get to know a new york peace instituter: melissa!

melissa and cops

Folks, I’m all kinds of lucky to work with such a great team, and I’m fixing to introduce you to all of them, one by one.  Here’s Melissa Appleton, ace Program Manager. She’s a joy to work with, and is able to see detail and understand complexity in a way that hurts my head. Have a look above — that’s her dropping mediation knowledge to NYPD officers.  In addition to her amazing work with us, she has a background in international relations, and has worked to build peace in such places as East Timor and Kosova. Also, she’s Canadian, eh.

Melissa. So what do you do around here?

As Program Manager, I do a few overlapping things. The first is that I work to build and strengthen referral relationships with organizations and agencies with the goal of increasing overall awareness and use of our services. I work closely with our awesome case management team, who engages directly with clients and referral sources. I get excited about excel spreadsheets and using a data-driven approach to support our growth. And lastly, I provide oversight for our Youth-Involved and Parenting Mediation Programs.

What was your first paying job?

My father and grandfather ran a family business selling Native Canadian art and we held monthly auctions in the gallery. When I was little – like 9 or 10 years old —  I was an auction runner. That’s what we called the person who brought the notes from the auctioneer confirming successful bids to the back, where clients would go to pay for and collect their purchases. I eventually graduated to taking payments and packaging the art. It’s unrelated to mediation, but you might say it was an early start on customer service!

If you could be any animal, what would it be and why?

This is the hardest question! Maybe an orca? They are spectacular, highly social, and incredibly intelligent. (And they live in my favourite part of the world, the Pacific Northwest!)

Editor’s note: Look how she spelled “favourite”! See — Canadian!

What inspires you about your work?

Everything! It’s really rewarding to know that we give people support in the midst of a difficult situation and they often reach greater clarity about how to move forward.  And I get to enjoy being a part of our work from all angles – working directly with clients, mediating, and helping mediators grow in their practice.

Who would play you in the movie of your life and why?

Staff once voted on Scarlet Johanssen, which is hard to give up…

Tell us about a time you felt you really helped make a difference for our clients or mission.

Honestly, I feel really good about all the people we serve who don’t end up in mediation…these are the people who have been directed to us mistakenly after going through a bureaucratic maze,  who keep getting the run around, or who aren’t savvy enough to find answers online. Maybe they need advocacy or legal information – not mediation – but we do our best to listen and direct them to some one or someplace who can actually assist. I think being kind and helpful makes a difference for people, whether or not they become our clients in the end.

If you could have any 3 people, living or dead, for dinner, who would it be? OK, now you can only have 2 — who would you kick out?

Maybe this is cheesy – but it would be pretty great to spend an evening with my grandmothers, both of whom are no longer alive. Or, for a more fun option, I’d spend the evening with 2 or 3 people who throw great parties, like Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera!

Editor’s note: See how she skipped the part of kicking someone out? That’s so Melissa.

 What else should we know about you?


Editor’s note: I’ll put you down for “I’m Canadian.” And that Melissa deeply, deeply cares about her teammates, our trainees, mediators, clients.  Recently, I’ve been working with her to train and facilitate a group of New Yorkers heroically struggling with mental illness while emerging from homelessness. I couldn’t have asked for a better partner in this challenging and rewarding endeavor.

Support New York Peace Institute & have fun while you’re at it by attending our PeaceRaiser on November 5th!



conflict resolution day…AT NASA!

astronaut bradI’m delighted to be spending Conflict Resolution Day — October 16 — conducting a series of trainings at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA! In Houston! At the Johnson Space Center!)

As this picture of me with my grandfather, Iggie, from 1969 indicates, I’ve been planning this mission for some time. I’ve since learned that astronauts wear pants.

This is not a dirty picture.

photoSo. I incorporate lots of my marker-on-flipchart paper drawings into our trainings. This is my rendition of a chameleon, which represents one of the classic responses to conflict: accommodation — going with the flow, not making waves, ceding to others’ needs, etc.

In a recent training, here is more or less what went down when I showed this drawing:

Me: OK. What’s this a picture of?

Participant X:  It’s two lizards having sex.

Me: What? No, it’s just one lizard —  a chameleon.

Participant X:  Nope, I’m seeing two lizards getting busy.

Me: No really, it’s just supposed to be one lizard. You must have a dirty mind.

Participant X: You’re the one who draws the dirty pictures.




what do all these folks have in common?

scroll down and find out.copsBUELLER-700x331Pinheadmatlockjared letodentistrobinflo-aliceUN Nick Nolte

These are among the professions who just survived our intensive, 5-day, bootcamp-meets-bandcamp Basic Mediation Training: NYPD cops, teachers, an acupuncturist, lawyers, activists, a dentist, therapists, a food industry worker, a United Nations staff member, and more.

