Mediation certification back on track at Association for Conflict Resolution, but bumps in road ahead

go slow on mediator certificationIn its June 2009 Update (PDF), the Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR) reports that it’s full steam ahead for the ACR Certification Task Force, resuscitated after a three-year break.

According to Nancy Gardner, Co-Chair of the ACR Mediator Certification Task Force, a 2008 survey indicated support for certification from ACR member, providing the impetus for reviving the Task Force. Gardner reports that ACR’s board adopted a call for certification that would be premised upon

basic principles and practices that are applicable across the broad range of mediation, e.g. client self-determination, mediator neutrality, management of process, understanding of conflict theory, etc., but also

  • reliability, involving not only requirements for experience and training but also assessments of knowledge and performance-based skills;
  • accountability, which requires Standards and a Code of Ethics, specific to the areas of expertise with a credible grievance procedure; and
  • inclusivity, requiring that it be available and achievable by diverse demographic groups, and that it be model-neutral.

Certification itself would rest upon training, a portfolio of experience, and an assessment of knowledge and performance-based skills.

Mediators in the U.S. will be watching the efforts of the Task Force closely as its work unfolds.  I already see several challenges that I wonder how ACR will address.

First, the call for inclusivity and a “model-neutral” approach is contradicted by an article written by Gardner’s co-chair Stephen Erickson for ACR’s Family Section newsletter, in which he argued that only certain models of mediation practice should be eligible for certification, expressly excluding evaluative mediation.This is hardly a promising start, not when one of the task force leaders has already made up his mind that “model-neutral” means “all models except”.

Second, the proposed certification framework includes a performance-based assessment. Given ACR’s stated commitment to diversity, I must ask what ACR will do to ensure that such assessments are free from bias and based on objective criteria not subjective observations. Given the widely reported gender discrimination that female musicians suffered until orchestras began utilizing blind auditions to assess candidates, as well as early studies that suggest the existence of discrimination against women who mediate, not to mention real-life anecdotal accounts, ACR must be prepared to explain what steps it can take to reassure women, and minorities, too, that the process will indeed achieve not thwart inclusiveness.

With a hat tip to Ericka Gray.

(Photo credit: Asif Akbar.)

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