Like many of my colleagues in the conflict management field across the country, I have spent significant time over the last weeks and months asking myself questions about who we are as dispute resolvers, negotiators, and mediators. What tools do we bring to the cause of advancing peace and justice? What skills, concepts, and insights can we offer? How are we to understand our craft in this moment of challenge and urgency?
At times, as I’ve reflected on the potential of mediation, the task of bridging differences, and the call to build empathy and connection, I’ve wondered, “What’s the point?”
After all, the dialogue called for by many mediators and ADR professionals won’t fix a broken system. Indeed, it might even do harm. By calling for negotiation, inviting dialogue, and encouraging perspective-taking, might I and others in our field be taming or silencing a righteous anger, one that motivates the kind of activism capable of real and enduring structural change in our society and in our criminal justice system?
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