What’s Next in the
Reflections on Embracing Uncertainty
and Serving Others
About the Author
N. FONT-GUZMÁN ,
is Professor and
at the Werner
of Law. She is a
and ACR member.
Her recent book is
In the spirit of full disclosure, I confess that I have
no idea where our profession is headed. However,
as I reflect upon the future of the conflict engagement profession, two emotions embrace me: a
feeling of uncertainty and an urge to be of service
to others. I am excited about the possibilities that
lie at the core of this uncertainty, including three
developments that provide us with extraordinary
possibilities to be of service to others: current
demographic changes in the United States, changes
in the future of legal education, and increased
awareness that our profession has an array of services that transcend mediation and negotiation.
According to the 2010 U.S. census,
minorities, who now make up roughly
one-third of the U.S. population, are
expected to become the majority in
2042. The Latino population, currently comprising about 15% of the
total U.S. population, is projected to
double by 2050. This means that
nearly one in three U.S. residents will
be Latinos. The Asian population is
also projected to increase from 15. 5 million to 40.6
million. The elderly population is increasing, and so
is the number of bi-racial marriages.
These demographic changes provide an opportunity for practitioners and scholars in our profession
to reflect upon our teaching, research, and practice.
Some inquiries that come to mind are:
• What kind of novel conflict dynamics
• How will these demographic
changes affect the role of
mediators, facilitators, teachers, and
practitioners in general?
• How will current dispute system
design programs function in light
of these changes? How will the
changes affect current conflict
engagement processes grounded
in positivist frameworks anchored
in neutrality, individual needs, and
objectivity (e.g., interest-based
negotiation and mediation)?
• How will the profession prepare to
provide services to a population from
a different cultural background that
may have a limited or no facility with
the English language?
Although our profession has made significant
advances in designing processes that are culturally
sensitive and address individual cultural needs for
those in conflict, we still have a long journey ahead
to provide adequate culturally competent conflict
engagement processes. For example, academic
institutions have fewer women, African American,
and Latino conflict faculty when compared to non-Latino white males. One can observe the same
lack of diversity with conflict engagement practitioners such as mediators and facilitators. I predict
that the demographic changes will be an excellent
opportunity to expand our professional diversity
and create innovative processes that are culturally
sensitive. As conflict professionals, we can support
others in their ability to constructively engage with
clashes of worldview as a source of conflict.
Continuing demographic changes provide
an opportunity for practitioners and scholars
in our profession to reflect upon our
teaching, research, and practice.