Summary of "Peace Skills: Manual for Community Mediators"

Summary of

Peace Skills: Manual for Community Mediators

By Ronald S. Kraybill, Robert A. Evans and Alice Frazer Evans

Summary written by Conflict Research Consortium Staff

Citation: Ronald S. Kraybill, Robert A. Evans and Alice Frazer Evans. Peace Skills: Manual for Community Mediators. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2001, 137 pp.

Peace Skills: Manual for Community Mediators was developed with three purposes in mind: 1) to serve as the foundation for a training workshop in conflict transformation using mediations skills; 2) to provide reading material for workshop participants wishing to extend and deepen their learnings; 3) and to offer ideas for solitary readers who wish to learn more about mediation and conflict transformation (xvii).

The manual is arranged in four sections with the chapters following the order that the material would be presented in a workshop. In Section One, the authors reveal their assumptions about what constitutes conflict and what role peacebuilders should play in helping to resolve it. In Section Two, Chapter Three covers the basics of mediation including what it exactly is that mediators do, and also introduces a four-stage model of the mediation process. Chapter Four discusses the preliminary stages of mediation in which there are three essential tasks that must be accomplished for the mediation to occur: "getting parties to participate, selecting mediators, and preparing oneself for the mediation" (32). This chapter provides suggestions on how to go about these three important tasks.

The balance of section Two consists of chapters elaborating on each stage of the four-stage mediation model proposed in Chapter Three as well as a couple chapters of complimentary information. Chapter Five discusses stage one, which is the introduction or "Providing Safety Stage". This chapter offers recommendations for welcoming mediation participants and easing any tension that may exist upon arrival at the session. Chapter six looks at the "Storytelling Stage", which allows participants to tell their sides of the story without interruption. The mediators then summarize the stories in their own words, which fosters understanding on the part of the mediator and other party. This stage, however, is mostly about ensuring that the mediators understand the disputants well. According to the authors, this will help the mediators be more successful in facilitating understanding between the disputants. The "Problem-Solving Stage" is described in Chapter Seven. This is normally the most challenging part of the mediation. This chapter outlines a six-step process to move through this difficult (but hopefully transformative) stage. Chapter Eight describes several more tools that may be applied in the problem-solving stage, such as joint problem analysis, separating causes from symptoms, trusting the proces, focusing on understanding, and using a caucus.

Chapter Nine, still dealing with the four-stage model, explains the "Agreement" stage. This chapter warns against becoming too relaxed before the final details of how to implement the agreements are dealt with. The main point here is that all agreements should be fully worked out and finalized before the mediation is ended. In addition, this chapter provides some specific advice on how to work through and write up the final agreement. Chapter Ten suggests some ways for working on letting go of the past and its legacy of wrongdoing and work toward reconciliation.

Section Three describes various skills and tools that may be used in mediation. Chapter Eleven focuses on listening skills and the ability to paraphrase and summarize the stories of disputants in order to facilitate understanding and transformation of the conflict. Chapter Twelve briefly discusses the importance of grounding mediations in language, especially the type of language that is used and being perceptive of subtleties in the words of participants. In Chapter Thirteen, the manual suggests strategies for mediators to use when responding to the intense emotions of the disputants, such as ground rules, caucuses, and shuttle diplomacy.

The final section and chapter considers the connection between the skillful use of mediation and the battle for healthy, happy communities and also "proposes that a common set of values and skills underlie peacebuilding in settings of both individual and group conflicts" (107). The chapter essentially describes potential methods for developing a transformative community mediation process.

This manual provides an especially solid outline for teaching community mediation skills. Written by experienced trainers with worldwide experience, it is designed to be used by people who want to teach community leaders about mediation and conflict transformation. In addition to presenting key conflict resolution concepts, each chapter includes exercises to help teach the key ideas in ways that are experiential, and appropriate in a wide variety of settings.