs Are Ahead Of Traditional Media

Filed under: Business,Wikis and Podcasts and Blogs, Oh My! — Gini @ 10:32 am

If you are reading this online, you know what a blog is, because Engaging Conflicts Today is a blog. Blogs are perhaps best known for their immediacy — unlike with most static websites, the blog owner expects to make frequent, short entries in this kind of on-line journal, and very easily does, sometimes several in a day. A reader goes to a blog to see both what’s new there, on that blog, and also, or perhaps especially, to see what’s new on the topic being addressed. The best blogs offer insights, information and support for new and innovative developments before more traditional media usually can organize around and respond to them.

Cyberweek 2006: Free Teleseminars For Us All

Filed under: Business,Wikis and Podcasts and Blogs, Oh My! — Gini @ 10:09 am

Stop the presses! Before I go on about blogs and blogging, please note a series of free teleseminars associated with Cyberweek 2006, starting in less than two weeks. You can register here:

Here’s their invitation:

We invite you to participate in Cyberweek 2006 during the week of September 25th. Cyberweek is being organized this year by the University of Massachusetts Center for Information Technology and Dispute Resolution (CITDR) and

Tue, 26th The Intersection of Mediation, Facilitation, Coaching and Teaching — this conference and online discussion forum will focus on the shared skills, strategies and best practices of mediators, facilitators, coaches and teachers — new perspectives on building skills and improving strategies in one on one, one on two, small group and large group interactions.

Wed, 27th Mediation Excellence Program — This conference will focus on bringing the mediation community together to take mediation to the next level — a coordinated approach to quality assurance through education, training, mentoring, networking, evaluation, certification and standards — the role of cooperation and marketing in building a stronger mediation community.

Thu, 28th Mediation Excellence in Cyberspace — This conference will focus on how to learn and work together on an ongoing basis. The two perspectives covered by this teleconference and the online discussion forum will be: (1) supporting Mediation Excellence in online dispute resolution; and (2) using the internet for education, mentoring, networking and cooperation between mediators and mediation organizations in the quest for Mediation Excellence generally.

September 5, 2006

Only Law Can Provide the Finality We Crave; Mediation Can Assist With Speedy Resolution To a Conflict

Filed under: Attorneys and Mediators - No Conflict Here!,Ethics — Gini @ 5:24 am

The dialogue between mediator David B. River and attorney mediator Rawle Andrews Jr., Esq. concludes today with Rawle’s post.

Like David River, I have really enjoyed this spirited exchange regarding the proper role of mediation and mediators in the dispute resolution process. Gini, I thank you again for your vision and courage in creating this website.

Although mediators might not see eye-to-eye on every nuance of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), it is no stretch to declare at this point that most neutrals (regardless of pedigree) want to help adverse parties resolve their differences before a full blown trial or evidentiary hearing on the merits. As I am sure many long-time servers will recall, the opening questions for this Law and Mediation discussion centered around: (1) what mediators are best equipped to facilitate mediation; (2) the type of training, formal or informal, necessary to be an effective neutral; and (3) how mediators who are not also attorneys might avoid some of the pitfalls traditionally associated with ADR (i.e., unauthorized practice of law) when being of service to adverse parties.

As most readers know by now, I firmly believe that the Law (and the proper recognition of its role in all forms of dispute resolution) is critical to fully answering these questions. We are well past the days of Locke, Voltaire and Jefferson when we could speak philosophically about yielding to the Law’s will. We all know by now that we must follow the Law, or suffer the consequences if we fail to do so. At the same time, in crafting my various responses over these weeks, I have tried to be mindful of the delicate tightrope that all mediators must walk in trying to maintain the peace long enough to help adverse parties find and hold common ground. At the end of the day, however, if the peace is to be lasting, the participants must have the assurance of Finality, regardless of whether they find a resolution via mediation or the courts.

This truism of Finality, like the age old chicken and the egg theory, really starts and ends with how the parties appeared for mediation in the first instance. I am not aware that anyone has ever threatened to mediate an opponent “all the way to the Supreme Court”. So, it is fairly certain that in most, but not all instances, mediation is an “after-thought” that arises either because one party has already initiated a legal proceeding against the other, and mediation was either mandated by some other body (e.g., the Court Order or Statute) or the advocates for the parties suggested that the matter be discussed with a mediator before litigating half-cocked.

The fact that mediation is an “after-thought” does not denigrate its importance or utility. This is just an every day fact of life. The parties know it, if they have ever heard of mediation in the first place; veteran mediators know it (even if they are hesitant to acknowledge the fact publicly); and the Courts, with overcrowded dockets and dwindling resources, certainly know it, thus explaining the push for mandatory mediation around the country. If the converse were true, I suspect Hollywood would have created some prime-time drama or reality show by now that centers around mediation. It has not happened to my knowledge, and likely never will because that is just not where we are as a society. We want finality in life and in art, and life certainly seems to imitate art in the dispute resolution world, be it in the boardroom, courtroom or on television.

