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NAFCM's Origin Story

Monday, April 8, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Lori Dieckman
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NAFCM has dedicated April's celebration theme to "Honoring Our Elders".  One of the activities suggested for this month is to invite center and community elder's to share memories about your center's "origin story".  In this spirit, you can read NAFCM's origin story below.


NAFCM’s   Origin Story


The National Association for Community Mediation (NAFCM) then and now… 25 years of being the Hub



In the beginning1


According to legend, our birthplace was the National Conference on Peacemaking and Conflict Resolution Conference in May 1993 in Portland, Oregon. There was a session at the conference on community mediation from which the conversation turned to the need for advocacy for a distinct entity that would promote community mediation. Those who participated in the conversation acknowledged that community mediation was different from the legal direction.  At the session, participants were invited to meet in the lobby later to keep the conversation going. We had our first meeting.


We were a strategic group of people that made things happen. We knew that the success would depend on the diversity of perspectives, opinions and expertise across the country. We built in diversity of practice, sizes of centers, and ethnicity, race, and gender of center directors. We were glad for the energy of those present, but we were not enough to make this happen. We left with tasks to bring others to the table.


We set out to launch a national organization and to also strengthen individual centers by connecting them to each other and to NAFCM. When we started, we had no idea how long NAFCM would last and we would joke about term limits. The community culture and the impact were the high point, as a resource for people and programs across the country with a goal to protect and encourage centers.


There was very little communication about community mediation in those days before NAFCM. There was a newsletter that was mailed out once a month. Occasionally, an article would appear in the National Institute of Dispute Resolution publication. Community mediation was rarely discussed or promoted.  Mostly, we were minimized and dismissed by the larger organizations.


We had no sense of whether we could pull this off. We had different points of view coming from different centers in different states. There was no common definition of community mediation. We bonded through a very deep and difficult set of conversations over three days. We worked really hard, got three hours of sleep, had 10-12 hour meetings and then would go out and play. One night we went bowling at 3AM. Just because you are doing good things and working hard does not mean you have the political support. We were in the right place at the right time.


We came together with our history and leadership as center directors, all aware of the daily pressures and strengths of the centers. Because we were center directors, most of us were used to getting by with very little and making the best of every opportunity. We were scrappy, making dollars stretch, and doing what needed to be done for the greater good. We were true to our principles and used consensus to make decisions.


The work was invigorating, exciting and hard. We were determined as volunteers, staff, and boards to show that there is a role, need and a place for an organization that would support the needs of community mediation programs.


Reflections of Today


We built something very robust and limber – and it worked. Here we are talking about it 25 years later. This anniversary is meaningful for everyone and is a reminder of our values of courage, honesty, integrity, which is who we are as NAFCM and as mediators.


It is a breath of fresh air that these programs are still out there.


We did what no one thought possible. We are proud of how we worked hard together. We have been at it since 1993 when there are so many other national organizations that no longer exist.


Before NAFCM, I felt all alone. NAFCM gave Center Directors an opportunity to travel and to really focus on our work.


NAFCM is voice for collaboration, openness, conflict-resolution and diversity. Conflict is a part of who we are as vibrant communities – community mediation provides ways to do that that are healthy and constructive. We provide open space in our communities to have those very meaningful deep conversations – right the wrongs, give access to average people. That’s why our centers are so resilient. I continue to be impressed by the caliber of volunteers, staff.


Diversity has continued to be an essential part of NAFCM.


NAFCM is responsive, resilient, and true to its mission. We believe that change is good and that it has to happen all the time. NAFCM has always had that at its heart and is stronger because of it. Part of its strength is its variations and the beautiful diversity of centers.


NAFCM honors the model the community mediation centers use, empowering people to be responsible for their own issues.



1This handout represents two-years of effort to find and be informed by our NAFCM Elders.  This project was led by Jeanne Zimmer, Chair of the NAFCM Strategic Partnerships and Resources Committee.  This summary is built on the work committee member, Danielle Cosgrove, Director, Cleveland Mediation Center,  did to create a place for the reflections received from the NAFCM Elders.  This handout is a snapshot of some of those received responses.  NAFCM continues to be strengthened by the unending gift of volunteer time, talent and treasure, past and present.

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