It is a great honor to start the new year as your President. Your volunteer Board took the time at our December meeting to reflect on the organization as it might be seen through the prism of the mission set forth by its founders in 1991. Seen through that lens, our membership is enjoying an organization that is accomplishing everything that had been hoped for in its original Articles of Incorporation. And yet there is so much more to do, so much that we can do together…from my viewpoint, all it takes is the “sweat equity” of our members engaged in a vision for the success of our mediation field, and we will continue to achieve at a high level.
In those Articles, our founders thought that we should “provide a vehicle to build community and provide encouragement for those involved in and supportive of mediation in Southern California.” Our Professional Development Groups, led by our volunteers including President-elect Angela Reddock-Wright, deserve great credit for hosting these mediator roundtables and providing an avenue for regional networking. Stacey Lisk has volunteered to help Angela with the coordination and continue the fine work of Board members John Irwin and James Cameron, amongst others. Board members Terri Breer and Dale Ordas are leading the charge to expand these networking groups further into Orange and San Diego counties, and with your enthusiasm and help, we look forward to those new groups forming.
But there is so much more in encouraging and supporting mediation! Board Secretary Leslie Kushner leads a committee devoted to public outreach, and with your help, continues to organize our speaking bureau and advocates for mediation. Our sister organization, Kids Managing Conflict/SCMA Education Foundation, led by its new President Sally Patchen, continues to raise money for peer mediation in middle schools and high schools throughout the region.
Our founders also pictured “an organization through which high-quality and cost-effective educational programs could be offered.” SCMA hosted its largest conference ever in October, with the renown William Ury headlining a conference of workshops and panels that is unparalleled in our mediation community. As usual, with your help, SCMA will be continuing to host a number of educational programs throughout this upcoming year, headlined by our Peer Mediation Conference chaired by our former President, Jason Harper, but also including our re-envisioned Employment Institute chaired by SCMA volunteer Samantha Blake, and a newly proposed Family Law Institute chaired by SCMA Board member Terri Breer. Additional seminars, workshops, and even webinars are being planned this year to help our members maintain and add to their skill level in professional development.
Finally, our founders tasked us with providing “a vehicle through which the mediation community could seek to influence the development of the mediation field…” It is in this final vision that your SCMA Board is taking its boldest step…encouraging the development of mediator certification based upon the professional model that has been developed by its sister organization, the Mediator Certification Consortium of California (MC3); see our recently posted position paper (SCMA MC3 Position Paper). While many other fields have organized professionally based certifications as a means of maintaining control of who is defined as a practitioner, it has usually taken a dramatic event or series of events to create the initiative. The recent Los Angeles Superior Court (LASC) request for providers for mediation services for which all mediators without J.D. degrees and even those with J.D.s who have had less than 10 years of practice experience are excluded, may have been such a dramatic event, as many of our members who have been dutifully and successfully mediating litigated cases suddenly found themselves outside the bounds of those defined as “mediators” by LASC.
Please set your calendars for February 10, 2018, from 10 a.m.-noon, as former President Jason Harper, myself, Chris Welch and other Board members from MC3 will detail our plans for a professionally based certification; see the event announcement posted here: SCMA Mediator Certification Program. Seeing our membership thrive and prosper continues to be at the heart of why the Board and others continue to volunteer to lead SCMA. But it will be the “sweat equity” of all volunteers that pushes us forward as a field and a profession. Join us for one of our many events in 2018, and most importantly, if you feel impacted by the new LASC definition of a mediator, join us for the program on January 20…you can make a difference!
As a non-profit, SCMA needs volunteers to continue to advance our field and provide programs and services for our community. We are in the process of forming our 2018 committees and look forward to your contribution. All we ask is that the next time you see a request for volunteers on the listserv or elsewhere, you take just a moment to reflect upon “why not me.” I did…as did so many other volunteers too numerous to mention in this short message…and we hope to have you join us as well.
Anne Sawyer is an independent Mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution Consultant. In addition her private consultation practice, she is the Executive Director of the Southern California Mediation Association.
Her mission is to foster, support and promote mediators and other neutrals and to further increase peaceful resolution of conflicts. Raising public awareness as to the many values of mediation and increase its use to address a broad variety of public and private disputes in a confidential, safe and empowering process is her passion.