When Scottish Mediation conceived the idea of having a Year of Mediation, I think it would be fair to say that Covid -19 was not something we had considered. Last week I was speaking at a meeting held to celebrate the Year and reflected that it hadn’t gone as we had expected and that 2020 was never likely to be remembered for mediation. In some ways however 2020 has seen some considerable developments in Mediation and whilst our Year has maybe not been the catalyst, I am delighted that they have happened.
For me, the biggest development in mediation has come from the constraints that Covid 19 have forced on society. If you’d said to many mediators not only that they would be mediating online in 2020 but they would find it a form of mediation that they would positively advocate they would simply not have believed you. I think that now that many people are used to meeting with others online whether for work or for family this has taken away a significant barrier to mediating online. Many mediators are reflecting that not only does online work but that there are some real positives about the process. Participants have said they feel more comfortable mediating from their own homes, there’s no travel involved and that the process can be truly flexible. My conclusion is not that all mediation will be online but that for those who have access to the technology it will be a great option for the future. The same goes for our events and conferences with the added bonus we’ve been able to have speakers from across the globe.
One initiative that did come from the Year of Mediation was an event held by the Scottish Land Commission this month. They produced a seminar showing how mediation works in tenant farming disputes with a series of short videos and commentary so that viewers can see mediation in action. It is encouraging to see a Scottish public body embrace the opportunity of using mediation in this way and to invest in communicating what it is and how it works for those who may use mediation in the future.
Last month the other event of note for me was the launch of the Mediation Service at the University of St Andrews. The service is described as being for all staff and students and members of the public who are connected to the University who want to resolve disagreement informally. The service is also available for groups or teams seeking a collaborative, inclusive framework for problem solving issues. Many organisations have seen benefits from being able to resolve disagreements early and without recourse to formal processes and the University scheme seeks to provide a structure for that. It also ensures that the skills of mediation can be a positive part of the University’s organisation culture.
One initiative that will continue in 2021 is the Scottish Mediation Charter launched in January 2020. The idea behind the Charter is that the use of mediation and mediative approaches leads to more productive relationships, better governance, and an inclusive culture. A range of organisations have now signed up and a focus for 2021 will be to facilitate sharing and learning from current and future signatories.