Reframing the Agenda

Richard Salem

Former CRS Mediator, Chicago Office; Private Mediator; President of Conflict Management Initiatives


[Full Interview]

Who decides what they need, do you or do they?

We always start with what the group says it needs. It would be nice to sit here and say they tell us and we respond, but the reality is when you do enough of these for enough years you can sort of pretty well see what's needed and what's happening and you can lead the community group into knowing what it needs very often.

One simple thing is helping a group understand it needs a good agenda if is going into negotiations, with or without a mediator. That grievances should be presented in a way that they can be responded to. If the agenda is fire the school superintendent, or fire the police chief, you know that's not likely to be achievable. You encourage them to shape an agenda that puts that at the bottom and started with some of the substantive changes they want to see. So you put the achievable at the other at the top of the agenda and push "fire the police chief" to the bottom. When they make enough progress at the top and middle of the agenda, they realize that you don't have to fire the police chief, if he'll abide by what you've agreed to up above on the agenda. So that's empowering, helping the group understand the negotiation process.