In Southern California, we face significant geographical challenges. SCMA purports to serve an area stretching perhaps 50,000 square miles, holding more than 20 million people, and comprising as many as eight metropolitan areas, depending on which ones you count. It’s not only the long distances and heavy traffic that can frustrate efforts to bring people together from Santa Barbara County to San Diego and also to Riverside and San Bernardino, it’s also a problem of attitudes and cultures. I’ve heard people who live in the San Fernando Valley say they avoid downtown Los Angeles almost as a matter of principle. People in LA are suspicious of those who reside behind the Orange Curtain, and Orange County residents likewise often distrust their neighbors to the north. LA’s Westsiders don’t understand Eastsiders, and vice versa. People who live inland seem far removed from those on the coast. The court systems in Riverside, San Bernardino, or Santa Barbara confront different challenges and rules from those in other distinct regions. Los Angeles County is so large that it sucks attention away from other areas, but it still comprises only about half of the population we try to represent.
This year, the SCMA board has begun some purposeful discussions about how to better serve this incredibly large and diverse region. Board members are united in a desire to expand the organization’s membership, and attract more members from all of the far-flung reaches of the SoCal region and beyond. To do that, we have to offer programs accessible to people from these different areas, and we have to respond to their varying needs.
Members may not be aware of how much we have already accomplished to expand SCMA’s reach. We have held more programs in Orange County and in San Diego County this year than in previous years, and this year is far from over. We have continued efforts to attract speakers to our fall conference from around the entire country. We have launched an initiative for mediator certification that is intended to be implemented statewide. We are expanding outreach efforts to inform local bar associations and the general public about the availability of mediation services. And we have formed a committee to study structural and branding changes that may be helpful in allowing SCMA to better serve all of Southern California, and perhaps the entire state. Specifically, what is currently up for debate is whether the organization should adopt some form of chapter model to support future growth, and also to what extent we should expand our reach beyond Southern California.
SCMA aims to be recognized as the pre-eminent professional association that supports every working mediator in the region and the state. And also as the go-to resource for anyone interested in learning more about mediation and about putting their mediation skills to use. And in addition as an effective advocacy organization that promotes the use of mediation to resolve all manner of conflict. It’s been challenging but also exciting to lead an organization with such ambitious goals.
I am always interested in hearing from members about ways that SCMA can better serve the needs of Southern California and beyond. Please feel free to share your thoughts on these topics with me or any of our other board members.