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Finding Peaceful Resolutions in Rhode Island

by Wendy Fachon

The Center for Mediation & Collaboration Rhode Island (CMCRI) was founded in 1996 by a group of visionaries that wanted to increase the use of peaceful conflict resolution techniques. CMCRI is the only community mediation center in the state, with services provided by a committed volunteer base. The organization serves individuals, families, governmental bodies, and both for-profit and not-for-profit organizations in mediation, group facilitation, and conflict coaching, training, consulting and community dialogue.

Mediation is a process in which an impartial mediator facilitates productive communication and negotiation by the parties in dispute. Mediators help parties define and clarify their issues, understand their varying perspectives, explore possible solutions, and work towards mutually satisfactory agreements. To insure a safe and productive environment, mediators coach participants to listen actively, talk respectfully and preserve confidentiality.

CMCRI provides mediation as a preferred alternative for settling civil cases at a district court level. It oversees the Rhode Island Agricultural Mediation Program (RIAMP)—the official USDA-certified program for our state. RIAMP offers confidential assistance to help resolve agriculture-related issues, including agricultural loans, crop insurance, easement disputes, pesticide use, natural resource conservation and farm program compliance.

The center also offers mediation and conflict resolution training for adults and children in the community and in the schools. The organization is in its third year of piloting peer mediation training for high school students and liaison teachers at E-cubed Academy, in Providence. Participants undergo 30 hours of training to learn the principles of mediation and engage in role play. Conflicts that arise in the school community are referred to the trained peer mediators, who have first-hand knowledge of school-related issues and can relate to their peers, yet can also maintain neutrality in guiding the conversations. The experience is truly empowering for these students.

Executive Director Tonya Harris emphasizes the importance that self-determination plays in mediation engagement. “You are the expert of your own life. You understand the reasoning, and you help develop a solution that works for you,” she says. Periodically, CMCRI offers a five-day, 40-hour course for anyone interested in mediator training. The next session will be offered from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., January 18, 19, 25, 26 and 31 at 500 Broad Street, in Providence.

Learn more are cmcri.org.

Wendy Fachon is a frequent contributor to Natural Awakenings.