The Value of Mentorship, Part 2: Shaping the Next Generation of Professional Mediators

By: Alicia Kuin (IAM Fellow)

Jun 6, 2019

As indicated in The Value of Mentorship, Part 1: Reflections on My Journey from IAM Mentee to IAM Fellow , IAM mentorship has been the defining professional experience in Alicia’s path to becoming a successful professional mediator. Her experience shows that the IAM’s mentorship program can be more than it is today, for it is underutilized and its potential untapped. If the program is intentionally invested in and monitored, it can provide unexpected professional and personal benefits to both mentors and mentees. Importantly, it will provide IAM members with a direct opportunity to identify, coach, and develop the next generation of professionals who are well educated, diverse and highly skilled.

A robust mentorship program will ensure that the IAM continues to be the international gathering place for highly skilled and ethically focused dispute resolution professionals. Solid initial steps for the mentorship program to remain relevant and the IAM to best position itself for continued international leadership, include enhancing the visibility of the IAM mentorship program and challenging IAM members to cultivate mentorships with the upcoming generation of professional mediators.

The Next Generation. Over the last ten years, we have seen a steady increase in the discourse of mediation as well as a rise in dispute resolution programs and certifications. As a result, a new generation of mediators between the ages of 25-45 is emerging onto the scene. Some of these mediators come from civil law practice, yet most have ADR-related undergraduate and

graduate degrees, specialized areas of training, and unique experience that have allowed them to put theory into practice.

Fine-tuned training programs have equipped a new generation of mediators with a holistic approach to dispute resolution, an approach that considers culture, gender, identity, human rights, technology, neuroscience, mental health, and design. This new generation is eager to learn about the field from seasoned professionals such as IAM members who bring years of legal and non-legal experience to their practices, and who have done incredible work founding renowned groups and organizations, such as the IAM, that create opportunities for networking and professional development. Without a doubt, IAM members have succeeded in bringing credibility to a field that they helped create.

Less experienced practitioners tend to enter the field of dispute resolution with unique, fresh and important perspectives around today’s issues. The IAM mentorship program can provide these less experienced practitioners with guidance and encouragement to build their practices and tackle the nuanced challenges and ethical dilemmas encountered in dispute resolution work.

The Benefits to the IAM. At IAM conferences and in conversations among ourselves, we focus on expanding our toolboxes and adding lenses through which we can view and analyze dispute resolution. The mentorship program and inviting guests to our conferences are two avenues for the IAM to challenge current viewpoints and understandings and reveal an openness to rise and meet today’s local and global challenges. Mentorship is a reciprocal relationship where practitioners at different places in their careers learn from one another’s experience. Passions for the craft interact and allow mentor and mentee to strengthen their approaches and challenge underlying assumptions about dispute resolution.

The mentorship program benefits mentors personally and the IAM as a whole. The IAM benefits by cultivating new members who will help shape the future of the organization, encouraging membership beyond North America as mentees are identified in Europe, Africa, Asia, South America, and Australia, and by learning from the unique and fresh perspectives that mentees bring with them. The next generation of mediators is diverse, and the IAM mentorship program can be a fluid platform to honor and encourage that diversity. The IAM will be shaping a future membership that will range in age, gender, race and culture.

The direct benefits to the IAM mentors include opportunities to learn different approaches to conversations and perspectives, including a deeper understanding of the dynamics of conflict as they relate to structural injustices, power imbalances and barriers to inclusivity experienced today no matter the geographic location. We know that some of the cultural and racial issues today – and the power with which they are felt and lived – are not new. However, the intensity and speed with which communication spreads information, fear, and threats, allow these issues to feel new, forceful, and emotionally raw, and the mentor and mentee can learn from and support each other.

To maximize the reciprocal learning relationship, mentors can seek talented less experienced mediators who are from a different generation, gender, race, culture or ability than their own. They can both teach and learn in a co-mediation environment, from co-publications and from inviting mentees to speak on panels about their experience and perspectives.

Summary and Call to Action. In the age of the entrepreneur, mediators have alternatives for organizations to support, conferences to attend and memberships with which to connect. As we well know, a person can only do so much, and there are plentiful options for the next generation of professional mediators. The IAM mentorship program provides an avenue for continued learning from one another and an opportunity to grow and diversify membership that adheres to the highest practice and ethical qualifications, which sets the IAM apart from other organizations. Incoming IAM President Chuck Doran has noted that building the mentorship program will be emphasized by IAM in order to support the next generation of mediators by tapping the vast wellspring of experience in our membership that needs to be shared.