Mediation Within One Community

Last week I had the pleasure of attending an event sponsored by the Prince Aga Khan Shia Imami Ismaili Conciliation and Arbitraion Board for the USA (CAB). The goal of the event was to introduce the Dallas-Fort Worth legal and dispute resolution community to the work of the CAB. My previous experience with the Ismaili community was limited to seeing educational and humanitarian projects conducted by the Aga Khan Foundation in Central Asia. So, it was fascinating to learn more about the Ismaili community as a whole and the mediation program in particular. The mediation program is for members of the Ismaili community worldwide and predominately handles family/divorce and business disputes without charge. All family/divorce matters are handled through a co-mediation model with a male and female mediator. And, about half of the CAB mediators are women.

Among the many interesting and thoughtful aspects of this mediation program is how proactive it is in following up with the parties. Within 30-60 days after each mediation, whether resolution is reached or not, the mediators get in touch with the parties to see if there is a need for any further assistance. The Ismaili community as a whole seems to offer much support to its members and has institutional resources that can help with implementing the mediation agreements and the mediators themselves seem to be well attuned to helping the parties access those resources.

In addition, the CAB keeps what seem to be admirable records of all mediations including identifying the “root causes” of the conflict. The stated goal is to determine what might be done within the community to prevent future disputes. One example that was given was that the “root cause” of many business disputes within the community is the lack of written agreements, as many of the businesses are conducted between family members. As a result of this conclusion, another Ismaili institution conducts educational programs to encourage written contracts in all business agreements, including between family members.

The mediators are all volunteers and serve for a three year term up to a maximum of six years. The mediators themselves undergo over 40 hours of initial training and have follow-up training. Most of the mediators are non-lawyers. One interesting side-benefit of this structure is that over the 25 years that this program has been in place, many members of the community have been mediators, received training, and presumably bring better conflict management skills with them after they finish their terms as mediators.

Since all of the mediators, and the parties, are from the same community, it seems one great advantage of this mediation program is that the mediators are aware of the cultural and religious context for the parties and their disputes. But, what was more impressive to me was how proactive the CAB seems to be in reaching out to the wider dispute resolution world and incorporating the continually evolving understanding of best practices and theory into their approaches.

3 thoughts on “Mediation Within One Community”

  1. This mediation setup seems incredibly effective, and yet so simple. Reaching out and finding the root cause can go a long way. It will definitely make the parties seem more appreciated, and help future parties come to an agreement much quicker (saving time, money, and high emotions). Everywhere in the United States could greatly benefit from this model. Perhaps the best way to implement such system would be in smaller mediation clinics who cater to specific types of disputes within a smaller geographic range.

  2. I don’t know of any studies that anyone has conducted about this community specifically, but maybe another reader of the blog can direct you to something. And, as I understand it the records and the studies of the data are done within the community, but once again, this is something that others might have better information about.

  3. Cynthia: Wow, another very interesting post! Has anyone studied this community’s mediation system in depth? Are there detailed records or data about settlements that one could study?

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