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Biennial Changes within Community Mediation [ 2009 - 2011 ]

These are dynamic times for community mediation. To better understand the specific changes confronting the field, the 2011 Survey asked respondents to indicate whether and to what extent their programs experienced changes over the past two years to their staff size, volunteer roster, organizational budget, and case volume. The results indicate over half of all programs did experience notable changes in each of these categories. The following graphs and corresponding text outline these reported changes.

Changes in Program Staff Size

Since 2009, the field experienced an overall estimated reduction of approximately 100 full-time equivalent staff positions. Nearly 45 percent of community mediation programs, however, have been able to retain consistent staffing levels. Impressively, nineteen percent of programs were actually able to grow their staffs, three percent of which – smaller programs – were able to double their staff size. Unfortunately, 35 percent of programs were forced to decrease their staff size during this same time period. Nearly half of these latter programs experienced reductions between one and 20 percent, while nine percent saw reductions ranging from 61 to 80 percent.

Change in Number of Volunteer Mediators

Over the past two years community mediation programs have been able to add nearly 100 additional volunteers to the national volunteer mediator roster. These volunteers serve an important role in helping to compensate for the difficult losses in program staff and meet the increasing demand for services during the same time. While nearly half of programs reported no change in the size of their volunteer rosters, reported increases were able to edge out reported losses. Twenty percent of programs reported an aggregated loss of 730 volunteers, while nearly thirty percent reported an aggregated addition of 830 new volunteers.

Change in Program Budget

It’s not surprising that program budgets would vary from year to year. In fact it’s notable that during a period of heightened financial insecurity over a quarter of community mediation programs reported their annual budgets were left unchanged. Of even greater accomplishment is the 30 percent of programs which reported an increase in their annual budgets during this time. While most of these increases were nominal – one to 20 percent – a few programs did achieve substantial growth in financial resources.

Unfortunately, these increases were not as widespread as reported decreases in programs’ annual budgets. Forty-two percent of programs reported budgetary reductions from 2009 to 2011. Of some consolation, however, is that the concentration of these reductions were within the one to 40 percent categories.

Though largely moderated, even nominal budgetary reductions often require immediate operational recalibrations to community mediation programs’ tenuously balanced budgets. This reality is what caused the staffing reductions experienced throughout the field over the past two years. It’s also what threatens to further cut into programs’ capacity and jeopardize some programs’ ultimate survivability should these reductions continue.

Change in Case Volume

As economic stressors bled into interpersonal relations, community mediation programs were called upon to address a greater number and variety of conflicts. Overall, the field experienced a seven percent increase in case referrals from 2009 to 2011. Complicating the field’s capacity to address this biennial increase in referrals were the concurrent decreases in fieldwide financial and staffing resources.

While 20 percent of programs reported steady case referral volumes, large segments of the field experienced either nominal – one to 20 percent – increases or decreases, 27 and 33 percent respectively. A few smaller programs reported large increases – 81 to 100 percent – in case volume. In total, 44 percent of programs reported an aggregated increase of over 40,000 case referrals during the previous two year period. Conversely, 35 percent reported an aggregated decrease of over 16,000 case referrals during the same time.

The fieldwide increase in case volume represents communities’ increased reliance on mediation programs to address recurring and emerging conflicts. For programs to sustainably meet this heightened demand, local support from ADR practitioners, referral entities, and funders must keep a better pace than has been recently experienced.

   Discussion Prompt:
      What changes has your
      program experienced?
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