Defining Inclusive mediation: Theory, practice, and research

Date01 June 2020
AuthorLorig Charkoudian,Caroline Harmon‐Darrow,Michele Ennis,Erricka Bridgeford,Tracee Ford
Published date01 June 2020
Defining Inclusive mediation: Theory, practice,
and research
Caroline Harmon-Darrow
| Lorig Charkoudian
Tracee Ford
| Michele Ennis
| Erricka Bridgeford
University of Maryland Baltimore School
of Social Work, Baltimore, Maryland
Community Mediation Maryland,
Takoma Park, Maryland
Tri-Community Mediation, Salisbury,
Caroline Harmon-Darrow, University of
Maryland Baltimore School of Social
Work, 525 W. Redwood Street, Baltimore,
MD 21201.
The Inclusive approach to mediation was created in
Maryland in the 1990s to bring the radical inclusion
already deeply woven into the community mediation
movement to the mediation table as a core belief and
practice. Community mediation includes all places
(neighborhoods where the dispute occurred), times
(convenient to the participants), problems (even if ille-
gal), and people (not just those on a court filing)
involved in the conflict. In Inclusive mediation, this
inclusivity is applied in the mediation process, welcom-
ing all ideas without filtering or changing them, and
working with all types of expression without designing
or enforcing communication guidelines.
The philosophy and craft of the Inclusive mediation approach are defined here, as practiced
since 1995 in several jurisdictions and programs of the state of Maryland and elsewhere, includ-
ing its theoretical roots, research base, defining qualities, core skills, and history.
Motivated by a belief in mediation consumers' rights to understand the service they are being
promised, and by the need to engage tailored evaluation and training, mediation leaders have
been calling for better definition of mediators' practice approaches or styles for over 25 years
(Bush, 2004; Charkoudian, 2012; Charkoudian, de Ritis, Buck, & Wilson, 2009; Della Noce,
2012; Golann, 2000; Pruitt, 2012; Riskin, 1996; Welton, Pruitt, & McGillicuddy, 1988). In the
context of advocacy for more reliably high-quality services across the alternative dispute
Received: 17 December 2019 Revised: 27 January 2020 Accepted: 27 February 2020
DOI: 10.1002/crq.21279
Conflict Resolution Quarterly. 2020;37:305324. © 2020 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. 305
resolution field, Bush (2004) and other leaders in transformative mediation (see Bingham, 2012;
Della Noce, 2012) have called for evaluating mediators within their own style framework,
ensuring that mediators are not judged based on use of skills they do not support, and that the
field as a whole is strengthened by a diversity of practice styles.
Practitioners and scholars have worked to categorize the breadth and intricacies of mediator
styles along useful continua, including: facilitative-evaluative, crossed with narrow-broad inter-
ests (Riskin, 1994); change-outcome orientations (Kauffman & Davis, 1998); and relational-
settlement focus (Kressel, Henderson, Reich, & Cohen, 2012). Further complicating the picture,
actual skills and tactics used by mediators are sometimes different from their stated approach
(Charkoudian et al., 2009), with an overview of 27 civil court programs showing that facilitative
mediators evaluated the strengths and weaknesses of each side's case, suggested settlement
options, predicted the outcome, or assessed or recommended the settlement value of the case
in up to three fourths of cases reviewed (Wissler, 2004, p. 64). In addition, mediators debate
whether practitioners can or should commit to a single unified approach or style. Some have
asserted that approach is context- and organization-dependent (Golann, 2000); can change
across the life of a single case (Golann, 2000; Pruitt, 2012); and contains behaviors so disputed
by practitioners that it cannot sustain the false coherence and import placed upon it (Della
Noce, 2012).
According to the classic definitions like Riskin's, Inclusive mediation is more facilitative
than evaluative, and Inclusive trainers teach a unified philosophy, discouraging an eclectic
practice that changes by case or stage of case. This description of the growing Inclusive media-
tion approach is offered with gratitude to those who have built the traditions from which it
grows, knowing the benefits of clear definitions to consumers and practitioners, and mindful of
the particular challenges in clarifying the nuanced and complex practices like mediation.
Like the alternative dispute resolution movement generally, Inclusive mediation is rooted in
conflict theory. As envisioned in the 1940s, 50s and 60s by Lewin (1947), Deutsch (1949), Coser
(1964) and Adams (1966) conflict theory held, variously, that conflict was itself a neutral force,
which could cause positive (e.g., social change, in the tradition of Marx and Hegel) or negative
(e.g., violence) results, through cooperation or competition. By the early 70s, Scanzoni (1972),
Sprey (1974) and others were applying this concept to family life, that conflict in families can be
a positive element, if directed toward positive change and people getting their needs met, not
toward violence and division. From conflict theory, conflict resolution program theories and
practitioners have taken as central the project of separating conflict from conflict tactics, and
people from the problem to be solved (Fisher, Ury, & Patton, 1981; Schellenberg, 1996).
Like the community mediation movement generally, Inclusive mediation has its roots in
principles of community justice, where conflict belongs to the people and communities
involved, not to an impersonal state. This model held that community members should identify
and bring conflicts to light, not bury them in bureaucracies. Police, courts and corrections were
not being overburdened, they were being misused to handle many issues that were between
neighbors, coworkers, family members. Victims were erased in this system, both as actors, and
as recipients of restitution, as in ancient systems of justice. Out of these ideas, came two theo-
ries and practices: the restorative justice movement (Bazemore, 2001; Umbreit, Coates, & Vos,
2004; Zehr, 1990, and many others) and the neighborhood/community justice or community

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