I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for community mediation. After all, it’s where I acquired my initial training and first experience as a mediator. Working to foster dialogue and build neighborhood relationships at a grassroots level, community mediation programs provide low-cost or pro bono mediation services and offer assistance to under-served and at-risk populations.
That’s why it was gratifying to see two stories in local news this week touting the benefits of community mediation.
The (Springfield, Mass.) Republican reported that the City of Holyoke, Massachusetts, has just announced plans to establish a brand-new community mediation program to resolve neighborhood and family disputes with the help of volunteer mediators. This program has the full support of Holyoke Police Chief Anthony R. Scott and Mayor Michael J. Sullivan, and was inspired by the work of the Holyoke Peace Initiative Committee, which earned Holyoke the All-America City Award in 2002. The program will be funded by the City, and Holyoke is currently seeking additional funding from the National Association for Community Mediation.
Community mediation also received a nice plug by the Boston Globe yesterday in an article on battles between neighbors over boundary issues. Among the experts interviewed for the article was Gail Packer, Executive Director of the Community Dispute Settlement Center (“CDSC”) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, one of the best (if not the best) and most highly respected community mediation programs in the Commonwealth. (CDSC was a finalist for this year’s Cambridge Chamber of Commerce’s Nonprofit of the Year award.)