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Mediation Center Advisory Councils


Every Dispute Resolution Center needs an "Advisory Council" -- something universally used in health care and other service areas.

The Three Functions of an Advisory Council

  1. Advisory Councils provide all of the benefit of an outside board of directors without surrendering any control to outsiders.  This is their ostensible purpose and a very valuable reason to have an Advisory Council with whom the principles in the PADR meet with on a regular basis (monthly or bi-monthly to begin with, quarterly as time moves on).  In setting up a PADR Advisory Council it is important to look for some individuals who would not currently be interested in being a part of the PADR but whose input and perspective would be valuable to those in the PADR.  Often university professors, educators, and outsiders (e.g. mediators from other states) are sought as council members for a PADR's Advisory Council to fit this role.
  2. Advisory Councils provide individuals in the community who are well disposed to the PADR and who can refer mediation and conflicts to the PADR for resolution.  The second group of persons to be sought for PADR Advisory Council membership should be those who would make good sources of referral and public input.  Often journalists, government officials, insurance adjusters and business leaders are sought for Advisory Council membership to fit this role.  Members in this role should meet on a monthly basis.  Often the meeting can be a dinner presentation style "update/meal/time for comments" meeting to keep everyone socialized and aware of the PADR's presence and good will.
  3. Advisory Councils also exist to educate outsiders as to how and what and when and why a PADR Center exists. Such persons often rotate in membership or are invited to "attend a meeting of the xyz PADR Center Advisory Council" rather than actually being members who are asked to meet every month.  If the dinner presentation style meetings have an educational component, they are an excellent place to invite "community member" participation.  Inviting enough to ensure five to ten new attendees at every monthly meeting is a core part of marketing a PADR to the community.

Setting Up an Advisory Council

An advisory council begins with a selection of category one members before the PADR is founded.  Look for the following categories of potential members:

Once the initial council is set up and the PADR has been started and running for about two to two and a half months, it is time to look for early adopters in your community and opinion leaders to add to the council.  You are looking for the people you would initially market ADR services to or who can help get the word out on ADR.  Look for journalists, government officials, insurance adjusters and business leaders who might have an interest in serving on an Advisory Council.  Be aware that the initial approach in offering membership on the council is a time to explain ADR, explore the possible future interest the person may have, make a positive impression, and to realize that many of those you approach may have an interest, but not the current time.  (Educate and socialize your contacts).

Finally, once a fully working council is up and running, begin to invite potential clients and socially influential individuals (clergy, union leaders, politicians, etc.) to attend meetings.

The Advisory Council Meetings

The initial council will meet (unofficially) about twice a month, on a catch as catch can basis, as the council is set up, the PADR is finalized and as programs are considered.  These meetings will consist of the principles of the PADR meeting with sub-groups of the council (as available or as appropriate) to discuss the issues that arise in putting the PADR together and in implementing the programs.  Once the center is actually running, it is time to set up a formal meeting schedule and program.

Generally, the meeting schedule will have two aspects.

First, a monthly dinner presentation.  Everyone on the initial council is invited (and may attend or not as they desire) and the stage two members are fed, socialized, and educated (via the presentations).  They also interact, are encouraged to ask questions and to confirm what they understand.

Second, a quarterly working meeting for planning, discussion, suggestions as to new members, evaluation of past progress and strategic planning.  These meetings are held during the day time and may or may not include lunch.


Advisory Councils are important to the operation and success of a PADR (Private Alternative Dispute Resolution Center), both as sources of input and as vehicles for marketing.  It is important to recognize that while an Advisory Council can be "just" marketing or "just" input, in a successful PADR the Advisory Council is a robust and valued part of the ADR community.

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