Parallel Evolution, Lobsters, Scorpions and Mediation.

I’ll quit while I’m ahead, since I’m out of my depth when it comes to science or math.  (Or sports.  A hockey puck registers in my mind as a Don Rickles insult rather than the flattened ball they slap around in Canada.)

Having worked to build mediation centers in various countries and cultures, I witnessed some parallel evolution.  We provided basic mediation training to folks from different countries, then encouraged them to adapt, acculturate, and refine the ideas to fit their local context.

In country after country, the mediation model we taught indeed underwent some adaptive cultural tweaking — but it also evolved parallely, with each country independently developing similar approaches.  Years later, the Centers were mediating with the core values, process stages, and skills toolbox intact, along with new flourishes and techniques. I was pleasantly surprised to find that mediation hadn’t been replaced by a more culturally comfortable arbitration model — i.e. the mediator meting out Solomonic justice like unto priests, elders, chiefs, sheikhs or other big cheeses, rather than eliciting ideas and solutions from the parties.

I’d like to speculate that maybe there’s something universal about mediation, and that it has the potential to grow and thrive key peacebuilding tool in vastly different cultural contexts.  (I’ll blog later about how mediation practices developed in other countries and cultures have signifcantly influenced our work at New York Peace Institute  — international development in reverse.)

So,  kudos to folks who are spreading the mediation word abroad, with the requisite respect and humility.  Sometimes it’s okay to be a little shellfish.

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