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How Mediation Saved the World

by Jim Melamed

November 2030

Jim Melamed

Greetings from the future, 10 years in the future to be exact, November 28, 2030 to be even more precise. It is Thanksgiving Day 2030, and we are here testing a previously secret joint project of Mediate.com and Zoom wherein future text and image communications, up to 10 years into the future, can now be sent and published “backward in time.”  Crazy, I know, but bear with me.  We are also now working on being able to “pass back” audio and video.  All good things in time!

So, assuming this message actually makes its way back and is effectively posted on Mediate.com (presumably Thanksgiving weekend 2020), I just want to share how we as a future world now have so much to be thankful for. 

In fact, it seems that today, November 28, 2030, the world has, in fact, officially adopted a “mediation mentality” as the global standard for international communication and problem-solving.  And so, knowing that readers of this article are presently entering a very dark winter, please know that, by all appearances, 10 years later, mediation, and more accurately “mediation thinking,” seems to have saved the world. 

How did it all happen in one short decade?  It seems that the critical impulse to adopt “a mediative way” (respect and optimization) came from the horrors of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.  The pandemic over time taught us that the global challenges we face: health care, global warming, income disparity, policing, infrastructure, trade, you name it, can best be solved by taking “a mediative approach” to problem solving with two primary elements, “respect and optimization.”

Certainly, the US was ready for some badly needed healing following the 2020 election.  The magnitude of impacts from the pandemic, nationally and globally, convinced leaders of both US political parties to, in time, endorse the National Mediation Policy Act. (started by Mediate.com in 2020 at www.MediationAct.org).  With President Biden leading the way, a national policy was adopted in 2021:

“It is the policy of the United States that, when two or more individuals or entities are in protracted dispute, it is preferable that such disputants actively and voluntarily take part in solution-seeking mediation, rather than allowing the dispute to remain unresolved or result in costly litigation, continued conflict, and elevated risk of violence.”

The coolest thing is that, following this national adoption, so many towns, counties, cities and states have also adopted their own local Mediation Policy Acts.  And what is so special about today, Thanksgiving 2030, is that an International Mediation Act has now been adopted by the United Nations and nearly 200 countries.  Crazy, I know, but true.

One of the great selling points about mediation, of course, is that nothing is required nor imposed on participants.  Participation in mediation is still fully voluntary and participants are, as always, in full control, nothing can be imposed on them.  There is really nothing to resist about mediative discussions, nor thinking in mediative ways. The new piece that really sold the National Mediation Policy Act in 2021, however, were the two newly understood elements of “mediation thinking,” the twin concepts of “respect” and “optimization.”

Mediators, of course, know the criticality of having a respectful dialogue to resolve vexing conflicts.  Simily put, people in conflict will not move to consider any new solutions until they have had the experience of being fully heard and acknowledged.  "Being heard" is a practical pre-condition for mediation and other conflict resolution efforts.

What mediators also know, and have long known, is that it is a search for most capable solutions (not barely sufficient solutions) that distinguishes and is intrinsic to the mediation process.  The more that we can get each participant the outcomes they seek, the more likely they are to resolve things.  What is most notable is how this ethos of mediation has now generalized into a “mediative culture,” wherein people no longer need to go to a mediator to be respectful and seek optimizing solutions.

In retrospect, it seems that the public’s adoption of “respectful dialogue” has its roots in the outrage over George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police in 2020 and the subsequent growth of Black Lives Matter.  While one wonders if there is any truly capable atonement for a history of slavery and discrimination in America, having a truly respectful dialogue about most capable solutions has been a great beginning.  With “respect,” there has been a notable measure of societal appreciation for the pain and damage inflicted by historic racism in America. While there is a long way to go, the mediative model for problem solving has been key to moving social justice discussions forward, and this progress is accelerating with elevated trust and belief.

The other thing that united both the US and the world was the absolute need for us to wake up and simultaneously solve numerous global crises of historic proportion.  The model for America and global cooperation was clearly the optimized distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, now for nearly a decade!  The pandemic and global vaccine distribution helped us to understand that we are all truly one, both nationally and internationally, and that that our fate is undeniably tied to the health and success of one another, and all. 

The goal with vaccine distribution was not a “barely sufficient solution,” but “the most capable set of solutions,”  that all countries and the UN have now committed to, along with an ongoing annual review to ensure that “best solutions” are kept current.  This mediative mentality of “respect and optimization” have also now been adopted to address climate change, terrorism and refugee issues. 

Following our first “rising to the occasion” with global vaccine distribution, the reengagement of the Paris Accords on global climate change were another huge moment.  The world’s re-activation to address climate change, dramatically shifting to renewable energy and related jobs development have also been key.

In sum, if I may be so bold, it seems, looking back, that the pandemic of 2020 sufficiently scared the s**t out of people that they have generally given up on division and stupidity in favor of respect, dialogue and a joint search for most capable solutions.  This shift to a new “mediation thinking,” a mediation culture really, has made life on earth so much more hopeful!  I love the current political slogan, remarkably initially introduced by Melania Trump, now so widely adopted both nationally and internationally, “Be Best!”  Like I have said, crazy I know!

Anyways, back to our technical test, please do respond to jmelamed@mediate.com to let me know if you get this note from the future.  Knowing that things are not looking so great for the rest of 2020 and the first half of 2021, I do hope that you get this note that the future is in fact bright now that we understand the criticality of all of us being at our respectful and optimizing best.  It is truly a matter of life or death for us and the planet. 

I look forward to seeing you when you get here in November 2030, god willing!

Jim Melamed co-founded Mediate.com in 1996 and served as CEO of Mediate.com through June 2020 (25 years).  During Jim's tenure, Mediate.com received the American Bar Association's 2010 Institutional Problem Solver Award.  Before Mediate.com, Jim founded The Mediation Center in Eugene, Oregon in 1983 and served as Executive Director of the Academy of Family Mediators (AFM) from 1987 to 1993. Jim was also the first President and Executive Director of the Oregon Mediation Association (1985-86). Jim's undergraduate degree is in psychology from Stanford University and his law degree is from the University of Oregon.

Jim has received the following awards: The Oregon Mediation Association's 2003 Award for Excellence; The Oregon State Bar's 2006 Sidney Lezak Award of Excellence; The Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR) 2007 John Haynes Distinguished Mediator Award; The 2012 Academy of Professional Family Mediators (APFM) "Getting To Yes" Award; The APFM's first Outstanding Mediator Award (2018); and the Oregon Mediation Association's 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award.



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