I recently stumbled across “Mediators help in neighborly dog disputes“, an article in USA Today extolling the virtues of mediation to resolve tricky neighborhood conflicts.
Although I suppose we should welcome the publicity, the article did our profession no favors, creating the impression that mediation is largely a free service, one that non-profit mediation programs and their staff of unpaid volunteers willingly provide – a perception apparently confirmed by the National Association for Community Mediation spokesperson the reporter spoke with.
Let me say first that I have nothing but respect and admiration for the work that non-profit community mediation programs do and their willingness to go where angels fear to tread.
But why is it that such a highly visible segment of mediation services is routinely provided by unpaid volunteers? In what other field are trained professionals continually expected to provide services for little or no remuneration – by the courts, by the public, and by our own kind? When will pro bono work become the laudable contribution that mediators make in their spare time and not the expected norm, the default? When are we going to start insisting that our work has value and merits compensation? When are we going to start acting like we truly believe those things?
How about right now?