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The September 2013 edition of Collaborate is now available to view here
Please find the latest edition of Collaborate from the Scottish Mediation Network here
Did you know?
The Scottish Government has produced a Parenting Agreement for Scotland, designed to help separated parents work together in doing the best for their children. It covers important day-to-day matters like:
- Living arrangements
- Keeping in touch
- Money matters
The agreement is available here: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/Doc/112200/0027302.pdf
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Mediation is famously ‘future focused’, so musing on the past tends to go against the grain. But as I say to clients, sometimes we have to talk about what has happened in order to learn from it. So, at the end of three years as Chair of the Network, it seems right to peek back at where we have been.
It is always tricky to arrive at an objective view when trying to assess how useful, valuable or successful something is. We are vulnerable to biases in our thinking, as all good mediators know. ‘Availability bias’ is the tendency to base our judgement on information that is readily available, at the expense of less accessible data that may take time and effort to obtain. So, owning up to this, I start with some readily available figures.
In 2009, the Scottish Mediation Network had 110 members (37 organisations and 73 individuals). By March 2011 there were 142 members (by this time made up of 88 practitioners and 54 ordinary members). Today, the Network has 411 members. This looks like success. Actually the bulk of the increase has come from two sources: one is the recruitment of a large number of students members (166 in full time education/means tested benefits); the other is the result of negotiations with Relationships Scotland that means that their mediators are now listed on the Scottish Mediation Register (107 at the present date + 37 mediation services). In addition we have 35 individual members and 66 practitioners. We are currently in talks with two other mediation bodies (Scottish Community Mediation Centre and CALM), which we anticipate will result in their practitioners being listed on the Register.
And success it is. For one thing it means that the Scottish Mediation Register is becoming the definitive, ‘go-to’ place for anyone looking for a trained, competent mediator. It also enables the Network to speak credibly on behalf of Scotland’s mediators in our conversations with government and the justice system.
However, the impression of buoyancy could be misleading. Other, less accessible, data might lead us to a different view. For example, if we were to ask what proportion of our members earn their living from mediation, the numbers would fall away sharply; even more so if we asked what proportion made their living from practising, rather than managing, mediation. If we asked about mediation activity rather than membership, we might also find the results sobering. Enthusiasm and commitment only take us so far: eventually we need outputs and results, tangible evidence that mediation is viewed as a credible way to resolve conflict in Scottish life.
Scotland is no different from other Western countries in being a tricky place to get started as a mediator. It lacks an international mediation centre like London to create a critical mass of expert, full-time practitioners, at least in the justice sector. We have a decent number of experienced mediators in the Community and Family sectors, but for those wishing to pursue mediation as a career it can feel daunting.
Having said all this, I stand down from this role feeling optimistic. Sifting through less widely available data, here are a couple of examples of progress and growth. The Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 was the first Scottish statute to place a duty on local authorities to have access to a mediation service. The hope was to encourage these authorities to mediate disputes with the families of children with additional support needs before using more formal approaches like the Additional Support Needs Tribunal. Initial demand was slow. One local authority spent its first year’s budget on a promotional video. There seemed to be resistance (inexplicable to mediators but perhaps understandable to everyone else) to the idea of mediating these situations. And yet now, six years into this innovative scheme, Scotland’s two Additional Needs Mediation services, Resolve and Common Ground, report a steady increase in the numbers of referrals. Each year referrals are earlier, more appropriate and more successful, suggesting more ‘mediation literate’ customers as the mediation providers have built up good working relationships with key people.
A little later the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007 created the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission. Here again the Scottish Parliament took the bold step of building mediation into the system, this time being offered to those who complain about the standard of service provided by a legal practitioner. And once again we have a story of steady growth from a slow start. In its first 9 months in 2008/9 the SLCC scheme completed one mediation, out of 47 eligible complaints. By 2011/12, that figure had reached 55 out of 289. In common with ASN mediation the key seems to have been the existence of a dedicated mediation coordinator and the gradual development of mediation-literate practitioners.
So numbers certainly tell us something about the state of mediation in Scotland today. Less measurable, but no less important, is public perception. And here I have to be completely subjective. My impression is that lately I have had to spend less time explaining what mediation is. The questions have moved on to the more sophisticated: ‘is it appropriate?’ or even ‘how much does it cost?’ Again, these are signs of life and growth. I know a number of experienced practitioners who are regularly mediating and I see them growing in skill and confidence. Particular areas of growth include workplace and employment mediation, in house mediation schemes, mediation for homeless young people and church mediation.
