E-mediator in transformative mood

On April 7th, I attended a conference given by Robert A. Baruch Bush from Hofstra University (NY), a famous ambassador of the transformative model of mediation and the author of  The Promise of Mediation. In the 90’s, he launched the REDRESS program in the United States Postal Service (USPS) in order to prevent discrimination and harassment between employees. USPS is the second-largest employer in the United States of America with near 600,000 employees and this program is the main project based on transformative mediation nowadays. This two-hour conference was organized by Institut de médiation et d’arbitrage du Québec before the kick-off of the Colloquium Mediation within workplace : a profitable option, long-lasting effects !

The summary of his conference is available here or else with more details there (in French only).

As I had already discussed in this article,  this post keeps on emphasizing the function of an e-mediator who wears several hats.

Transformative model : mediation at its best ?

The Institute for the study of conflict transformation, created by Mr. Bush, gives us the following description :

In this model, the mediator’s goal is helping the parties to: identify the opportunities for empowerment and recognition shifts as they arise in the parties’ own conversation; choose whether and how to act upon these opportunities; and thus change their interaction from destructive to constructive, as they explore specific disputed issues. Success is measured, in transformative mediation, not by settlement but by party shifts toward strength, responsiveness and constructive interaction. Effective practice is focused on supporting empowerment and recognition shifts, by allowing and encouraging party deliberation and decision-making, and inter-party perspective taking, in various ways.

Therefore, two main characteristics symbolize transformative mediation : empowerment and recognition. First of all, the parties become increasingly self-sufficient into the process of mediation to solve their future disputes. Furthermore, the parties broaden their minds in order not to consider only their positions.

In their book Mediation: Principles, Process, Practice , Laurence Boulle and Kathleen J. Kelly distinguish three other ways to mediate which are currently used :

  • mediation oriented towards the settlement (parties make compromises);
  • evaluative mediation based on the rights and obligations of the parties;
  • facilitative mediation based on the principle negotiation or win-win negotiation.

These three models are used by the e-mediator especially if the parties are just interested in achieving an agreement.

Transformative model applied to an e-mediator

During an e-mediation, what are the goals ?

  1. Just reach an agreement at low-costs for both parties : you won’t have any contacts anymore with the other party ? see below ;-D
  2. Reach an agreement AND restore a virtuous relationship circle ?

The second one is more favourable to promote transformative mediation because parties will keep in touch in a short, medium or long term. This party could be a neighbour, a colleague, a client, an ex, etc …

What the university has to say

Susan Summers Raines, associate professor of conflict management at Kennesaw State University (GA) in her article Can online mediation be transformative ? Tales from the front describes how transformative mediation could be used during an online mediation.

Way of working

E-mediator encourages the parties to consider disputes as a joint problem and to meet this goal, they have to make cooperative efforts.


Empowerment of the parties :

  • to improve their communication and conflict management skills;
  • to find a solution to their present conflict but also resolve future disputes without the need of a third party.

Recognition between the parties :

  • to create confidence between the parties and between the parties towards the e-mediator;
  • to gain better understanding of the causes of the dispute.

To conclude, an online mediation can be the host of a transformative model as well as it could be the case with a face-to-face mediation. During an e-mediation, the parties can take their time to ventilate their anger or their frustration before sending their answers by email in so much so that the level of acrimony goes down. This asynchronous communication scatters the seeds to allow to the transformative model to be well grounded and restore a social link thanks to a fourth party : an automatised platform.

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2 réponses à E-mediator in transformative mood

  1. Very interesting. The above is exactly in line with studies that we did using online tools in of labor/employment related mediations.
    In contrast to full online procedures which take place exclusively over the Internet, here online tools are used to support the traditional face-to-face procedures. Specifically, the participants are asked to fill out an online intake before attending the face-to-face mediation. The answers are only sent to the mediator (asynchronous textual mediation).

    User satisfaction surveys conducted in the framework of the studies reveal that employers and employees are better prepared for the mediation and that they appreciated the opportunity to tell their side of the story, upfront. Another interesting finding is that moving the traditional face-to-face communication to the online environment may positively change the « power balance » between parties by creating a more equal-level playing field, empowering parties to take decisions on their own and leading to a more resolution-focused mindset. This is particularly relevant in the area of employment disputes, as parties are often involved in a hierarchical structure.

    Research is ongoind and is geared towards including the results with traditional F-to-F proceedings. I am happy to send a copy of the study to those interested. Just send me an e-mail at mbk@juripax.com

  2. Ping : 4 cas de médiations où le règlement en ligne devient possible | Cyberdispute | Virginie Gaquière, Online dispute resolution, Médiation, Québec, E-commerce, PRD

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