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Public Policy Mediation
A prison is being built, a city landfill runs out of space, a new road needs to be constructed, school district lines begin to shift, all of these events create intense community interest, often coupled with legal and other challenges. Public Policy Mediation is a process that has evolved (and which is often more accurately styled Community Issue Facilitation) to help in the resolution of the social conflicts that such changes create.
The process is facilitation, if it is begun "on time" (i.e. before the problem
becomes critical), and mediation if it is begun after groups enter into the
negotiation and confrontation process.
A Roadmap For the Process
This is a process that aids not only individuals, but communities, in understanding and resolving the natural conflict that arises when a new road is built, a new land fill is begun, school districts are reorganized, or other community dislocations occur that create, embody or crystallize conflicts.
Representation on the groups may or may not be proportionate. This leads to two types of issues: swamping those who are most impacted (i.e. if a community wants to build a dump, and they've decided on your back yard, proportionate representation will generally yield twenty-to-one or better ratios in groups, which will effectively prevent the resolution of the conflict or a sense of equity) and over-representation of minority issues (if the group representation is fixed, at the same number per group, an interested party with 100,000 members has the same representation as one with 100).
Sensitivity to these issues is important at the planning stages. There are several working approaches, including division of large interest groups into smaller ones, the use of multiple groups (not all of which will have every interested party represented, but which will circulate those representatives in group shuffles and reorganizations, so that each party will be heard), and other approaches.
Time lines are also very important, and the neutral mediators must remain aware of keeping the process on track and moving. Management, in terms of time awareness, is an important task of the neutral (and delay will be one of the hidden agendas of some interested party's organizers).
A wide range of political dispute tends to spill over into public protests, court challenges and other areas of conflict. By using a well moderated and well mediated community involvement process it is often possible to resolve some of the elements that create the dispute, and to create a resolution with a history that will withstand judicial scrutiny and that will fully solicit the support of the political and policy making processes.
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