What about the real big picture? Where will the Scottish Mediation Network be in another three years? Well, first of all I am delighted to be able to hand on the baton to the team of Robin Burley (Chair) and Graham Boyack (Director). I have had the pleasure of working with both during my time as Chair and have faith in their ability to take the Network forward. I have also worked with a lot of committed people. The staff at the Network; Graham’s predecessor, Margaret Lynch; the Board; those who have given their time and energy to various project groups; the members who have supported the Network over the last three years; and all those who wish mediation well because they believe in the cause of peaceful conflict resolution.
I wonder if, in three years time, we will be less concerned about building the mediation profession and more attentive to building Scotland’s capacity to deal with conflict effectively and non-violently. If that is done by mediators, well and good, but if we can support our fellow citizens to resolve their own disputes we will be making another, hard-to measure, difference. One of the Network’s most interesting projects in recent years has been the development of peer negotiation for looked-after young people. Spearheaded by Carol Hope, this work has empowered young people to negotiate their own resolution to conflict, in one instance dramatically reducing the number of calls to the local police.
It strikes me that the potential of our work as peacemakers may lie in these, often neglected, areas. Scotland is not short of conflict, but is perhaps a little wary of professionals. My challenge to the Network is to think innovatively about how we can build the nation’s capacity and confidence, not sweeping conflict under the carpet, or ‘lumping it’ as we have been accused of doing, but learning how to face up to it, talk it through and come out the other side smarter, more compassionate people. That is a story that’s about more than numbers.
Robin brings extensive experience of public and third sector management and governance along with a passion for mediation shown through his work as a mediator and his advanced mediator status.
Robin’s career has ranged across community regeneration, housing, construction, community care and health. His first career was in housing and community care as chief executive of the Edinvar Housing Group. Since then he has led Rethinking Construction initiatives in Scotland, chaired the Housing Forum’s Scottish Group and the Ministerial Modernising Construction Strategic Group. He has wide corporate governance experience including: past chair of the Built Environment Forum Scotland; Blackwood Housing Association and ELCAP; past trustee of Edinburgh World Heritage Trust; a former Board Member of NHS Lothian; and currently a Governor of Queen Margaret University. He was made an MBE for services to the housing association movement and disabled people in 2000. He is married to Dr Lindsay Burley CBE with whom he runs a mediation and performance coaching business.
Robin’s mediation experience includes work the Edinburgh Sheriff Court, Scottish Legal Complaints Commission and private work with a range of clients.
Commenting on his appointment Robin said:
“Having come to mediation as a second career I have found that it is not just a way of solving disputes more effectively but by embedding it in the way we live our life it has the potential to improve the quality of relationships in our work and our communities. I believe mediation is at an important stage in its development in many parts of Scottish life and soon, if we have not already heard of the important role it can play, we will hear of its emergence in civil justice, employment, community, family, public service and commercial settings. I feel immensely privileged to have been asked to chair the board of SMN at an important time for mediation in Scotland and I enormously look forward to working with colleagues in all walks of life where mediation can make a difference.”
Ewan Malcolm, Patron of SMN commented:
“Robin takes over as Chair of the Network at an exciting time for mediation in Scotland. With the prospect of mediation becoming an integral part of the civil justice system the Network faces both challenges and opportunities to ensure that mediation is integrated in the best possible way. Robin’s extensive experience serving on boards in the public and third sectors and his leadership skills give the Network a Chair who I am sure will get the best out of our Board and provide the Network staff a strong platform to deliver. ”
Notes for editors
The Scottish Mediation Network was established in 1990 to:
- Raise the profile of mediation in Scotland
- Act as a professional body for mediators in Scotland
- Maintain the Scottish Mediation Register and provide access to quality assured mediation services
The Scottish Mediation Network seeks to:
- Promote a wider understanding of the appropriate use of mediation and other related forms of conflict management and prevention
- Support and promote education, training and research in skills and best practice
- Create and encourage links between mediators and Scottish public, private, voluntary and community organisations
- Promote and organise standards of professional conduct and training
Please find the November 2012 edition of Collaborate from the Scottish Mediation Network here.
The Scottish Mediation Network’s reponse to the cosultation on the proposed Apologies (Scotland) Bill can be read here.