One of the things we love about these trainings is the community that we build through 40 hours of learning, laughing, eating and playing together. People who might not ever meet in real life — and may hold a stereotype or two about each other — bond and connect in incredible and unpredictable ways. Over the years, we’ve seen more than 2,000 people build mini-communities through holing them up in Brooklyn for five days.  We figure we’re only about 7.125 billion people away from building world peace.

And what we love about mediation is that you can be great at it regardless of your background, education, or profession.  You may need to un-learn stuff as well as learn stuff, but if you’re committed to building peace, willing to honor clients’ self determination, able to check your ego at the door, and resist the urge to be judgey, mediation may be just the jam for you.


raise some peace with us on november 5th!


We are delighted to invite you to our 2nd Annual PeaceRaiser!

Let’s face it — you deserve some fun.  And who doesn’t want a more peaceful New York City?

Have we got the event for you. Join us on
Wednesday, November 5, 6-9pm, for great company, tasty delights to tantalize your palates, high & low octane beverages to slake your thirst, a lovely venue, and fun and creative activities.

The best part — while you’re schmoozing, noshing, and imbibing, you’ll be doing your part to build peace and reduce violence in our city.  Proceeds from this event will help New York Peace Institute to continue to provide free conflict resolution services to our communities.

New York Peace Institute is a vital part of our community, providing more than 10,000 New Yorkers with the resources they need to resolve their conflicts peacefully, creatively, and durably.  Our wonderful staff and more than 400 mediators represent New York’s largest civilian peacebuilding force — catalyzing countless acts of healing, understanding, agreement, forgiveness and trust among families, neighbors, businesses parties, community groups and more. 

So, we’re all about cooperation.  But for one night only, we’re gonna throw a bit of competition into the mix. In addition to getting to know and reconnect with some amazing people, you’ll have a chance to compete in our specially-curated silent auction and in our potentially raucous trivia game. And, we’ll also have a fun interactive art project.

The cost? $100. By the way, a couple of tickets covers the cost of a mediation session for our clients — and the result can be priceless. 

BREAKING NEWS: We’re offering a student discount — so if you’re a kindergarten, elementary school, middle school, university, or graduate student — the price is a mere $60. We’re committed to building community among the up & coming generations of peacebuilders. (Just enter the code STUDENTS when you purchase your tix.)

The event with take place at a fabulous venue — the WeWork space at 25 Broadway, 9th Floor.  Come as you are. Get your tix HERE!

Wishing you the very best,

is mediation a sleeping beauty?


Find out at the Cardozo Journal of Conflict Resolution Symposium!

I’ll be among the spielers, and I also drew the above posters, using many magic markers.  Here are the deets:

The Cardozo Journal of Conflict Resolution is proud to present the 2014 Jed D. Melnick Annual Symposium and hopes you join us on November 3, 2014 from 9:00am to 5:00pm.
Key Note: Guiseppe De Palo (ADR Center, Rome)
Speakers and Moderators Include:
Robert A. Baruch Bush (Hofstra University School of Law)
James Coben (Hamline University School of Law)
Dona Erez Navot (University of Wisconsin Law School)
Tracey B. Frisch (American Arbitration Association)
Douglas Frenkel (University of Pennsylvania Law School)
Eric Galton (Lakeside Mediation Center)
Brad Heckman (New York Peace Institute)
Laurel Kaufer (Kaufer Mediation)
Kimberlee Kovach (Kovach Dispute Resolution)
Carol B. Liebman (Columbia University School of Law)
Lela P. Love (Cardozo Law School/Yeshiva University)
Jacqueline M. Nolan-Haley (Fordham University School of Law)
James H. Stark (University of Connecticut School of Law)
Joseph P. Stulberg (Moritz College of Law/The Ohio State University)
Nancy A. Welsh (Dickinson School of Law/Penn State University)The Jacob Burns Moot Court Room
Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law
55 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10003

RSVP here, and please direct any questions to



A very special Special Education Mediation episode.

Folks, here’s a great little video on YouTube, featuring our very own Special Education Coordinator, Carol Lieb Himes.  Thanks to the wonderful non-profit Resources for Children With Special Needs, we’re getting the word out on this amazing service — which helps families and schools work together to ensure that special needs kids are getting thei education they deserve. Big shoutout to friends at the New York State Dispute Resolution Association for supporting this program statewide.