Beyond Mediation Toward Peacemaking
By Forrest S. Mosten*
When I opened my mediation practice in 1979, I was something
of a pioneer. My storefront office was located between a pet shop
and a beauty salon, within walking distance of the Los Angeles
International Airport—not exactly the unsettled prairie. But I felt
like a pioneer because I was doing
something new and innovative. My
mediator colleagues and I dreamed
of the day when mediation would
be as well-known and used by the
public as the courthouse or the
lawyer consultation. We dreamed
that mediation would be in every corner of our society and would
model an interdisciplinary and consumer-oriented approach. That
hasn’t quite happened, but mediation is broadly accepted now, and
what was once innovative, even radical, is now mainstream.
For almost thirty-five years I have been lucky enough to work in
a job I love, one that has made me get up every morning eager
to get to the office. The work is intellectually challenging, and
it helps people and makes a difference to their lives. I have seen
an enormous expansion in the number of skilled mediation
practitioners, and I am gratified to have trained many of them.
I still believe strongly in the value of mediation. But I think there’s
a need for further innovation in what we do. Specifically, I think
we need to develop a practice of peacemaking that augments our
mediation work. Peacemaking differs from mediation in its impact
on the people we serve and on us as conflict resolution professionals.
Mediation is a process. It may look very different in a variety
of settings. Mediations that take place in a courthouse with
mandatory participation are different from mediations that take
place by condominium homeowners' associations, between gang
members and police at a local park, or among family members
or business partners in their
homes or offices. The purposes
of mediation range from clearing
judges' calendars, to blowing off
steam between employers and
staff, to attempting to clarify and
resolve public policy issues. But all
mediations are fundamentally a process, with a beginning and an
Peacemaking is not a process but a set of values, personal attributes,
goals and behaviors that guide our work. Many mediators are
peacemakers; many are not. Many peacemakers are mediators;
others have very different roles, many of which are not neutral.
Peacemakers can be litigators, teachers, prisoners, gang members
or combat soldiers.
Peacemaking means creating a sense of peace and mindfulness
within our own lives and in our work by harnessing our core values
and best personal attributes. It means making a commitment,
and using our skills, to impact the colleagues and institutions
with which we work as well as those in our wider professional
communities and beyond. It means devoting our mediation efforts
to the improvement and repair of the parties’ individual lives,
repair of their relationships, and prevention of future conflict.
Peacemaking is not a process but a set
of values, personal attributes, goals and
behaviors that guide our work.
* This article is adapted and expanded from the author's keynote address at the 2011 ACR annual conference.