Community Mediation Services

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Community Mediation Services

Nelson, CanadaNelson, Canada
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$1,000 - $10,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Backyard chickens and changing climates: developing West Kootenay community mediation programs to facilitate positive interpersonal and community dialogue.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

The West Kootenay Region is a vibrant and socially engaged community with a population of approximately 86,000 residents. There are many organisations within the area promoting a locally resilient lifestyle that includes initiatives such as food production, densification, and strengthening of the local economy. As sustainable practices are adopted, neighbourhood complaints may increase. A classic example would be amendments to animal control by-laws allowing for the production of backyard chickens and the associated disputes that could arise. The resources of both municipal governments and community groups are being taxed by their attempts to address neighbourhood complaints received from community members and so a need was identified for a venue in which to address these disputes.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Two community mediation programs have begun in this past year: Mir Centre for Peace Community Mediation Program and Nelson Good Neighbour Program. These two community-based initiatives (in which volunteer mediators are available to help community members resolve disputes and build relationships with one another) have banded together to mutually support each other in their early development stages, and to respond to requests from other communities in the region to implement their own mediation programs. The solution, therefore, is to consolidate the two fledgling programs, and further develop our expertise so that we can improve our existing services and also mentor other communities in our region to develop their own community mediation programs. Our ultimate solution is to have a network of community mediation programs serving all of the West Kootenays.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

1. An individual contacts the program via phone or email. A volunteer mediator is available to listen to the problem and explain the service. 2. If the individual would like to try mediation, the other party is contacted to see if he/she is also willing to take part in the mediation process. 3. Meet with the mediator. Both parties have an individual and confidential meeting with a mediator prior to the mediation session, providing a chance to talk about their needs and concerns. 4. The mediation. Two mediators meet with together with both parties involved in the conflict. The co-mediators work with the parties through a proven process to help resolve the problem. Most conflicts are resolved in one meeting. 5. Following the mediation. One month after mediation, one of the mediators will follow up with the parties by phone to find out how things are going and what progress has been made in implementing the resolution agreed upon in the mediation. The process outlined above is part of a proven framework for dispute resolution. If a neighbour is having issues with a backyard chicken coop, they may call the municipality or by-law office in an effort to address the issue. If the issue does not fall within the parameters of municipal by-law, or if the individual is not willing to enter a court process, there are very few alternative options for addressing the dispute. A community mediation program fills a much needed role within our community for a non-adversarial way of solving disagreements that helps to strengthen the bonds of our society.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

In the process of implementing these programs, community organisations and stakeholders were consulted to determine whether a) there is a need for such a service and b) other organizations are already providing this service. The result of this consultation process demonstrated that while a number of community agencies were already providing mediation services to select populations (such as patent-teen mediation), existing services were overloaded and a community service would be welcomed. The initial months of operation have demonstrated that many of the cases have been referred from community social service agencies whose clients are not accessing these mediation services. The main factor that sets these two programs apart from other services is the fact that they are free of charge.

Founding Story

The idea for Good Neighbour Program came from a Transition Nelson initiative – the cross-sector table. The cross-sector table brings together leaders from different sectors in Nelson, including the environmental, social service, government, business, education, and health sectors. At one of the meetings, it was identified by various sectors that attending to neighbourhood complaints is a stumbling block for addressing community needs. The group brainstormed on how a community mediation program could help to address that need as well as promote a culture of collaboration within our community. You only have to mention this program to hear the personal stories of anxiety that conflict generates within people’s day to day lives. Both community mediation programs aim to provide a venue for complaints, promoting a culture of collaboration within our community, rather than one of winners and losers.
About You
Transition Nelson
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Organization
Organization Name

Transition Nelson

Organization Country

, BC, Nelson

Country where this solution is creating social impact

, BC, Nelson

Region in BC where your solution creates social impact

Kootenay Rockies, Columbia Basin.

How long has your organization been operating?

1‐5 years

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How long have you been in operation?

Operating for less than a year

Which of the following best describes the barrier(s) your solution addresses? Choose up to two

Cost, Quality.