Consequently, the questions we have grappled with over these weeks start and end, in my view, with what did the complaining party really hope to gain by filing a legal action against the alleged wrongdoer in the first place. Regardless of any mixed-motives, an overriding reason likely is that the complainant believes that he or she has been slighted and wants to end the wrongdoing. Although mediation might help in this regard, it does not, and in fact, cannot guarantee the finality that comes from a court order. Mediation is all about resolution; and the introduction of what might be, in the context of judicial proceedings, excess facts and/or emotion can only complicate the system and imperil well-intentioned mediators who are not attorneys in the process. This is true even in cases where mediated settlements are breached, which happens quite frequently. In these situations, the only recourse left to the parties is to go back to court for a ruling.

Interestingly, even some appellate courts have instituted mandatory mediation programs in the United States. In these instances, the mediator almost always is a lawyer who works for the court, and the discussions with the parties (or their representatives) focus more on the strengths and weaknesses of the parties’ legal positions than the emotions that carried the dispute into the courtroom. Here again, the question is whether the parties can find common ground before the court of appeals enters a final order. There is nothing binding about this process. Mediation, even at this stage in the case, simply reflects a judicial temperament to balance the appellate court’s scarce resources with the parties’ need for finality. When the parties believe they have something to lose (or the question on appeal is acknowledged to be a close call), late stage ADR can work. However, if the appellant (i.e., the party filing the appeal) has already lost at the trial court level, there is little hope that additional “talk” on appeal is going to resolve the problem absent full briefing and, if permitted, oral argument before the court of appeals.

In closing, I must reiterate my belief that mediators (regardless of pedigree) act at their peril if they attempt or allow the mediation process to mirror a “fact-finding” process. The more facts (or emotions) on the line, the more strident the parties can become in their positions. Unfortunately, the more entrenched the parties become, the harder the mediator has to work to keep them together. All too often, the only velvet hammer left at some stage in the mediation discussions is to remind the parties of the very real threat of protracted litigation and all its attendant uncertainties if the dispute cannot mediate to a resolution. I have not seen anything over the past several weeks to dissuade me from this view.

For attorney mediators, placing this “hammer of litigation uncertainty” on the table is not a problem because Law (or a misunderstanding about legal rights) typically is at the core of the process. If mediators who are not attorneys can avoid this “Elephant in the Room”, it appears that they are the better for it. If they cannot, however, I see no end in sight to the very real concerns like those expressed in David River’s opening presentation: “In my private practice, without a J.D., I constantly walk the line of ‘unauthorized practice of law’… .” I do not believe David’s plight is a permanent obstacle; rather, it appears to be a problem of choice to either adhere and conform to the Law or knowingly straddle an uncertain fence.

Best wishes,


This concludes the wonderful exchanges between my guests, David and Rawle, at least for now. Both generously shared their limited time and honest views with us, and I thank them. Both also have agreed to “stand by” for future posts. Please email me with questions you may have for them, or ideas for what you would like to see discussed. The “Engaging and Transforming Series” continues tomorrow, and on successive Wednesdays thereafter.

September 4, 2006

Engaging and Transforming Conflict — Different Conflict Orientations

Bernie Mayer in his influential book Beyond Neutrality: Confronting the Crisis in Conflict Resolution, differentiates between two orientations to conflict — engaging with it, and using it to seek transformation in the disputants. By the title of this blog, you could correctly guess that I think first of engaging, not transforming, conflict. In my judgment, Bernie’s conclusion is true in most circumstances: “I believe effective conflict interventions can result in the transformation of individuals and groups, but I do not think that there is any way to take this on as a primary goal of a conflict specialist without imposing our values and purposes on disputants.”

Mediator David River and attorney Rawle Andrews Jr. conclude their guest posts tomorrow (search the Those “Other “Conflict Specialists category for their 6+ week exchanges) – at least for now. Reread them, and the comments to them, with Bernie’s different conflict orientations in mind. Share your comments, publicly in the blog, or to me privately! In the meantime, on Wednesdays, I’ll continue the series on transformative mediation. It may help those of us more focused on engaging conflict to better understand the perspectives of our colleagues more focused on transformation. I hope it educates us all in helpful ways. In addition to facilitating Kristine Paranica, J.D.’s guest posts, I’ll excerpt parts of Kenneth Cloke’s new book, The Crossroads of Conflict: A Journey Into the Heart Of Dispute Resolution. Both Kristine and Ken will be interviewed this fall and early winter in Engaging Conflicts Today, as will Bernie Mayer.

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