Mark, get set, go…

mark collinsFolks, here’s my sketch of one of my mediation heroes, Mark Collins, one of the visionaries at the Unified Court System responsible for the incredible network of community mediation centers throughout New York State. Mark is retiring this month, and will devote his time to family, music (most notably Big Head Todd and the Monsters), and golf.

Below is a lovely tribute by Charlotte Carter, Executive Director of the New York State Dispute Resolution Association (NYSDRA). Charlotte’s article originally appeared in NYSDRA’s blog.

Mark Collins: Looking Back and Looking Forward

by Charlotte G. Carter

Mark Collins, Assistant Coordinator for the New York State Unified Court System’s Office of ADR Programs, worked for 34 years to build the network of Community Dispute Resolution Centers (CDRCs) in New York; he will be retiring this month. He was responsible for the supervision of the CDRCs, program funding and evaluation, mediation trainer certification, and the expansion of dispute resolution into family courts. We also honor Mark for his role in founding and partnering with NYSDRA as a professional association, administrator of statewide programs, and as an advocate for our members and the dispute resolution profession.

Mark wove the core values of mediation practice into his professional life.  He remained true to the original strands of community mediation, both of which manifested during times of national turmoil and political activism in the 1960’s. One strand flowed from the need for court reform and recognition that the judiciary system was overburdened. The second strand was a broader vision of social justice, and the belief that citizens could be empowered to take control of their own lives, resolve conflict, and preserve personal and professional relationships.  While providing oversight to the CDRC network to ensure quality of their processes, he supported their self-determination in terms of capacity building to meet emerging needs of their communities and stakeholders. Mark models transparency and accessibility:  one of the many pearls he passed on to his colleagues was the concept of managing while walking around.

Mark’s vision was grounded in practice; throughout his career he has been an ADR practitioner with a particular focus on victim-offender dialogues in serious crimes. He gained a national reputation, and served as board member and Board Co-Chair of the National Association for Community Mediation. Mark provided assistance to other state court systems in their design of community mediation networks. Over the years, Mark has been recognized by many organizations for his contributions to the field including the Lawrence Cook Peace Innovator Award from NYSDRA in 2010.

The Soviet Scalp Succession Scheme: Conspiracy or Coinkidink?


hairpothesisDating back to the tsars, Russian/Soviet leaders alternated between being bald and having full heads of hair. (Note: I excluded the Andropov, Chernenko and Medvedev interludes from the drawing, but they check out as well.). This is known as the “Bald-Hairy Theory.” Google it — it’s a thing.

One can speculate on all kinds of Kremlin intrigue behind this Premier-patterned baldness. Putin’s pate might suggest that we should look for the lushest pompadour in the Kremlin to figure out who’s the….hair apparent.

In mediation, it can be tempting to make assumptions based on clients’ past actions. Indeed, in economics and psychology, it’s said that the best predictor of future actions is past behavior. Luckily, in mediation, we’re not in the prediction business, and we’re all about moving forward — and perhaps breaking patterns.

Here’s Australian mediator Margaret Halsmith tweet in response to my drawing:  “Mediation is an evenhanded process of shifting thinking from assumptions of the past to hypotheses of the future.”

Margaret clearly gets the mane idea.


5 things lurking in your kitchen drawer THAT WILL SHOCK YOU

sporkHow’s that for a clickbait title?

I’ve written about The Beatles and the five classic conflict response styles. And in our trainings, we correlate these styles to various animals.  But you can never have too many belabored metaphors, so let’s try it out with cutlery.

The fork is the competitor of your kitchen drawer. With its spiky tines, it assertively digs into whatever it darn well pleases. Villagers tormented  Frankenstein’s monster with pitchforks. Krakens and sea serpents regularly found themselves on the business of Neptune’s trident.

The spoon is our flatware accommodator. It scoops up whatever liquid or semi-viscous substance that’s in its path. It goes with the flow. What is an oar, if not a big-ass spoon?

Chopsticks, in my troglodyte hands, are the avoider. While billions use them with grace and Mr. Miyagi catches flies with them, in my paws chopsticks avoid anything smaller than an ice-cube sized hunk of moo goo gai pan.

The knife, though stabby and weaponizable, is our compromiser: it divides things up, slicing the pie so everyone gets a taste.

Our collaborator? The spork. An elegant and creative tool that is more than the sum of its parts, allowing you to do whatever you need to do with your food…scoop, slice, poke, you name it. The spork has yet to earn its rightful place in the flatware pantheon — not unlike how mediation is not yet the movement it deserve to be.

May the spork be with you.

Update: I just heard that KFC discontinued sporks. Not cool.