Social Impact
Please describe the goal of your initiative; outline what you are trying to achieve

The goals of the mediation programs are to:
• Assist municipalities and local community groups in the management of enforcement issues and complaints from the public.
• Provide universal access to anyone in our community to use the program.
• Build a culture of peace in our region so that its citizens are better prepared to address future critical issues (climate change, shrinking resources) through effective dialogue and with local capacity.

What has been the impact of your solution to date?

Mir Centre Community Mediation program first began in January 2012 and was able to provide the initial mediation training to the Nelson Good Neighbour Program, thus doubling access in the region. Thus far, there have been approximately 20 mediation cases in the two programs. Although these programs are newly launched, their impacts are already being realised through conversations with the staff of local organisations and municipalities. Individuals working within partnering organisations are appreciative of the mediation service and the fact that they now have a solution to offer community members seeking help with a dispute.

What is your projected impact over the next five years?

Given that these programs are still in the early stage of implementation, it is difficult to set specific long-term targets. The need within our community must first be measured through evaluation of the programs. Mediation participants will be contacted to determine if their agreements have been successful. Quarterly follow ups will occur with partnering organisations to determine how mediation is meeting their needs, as well ways to better serve their needs. The information collected during this first year will prove invaluable in further diversifying the programs to meet the needs of the community and as a tool for other communities interested in implementing a mediation service. The target is for all people in the region to have access to free and competent mediation services.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?

Barrier: Lack of awareness of mediation and its benefits.
Solution: An extensive media marketing campaign has been initiated. Training sessions are being provided to the staff of local organisations so that they can knowledgeably inform people about community mediation.

Barrier: Lack of resources for volunteer training and ongoing volunteer mentoring.
Solution: Good Neighbour Program partnered with the Mir Centre in order to run the first round of volunteer training for free. Additional training costs could be offset by offering mediation training to the broader community and using the profits of those training sessions to subsidize mediation volunteer training. Mediation mentors have been recruited, but additional funding is needed to cover the cost of this service.

Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and track growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact

Establish a community mediation service with a well designed framework and operational model for the provision of this service.

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your six-month milestone
Task 1

Build a stable base of at least 10 volunteers with the skills and confidence needed to conduct mediation.

Task 2

Establish a referral system with at least 5 local community groups/governments to promote mediation.

Task 3

Secure a sustainable infrastructure, such as meeting space, communication systems, and program policies.

Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone

Monitor the program to measure its success in meeting the needs of the community. Establish a third mediation program.

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your 12-month milestone
Task 1

Determine the number and type of community issues that are addressed through the mediation program over a 12 month period.

Task 2

Respond to community requests for similar services, such as conflict resolution training, and communication workshops.

Task 3

Educate communities on mediation and develop materials on “lessons learned” that could be used to set up future programs.

Tell us about your partnerships

The primary partnership for this program is between Nelson Good Neighbour and the Mir Centre for Peace at Selkirk College. The two programs have collaborated extensively on referrals, training, and program logistics. Nelson Good Neighbour has also partnered with the Nelson Police Department to act as a referral agent for disputes that are appropriate for mediation. For mentoring purposes, the community mediation program has developed a relationship with the Community Mediation Calgary Society who have been in operation since 1993 and offer invaluable feedback on the program.

Are you currently targeting other specific populations, locations, or markets for your solution? If so, where and why?

Community mediation is a model that can be exported throughout the region. The services provided by the Mir Centre for Peace and the Nelson Good Neighbour Program only cover a small area of the West Kootenay region. The Village of Nakusp has expressed a keen interest in establishing a similar program within their community and would be a good candidate for further expansion due to their enthusiasm.

What type of operating environment and internal organizational factors make your innovation successful?

The Nelson Good Neighbour Program is comprised of 15 volunteers. The professional skill sets within the group include individuals with experience in communications, project management, non-profit operations, finance, and mediation. The commitment and expertise of these volunteers will help ensure that the milestones of the program will be achieved.
The Mir Centre for Peace is comprised of one staff member and 6 volunteers. Like the Nelson Good Neighbour Program, the volunteers came with a wide array of professional backgrounds, such as teaching, counseling, and social work.

Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren't specified within the list