Theories of Change: a valuable new contribution to Dispute Resolution field made freely available

John Lande, University of Missouri School of Law, Isidor Loeb Professor Emeritus has painstakingly solicited, collected and organized the book in to an interesteing, far-reaching, and thought provoking book that asks each of us in the field to consider what we might be doing better. He has collected a series of essays from over fifty professionals in the field, taking on this assessment of what the future of our field may hold.

Feel free to share this book with others who you think might be interested. John has graciously invited all of us to do this, and has made it a free download. Here is the link to this valuable resource to add to your collection, Theories of Change for the Dispute Resolution Movement: Actionable Ideas to Revitalize Our Movement.

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Students are the future of our field, and this may attract them to our community. So  the book should be shared widely with them as well.

The book is the result of the Theory of Change Symposium, organized by John in 2019. Here’s a post with an index of all the contributions to this symposium.

Included are several pieces describing important techniques to improve dispute resolution practice.  Rosa Abdelnour describes the importance of dealing with emotions in mediation, which may seem obvious, but it bears repeating as many mediators act as if emotions are irrelevant.  Noah Hanft argues that when businesses negotiate contracts, they should put the subject of developing good relationships on the agenda as an intrinsic part of the negotiation from the outset.  In one piece, Michaela Keet, Heather Heavin, and John Lande recommend that practitioners explicitly help parties consider valuable but hard-to-quantify intangible costs of engaging in the litigation process.  In another piece, they recommend a “planned early two-stage mediation” (PETSM) process to improve the quality of parties’ decision-making.  Laurel Tuvim Amaya describes the benefits of participating in reflective practice groups that challenge practitioners to seriously analyze difficult problems in their cases.

Some pieces take on “big picture” issues in our field.  Charlie Irvine urges us to take seriously substantive justice – not just procedural justice or other goals of dispute resolution.  Grande Lum describes why negotiation is especially important to deal with the major social divisions.  Rachel Viscomi suggests that we can use online resources to help bridge deep differences in our society.  Woody Mosten describes several ways that mediation trainings can improve the quality of mediation and include more peacemaking in our work.  Chris Draper envisions possible future uses of technology to promote collaborative justice in dispute resolution.  Lara Fowler suggests ways that the dispute resolution community can help address the existential threat to our planet of climate change.

Two pieces are reminders to take advantage of the Stone Soup Project, geared to faculty resources. The Stone Soup website has everything faculty need to give students great learning experiences through encounters with the real world.  Another piece describes how, with a little bit of extra effort, speakers at educational programs can generate new knowledge by systematically tapping the experiences and perspectives of audience members.

This book has lots of ideas, but no specific plans or suggestions to take any actions. This is left up to the reader to consider and inplement. John does suggest that members of the ADR community would most likely need to undertake some collaborative actions in order to implement the collective suggested changes.

John kindly synthesized the many suggestions in the book into the following broad recommendations:

        • Develop clearer common language of dispute resolution
        • Redefine what we do and who we are
        • Integrate technology into all our work
        • Develop best practice standards
        • Redesign teaching and training curricula
        • Develop and implement a research agenda
        • Develop a searchable dispute resolution bibliographic database
        • Engage the major issues of our times with realistic plans and expectations
        • Attract “all hands on deck”
        • Unbundle and prioritize our lives

As you will see, there’s quite a range of people speaking with very different voices. They are Rosa Abdelnour, Ava Abramowitz, Jim Alfini, Cynthia Alkon, Laurie Amaya, Lisa Amsler, Peter Benner, Debra Berman, Russ Bleemer, Michael Buenger, Alyson Carrel, Sarah Cole, Ben Cook, Chris Draper, Noam Ebner, Deb Eisenberg, Brian Farkas, Lara Fowler, Doug Frenkel, Steve Goldberg, Rebekah Gordon, Michael Green, Jill Gross, Chris Guthrie, Noah Hanft, Heather Heavin, David Henry, Howard Herman, Chris Honeyman, Charlie Irvine, Barney Jordaan, Jane Juliano, Michaela Keet, Randy Kiser, Russell Korobkin, Heather Kulp, John Lande, Michael Lang, Lela Love, Grande Lum, Andrew Mamo, Scott Maravilla, Woody Mosten, Jackie Nolan-Haley, Lydia Nussbaum, Rebecca Price, Nancy Rogers, Colin Rule, Amy Schmitz, Linda Seely, Donna Shestowsky, Jean Sternlight, Donna Stienstra, Tom Valenti, Rachel Viscomi, Nancy Welsh, Roselle Wissler, Doug Yarn.

