Wow, so 2017 has gone like a bullet!

mediation in your pocket

At the beginning of this year I dedicated what little spare time I could squeeze into developing pocketconflictcoach, the first element of my Mediation In Your Pocket  project.

As a result, progress has been substantial but slow. When you commit to such a task but do so alone, you can find yourself at the sole mercy of distraction. And so, as we reach the end of the year, it’s safe to say that there’s plenty of work still to do. That said, I’m delighted to say that the conflict coach element is almost complete and should be finalised and ready for putting out there in the early part of 2018. Once it’s out, I hope you’ll see how the course might have the potential to completely revolutionise the approach of those in conflict.

The next step in the project will be to implement the conflict engagement engine which has been building in the background throughout this year. As I’ve indicated before, once it’s live those in conflict will have another option open to them to engage securely and effectively online with the person or company with whom they’re in dispute – a portal which will invite the parties in and support them until they come out the other end with some resolution and progress.

Yup, pretty exciting stuff going on in my head, and it’s in a continual battle with all those feelings of total frustration at the pace of development given all my other commitments. So it behooves me to say that next year my eye will remain on surging this project to completion as best I can, in the hope that its success can not only help those in conflict engage with it and each other effectively, but also help governments and state bodies appreciate just how easy it can be to support their conflicted citizens online instead of throwing walls in front of them or forcing them into broken, needlessly adversarial and expensive mechanisms.

peer mediation

One of the ‘distractions’ I’ve actually enjoyed the pleasure of being led astray with is my involvement, as a trustee of the Scottish Mediation Network, in the development of a working group to further exploration into peer mediation within Scotland’s schools. I’ve been appointed the Chair of that group, and much of my time next year will be spent helping lay the foundations for something very exciting for the future of our young people. Those who know me likely roll their eyes when they hear me harp on about early intervention, how effective engagement with conflict is best integrated in our young people so that they learn the skills they need to deal with it through life. Here’s what I mentioned in a recent issue of SMN’s wonderful Collaborate newsletter about what needs to be addressed in Scotland:

A change of culture, which has been ingrained over generations in pulling those in conflict out of the river rather than moving up stream to find out why they fell in. Historically, and this is my opinion and not necessarily SMN’s, our government has funded a civil and administrative justice system that, intended or not, fails to respect and support those in conflict. From my discussions at that level, this appears to be recognised, but there is so much invested in the present system, so little priority given, that it feels able to tweak only the edges of this under-resourced and over-burdened system rather than to design something completely new, something that could help those in conflict, from school age and beyond, understand what’s going on, understand how to get the support and guidance they need to take ownership of their issues rather than feel constrained to cede responsibility of resolution to others. The challenge, then, is to persuade the government to be brave enough to shift its funding priorities. If the government’s strategic objectives really are to help us be wealthier, fairer, more healthy, safer, stronger, and greener, then conflict sits right at the heart of all that. Help us engage with it more constructively, and just watch what will happen…

So to my mind, the development of peer mediation and conflict engagement skills in schools is one way to show the government that early intervention really works, that it can have significant longer term savings on the public purse but, more importantly, could end up laying a foundation for a more healthy country. Throwing money at this approach instead of band-aid policies which often miss the bigger picture, this is what needs to happen, and it’s up to us to show how easily it can done.

and beyond…

Other than this, in 2018 my ongoing work as a convener of CALM Scotland will be focused amongst other things on exploring child inclusive mediation for separating families, developing with the Law Society of Scotland a new code of practice for family mediators, reassessing the bridging of theory and practise for new mediators, and revamping the assessment and accreditation of existing mediators.

No doubt there will be many more ‘distractions’ flying my way which I’ll be delighted to encounter, and I’ve definitely not forgotten that I still have three quarters of a new book on mediation sitting there in a corner gathering dust in anticipation, watching disapprovingly as I try every day to ignore it!

For now, therefore, it’s winding down time. Thank you so much to everyone I’ve met this year in mediation – every day has been a learning day! Thanks also for reading this lengthy diatribe and for showing an interest in my work. I wish you and yours all the very best for the coming festive break, and don’t hesitate to contact me if you’d like to chat in the new year about mediation.

Peace, out.