Colorado mediators and conflict resolution trainers offered their expertise and ideas to CRI's visiting delegation from Tbilisi State University in the Republic of Georgia as they continue plans for the first university-based mediation clinic in the region. Through their partnership with CRI, TSU seeks to create an educational training center and curricular model that supports a growing cadre of mediation and conflict resolution practitioners in the South Caucasus region. This project begins to address existing tensions emerging from extensive societal reforms, an ethnically diverse citizenry, economic challenges, and a legacy of uprooting conflict by increasing the capacity of both citizens and specialists to manage conflicts more effectively (see CRI Newsletter, Summer 2007).
For ten days in May, our three primary TSU faculty partners visited Denver and DU. Goals of this particular visit were to further plan their mediation clinic and associated changes in the masters curriculum, to visit local internship sites where DU graduate students gain mediation experience, to visit mediation clinics and centers around Colorado, and to learn more about how mediation centers and clinics work with local government agencies, the courts, and the larger judicial system in the United States.
Several program administrators for Colorado's Office of Dispute Resolution (ODR) hosted meetings for the visitors. After meeting first with ODR director Cynthia Savage for an overview of Colorado's judicial branch and its mediation programs and partners, the Georgian faculty visited several county offices during their trip. At each location, program administrators arranged for them to talk with judges supportive of mediation programs, and to talk with program staff about how mediation services are provided to the courts. Meetings were hosted by Trish Elledge at the Arapahoe County Justice Center, Sue Taigman, program administrator for Boulder and Jefferson Counties, and Michelle McKenna, El Paso County program administrator. Patricia Whitehouse (MA '01) and Deb Sperlock also briefed them on the CAMP program at the offices of the Colorado Bar Association, where CRI MA student and intern Katie Harshbarger described how her internship there allowed for field training.
Georgian visiting faculty also were able to observe programs offered by community mediation centers. Mediation Services Director Mark Loye and Julie Carter hosted a lunch in the Jefferson County Courthouse, where the Georgians heard about the multiple programs they offer to their community, and heard about contributions and value from Judge xxx and County Administrator Jim Moore. A trip to Boulder allowed a review of Boulder City & County's mediation services with Directors Jamie Lau and Kon Damas.
The University of Denver's own College of Law hosts a university-based clinic, and so our Georgian visitors could hear first hand from our own Professor Jeffery Hartje about tips, strategies, and lessons learned. Former NAFCM-Board member Lori Burkey offered a one-day training on mediation center administration. Meetings with DU project team members Ruth Parsons, Robin Amadei, Cindy Savage, and Tamra d'Estrée allowed for brainstorming on possible case streams and supervision models for TSU students and supervising faculty, as well as learning from the Georgians how they will likely tailor their training to reflect the practices and culture of the Caucasus region. DU team members also made sure their Georgian guests had an adequate taste of Western US culture at the Traildust Steakhouse, Cinco de Mayo festivities, and Garden of the Gods Park.
One of the high points of the visit for the Georgians was a lunch meeting in Boulder with noted author, practitioner, and CRI Advisory Board member Dr. Christopher Moore. In addition to being well known internationally within the mediation field as the author of the seminal textbook on mediation (The Mediation Process), and the founding partner of one of the best internationally known mediation firms, Dr. Moore also has extensive experience in many countries with setting up dispute resolution systems. He had a wide-ranging discussion with them about strategies for establishing such systems within different countries and cultures. He worked with them to consider what Georgian cultural components should be integrated and accommodated in developing and institutionalizing various conflict resolution options. They left the meeting with a much more concrete sense of the various implementation tasks before them, as well as a sense of confidence that a truly 'Georgian' development was not only possible, but also desirable.
One final set of meetings stands out during their visit. Once the Georgians had arrived in Denver, discussions around their strategy for developing mediation, disseminating knowledge, and building societal capacity revealed that their connections and interests, and team background, would make working through schools an important addition to their original plan. Thus meetings were added with Pearl Bell (MA '05), from The Conflict Center, which does training in primary and secondary schools, and Michael Donahue, the head of the locally-based NGO Critical Mass Leadership that works with urban youth and whose Bold Leaders Program runs bicommunal summer camps for youth from conflict areas, such as Cyprus and Rwanda. These two meetings proved to be inspirational in several ways: first, for the excitement, energy and passion these two bring to their work with children and youth, and second, for the possibilities these discussions opened up for our TSU colleagues to consider incorporating work both with youth and with schools to their plan for training and capacity building in Georgia.
[Caption for Moore picture: Christopher Moore, mediation expert and author, shares thoughts on cultural factors in mediaton system development with TSU faculty Medea Despotashvili and Revas Jorbenadze during their May visit to Denver.
Caption for Lori Burkey training picture: Trainer Lori Burker shares her wisdom on clinic administration with TSU Prof. Guguli Magradze
Caption for Mark Loye: Director Mark Loye describes JeffCo Mediation Svcs. partnership with courts]