Volume 4, Number 1, Oct. 2003
Promoting Mediation Center
Quality Assurance Using
The National Association for
Community Mediation (NAFCM) recently released its Self-Assessment
Manual for Mediation Center Quality Assurance, the association’s
first major foray into the credentialing/quality assurance
debate within the ADR field.
As mediation services become more and more sought after and
common in society, there is an increased need for consumers
(individuals seeking mediation services or organizations seeking
to refer cases to mediation) to have an easy to understand,
reliable means of assessing the quality of services and providers.
To date, most attempts to ensure quality mediation have revolved
around “roster management” or other means of determining
the amount of training/experience individual mediators possess
and using these criteria to determine who will receive cases.
Attempts to develop a field-wide set of training or practice
standards have been faced with the challenge of finding ways
to include the wide variety of mediator styles and methods
as well as the fact that the definition of “quality”
service can change from case to case.
NAFCM’s manual attempts to address these challenges
by focusing not on the direct provision of services themselves,
but rather on the quality of the system through which cases
are managed, mediators are trained and evaluated, and mediation
centers determine what “quality” means in their
communities. By encouraging community mediation centers
examine their goals and values in light of their communities’
needs and values and to develop their own approaches to serving
these needs effectively, NAFCM’s self-assessment approach
aims to increase quality without imposing restrictive and
inappropriate standards. The manual is being made available
at no cost to NAFCM members, and for $25 a copy to non-members.
For ordering information see http://www.nafcm.org/pg54.cfm.
The following two excerpts from the manual’s Preface discuss some of NAFCM’s thinking about quality assurance
- On the reasons for a quality assurance system:
There are two broad purposes of this self-assessment manual:
Center Self-Improvement. Self-assessment is a critical
first step towards organizational renewal and improved services
to our clients. This manual is a vehicle through which a
mediation center can identify areas of strength and weakness.
Accountability. Our field is identifying criteria and/or
standards for operations and participation. Some of these
criteria are becoming generally accepted as defining areas
in which centers (and/or other non-profit agencies) should
be held accountable. Self-assessment is a tool that allows
centers to demonstrate and document their compliance with
- On “quality” defined in the context
of individual mediation centers
...centers using the manual determine how well their operations
reflect their own declared and implicit values. This is
expressly highlighted in some sections, e.g., ethics, but
should be understood to be paramount in all aspects of the
This Manual is designed for self-assessment and/or use
by one center when requesting review by a peer. It can also
be incorporated in evaluations performed by others if the
The self-assessment approach was selected for a number
of reasons. Self-reflection is an approach and a value recognized
by most mediators and should be familiar to those running
mediation centers. When an assessment is performed "in-house"
by people familiar with operations, it often increases the
likelihood that the results of the evaluation will be incorporated
into the actual practice of the mediation center. Additionally,
the actual experience with the assessment process provides
the center with a methodology for ongoing monitoring of
their activities and with an understanding of the importance
of this function. We hope this assessment will have a longer
range effect on the mediation centers involved than an outside
We have attempted to design the manual so it can be used
by centers at very different stages of development -- just-opened
centers as well as multi-year veterans. Thus, not all sections
will be useful to all potential users. For example, the
center management portion (Module 1) may be elementary for
some centers while helpful to others.
The NAFCM manual is divided into three major sections dealing
with general non-profit management, mediation center operations,
and volunteer mediator training, evaluation, and development.
Within each section, the manual presents “considerations”
which represent broad statements of general principle to which
most if not all mediation centers aspire.
As a partial example of considerations presented, in the
section on Mediation Center Operations, centers are encouraged
to address five core areas, namely
- Ethical Practices and Values
- Intake and Screening
- Case Management
- Public Awareness