Finally, if you don’t already subscribe to the Indisputably blog, I encourage you to do so. It is intended to link Dispute Resolution Scholarship, Education, and Practice.  There, you will find a range of interesting posts about various aspects of dispute resolution.

Thoughts about Empathy on April Fools Day

Empathy is a concept that enjoys ( or suffers from ) many definitions. It is, in a very broad sense, defined as the capacity to recognize and, to some extent, share feelings that are being experienced by another person.

“Empathy depends not only on one’s ability to identify someone else’s emotions but also on one’s capacity to put oneself in the other person’s place and to experience an appropriate emotional response” Charles G. Morris

In times where the news consists primarily of rapid fire reports that detail the collective and individual suffering of people across the globe. It is not uncommon for us to see in just a few short minutes:

* The wrath of Japan’s Tsunami

* Airstrikes in Libya

* Accounts of Genocide

We are often attracted to the drama of these natural disasters, revolts, warfare and atrocities. The news coverage highlights what can be covered in media bites that fit the format. If we are disturbed by a particular story, it is very easy for us to hit mute, turn the channel or simply press off. We can disconnect ourselves from the reality immediately. We play our own version of an April fools joke on ourselves. It is so easy to do. It is fast, and effective. We filter our intake, much as we do with junk mail, spam and the like.

What is easily forgotten, is that we “fool” ourselves to thinking that these stories cease to exist because the screen is black. Of course, they are not. The people who are affected by all of these quite traumatic events are still suffering with the reality of their life when the cameras are off. The loss of life, limb, personal safety, and liberty continues.

“The fool speaks, the wise man listens” — African proverb

So, on a day where we may share a trick or two with friends and family, let’s not forget that the world has become a place of great personal suffering and strife for many people, each with a story to be told. Let’s stop fooling ourselves into thinking that the suffering of others is not, in some sense, ours as well.

For, it is through empathy, not apathy, that we can make a difference in the lives of others, one at a time.

The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems. Mohandas Gandhi

Not a Perfect Game, but a perfect ending…

Perfection is elusive.

There are not many places where we are judged against a standard that allows observers to conclude that something was “perfect.” Usually we judge perfection against some subjective standard that allows us to make that assessment. Usually it is in reference to something we treasure — the perfect day, hamburger, sunrise.

It seems that sports is an arena that has established standards for judging  perfection — bowling a 300 game; and yes pitching a perfect game. Education also contributes to the chase for perfection — 100% on an exam, and the 4.0 average are , but those “perfects” have as much to do with the difficulty of the questions as  the answers given. In sports the competitive edge and structure of the game, creates a truer objective standard against which to measure perfection.

It occurs to me that the recent baseball “imperfection” is a good opportunity to consider that it is not how we handle “perfect” that counts, but rather how we handle “imperfect.”  What was interesting was the outrage of the fans, coaches, media and other players who were outraged in defense of the perfect game, while Armando Galarraga stood and smiled.  What was apparent to the world was that the pitcher pitched a perfect game, but Jim Joyce, the umpire, did not call a perfect game.

A lesson here is that is takes more than on pitcher to create a perfect game. It takes the whole team to play their error free best, and each umpire to call an error free game. One missed call behind the plate, could result in a walk. One dropped or booted ball from a teammate could result in an error. So we were left with an a perfect game played by Galarraga, his teammates, and the umpires, except for the one missed call.  Near perfection that caused outrage.  Because the call was so obvious, the outrage was well placed.

But, what we did not recognize at that moment is that  Jim Joyce did not see the taped replay. We had more information, in slow-motion and freeze-frame, than he had. Of course he defended his call, because he only knew what he perceived at that moment.

What happened next was something that will forever re-write the way the story of the 28 out perfect game will be told.

Jim Joyce looked at the tape, saw his mistake and admitted he blew the call. He knew that he had taken away from Galarraga something that eluded all but 20 others in the history of the game. Joyce showed a true sense of remorse and self- criticism. There was no attempt by him to defend the call. It was the perfect confession – I blew it. I was wrong. No excuses.

The tearful events at the beginning of the next game demonstrated how two people who have suffered through a problem, where the behavior of one hurts the other, can decide to accept what happened as unchangeable, but to restore a relationship that will endure beyond that one game.

It took two people to make it happen.

They did it on their own.

Two men, each of great character created a new perfect for the world to talk about…..

A perfect ending.