Ainsley Francis writes:
I had the opportunity assist in a mediation some time ago, and John has asked me to share my top three learning points from the day, as well as my thinking about why the process of mediation works and what makes it work. As a designer by training, that mediation day was my first experience of the process in person, thought during my time at Core, I have surely heard a lot about the details. The three things that struck me most were:
Meditation is a process that is well designed to resolve disputes in a mutually beneficial manner. The privacy and confidentiality of the process encourages individuals to more freely and openly air their positions, perspectives and issues, allowing each side to better understand the position of the other. It is also a situation where, because of the lack of positional entrenchment, each can use their new understanding to inform their moves towards a common agreement. The mediator drew on this strength thought the day, for example, by asking parties how new information that they had learned affected their thinking about the situation.
The environment was also carefully planned so that the parties felt safe and maintained their agency during the day. Each party always had a private space to retreat to, which built a sense of ease into what must have been a difficult situation for all the parties involved. Having separate rooms as well as a room for joint meetings meant that if a participant is put on the spot they are not required to respond in the moment but may retreat to a private space to consider and have someone to consult with. Movement between the rooms also meant that there was a lot of informal discussion that happened ad-hoc through the day, allowing for relationship building and personal connection, an attitude that was initiated by the joint informal breakfast. Finally, since there is no requirement that a conclusion be reached and because the mediator reminded the parties throughout the day that mediation is a valuable process regardless of outcomes, the parties maintain their agency. This ensures that the outcome is not coerced, and encourages listening, creativity and flexibility in coming together to solve the problem at hand.