Graham Boyack: Mediation can set things right

Pupils at Auchinairn primary school being given mediation training . Picture: Emma Mitchell
Pupils at Auchinairn primary school being given mediation training . Picture: Emma Mitchell
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CONFERENCE sharing skills and experiences helps too, writes Graham Boyack

Mediators meeting in Queen Margaret University tomorrow and Friday aim to share how mediation has the power to make a positive impact.

Equipping our Young People with Valuable Life Skills

One group of mediators attending is school children who have learned to resolve their own disputes. Students from primary and secondary schools will be teaching professional mediators how they resolve their own disputes in the playground as part of the Mediate 2015 conference. The pupils will have been involved in mediation at school over bullying and other conflicts. They will also learn new ways to tackle disagreements from a “mediation magician”.

If we teach our children the skills of mediation we can equip them with important life skills that will impact positively on their future. The more people who acquire these mediation skills and apply them, the greater the benefit will be for our communities and societies at large. One of the issues that will be addressed is how to enable this work to be shared by more schools across Scotland, so that every school has a chance to offer the opportunity to practise mediation.

Strong Sustainable Economy and Public Services

Another area where the power of mediation could make a major impact would be delivering a strong economy with a positive workplace culture that supports innovation and productivity. Such workplaces are typically those where disputes are resolved in a positive manner and difference is embraced as part of the creative process. The recent CIPD report, Getting Under the Skin of Workplace Conflict, showed both the potential for mediation to be better used and also the corrosive effect of ineffective dispute resolution. To support improvements, the Scottish Mediation Network promotes mediation and its use in the workplace and in areas including the Scottish Enterprise Workplace Innovation service. We would also see this as supporting the Scottish Business Pledge and the Fair work Convention giving positive areas where the work of employers and employees could be improved.

Many of the issues being faced include the challenges of remodelling and often merging services bringing together workplaces with different cultures and ways of doing things. In these situation the need for space where conversations can take place to explore the issues involved is vital and possibly even more important than the role that mediation can have in resolving disputes.

Supporting Communities and Organisations in Our Communities

More and more communities are seeking and being given the opportunity to have a say on how they are run whether that be through changes to the planning system, the creation of social enterprises and by local voluntary organisations being tasked with delivering a range of services. Mediation can play a vital role in ensuring that the way communities have conversations about the direction they wish to take is positive and then how they deal with disputes.

The Network in collaboration with the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations has recently launched a scheme to provide mediation for third sector organisations which is supported by a dedicated helpline. There are many more areas where mediation has a positive impact and one of the ways we will ensure that it continues to do so is by sharing our experiences and those of our many friends involved in mediation across the globe.

• Graham Boyack is director of the Scottish Mediation Network