The Power Of Lasagne

miniIMG_20160401_133258_hdrWe have been training community mediators in Grenada and St Kitts over the past month. The participants come from all walks of life and include teachers, pastors, retired government employees, social workers, police officers and youth workers. Many of the fact scenarios we have used in our role plays have their roots in North American culture but play out in any culture… some differently… but there are many universal similarities, one of which is food.

Some of you may have read in previous blogs about our neighbour with the barking dog and the other neighbour who sent an anonymous letter complaining about the noise. While the reaction in both countries was to say that dogs in the Caribbean live outside and bark, they all recognized that the real root of the conflict was the fact that neither neighbour had reached out to the other with a gesture of “welcome to the neighbourhood” or “hello I am your new neighbour”. Not surprising. We have enjoyed wonderful local dishes throughout our time here from freshly caught fish with coconut curry sauce to grilled lobster and conch fritters. But, the one angry neighbour in the role play exclaimed, “they didn’t even bring over a lasagne”. While 5 hours air travel north this would have been my mother’s welcome food of choice, it was a reminder of how some things tie us all together. Who would have thought it would be lasagne!!!!

 Elizabeth Hyde is the Principal of Medius Dispute Resolutions, the Executive Director of mediate393 inc. and an associated mediator, arbitrator, and parenting coordinator with Riverdale Mediation Ltd. Elizabeth’s practice is focused on providing effective and informed family mediation involving parenting plans, child and spousal support and property division.

Posted in ADR Training, Collaborative Practice, Culture, Diversity, Family Law, Mediation, Negotiation, Training | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Culture and FDR

Our colleagues Christine Kim and Joanne Schaefer are on our teaching team in St. Kitts this week. They, along with Riverdale associates Elizabeth Hyde and Jared Norton are delivering training to 35 community leaders as part of the IMPACT Justice Project.

Exploring Culture in Mediation by Christine Kim

For the last few years, I’ve been exploring this idea of cultural competency in mediation. As a mediator based in Toronto, there is a lot of material to work with as it is a hub of diverse ethnic groups but culture is not just about ethnicity, it’s encompasses much more.

I am presently in beautiful St. Kitt’s teaching as part of the Riverdale Mediation team with Elizabeth Hyde, Jared Norton and Joanne Schaefer. As part of the teaching, we provide case scenarios. One of which involves a neighbor dispute regarding a barking dog. The upset neighbor gave an anonymous note to the dog owner complaining about the barking dog disturbing the sleep of her young children.

The reaction of the St. Kittitians reflects the collectivist values present in society. The shock of how a neighbor would even consider writing a note and in addition, an anonymous note did not make any sense to them as they would expect that they would come to the door and have a conversation with them. They spoke about how they all know their neighbours and had plenty of stories that reflect their relationship. Needless to say, the reaction to the anonymous letter was strong and their response to hold a community meeting to address the issue and restore the trust was a common theme in how to resolve this issue.

The desire of ADR/mediation in this community is aligned with many of the cultural values that are very much embedded in this society. The preservation of relationships and community is a priority. Although we are teaching mediation to the St. Kittitians, we have much to learn from them.

Negotiating the Heat: Day 2 in St. Kitts by Joanne Schaefer

Our mediation training team , Elizabeth Hyde, Christine Kim, Jared Norton and Joanne Schaefer are on Day 2 of our 5-day mediation training course in St. Kitts. After spending yesterday providing a high-level overview of on theories around conflict and negotiation, this morning we discussed the framework of mediation, the mediator’s role and the importance of neutrality and impartiality. We also had a lively exchange about the different skills mediators use to structure the process and empower clients to negotiate effectively.

This afternoon we are going to demo an intake interview and then hand it over to our students to work on a case study. As a group we are also going to work on reframing, re-stating and focusing exercises.

Christine Kim

Christine Kim is an experienced family mediator specializing in custody and access issues.With over twenty years experience in the social work field, Christine has worked locally and globally with diverse groups including street youth, seniors, women, and the LGBTQ community.



Joanne Schaefer is a certified professional coach and lawyer dedicated to getting, growing and keeping lawyers in practice. Joanne brings over 20 years experience to coaching law firms, lawyers and students, both as head of professional development and student recruitment and as a former commercial litigation partner.



Elizabeth Hyde is the Principal of Medius Dispute Resolutions, the Executive Director of mediate393 inc. and an associated mediator, arbitrator, and parenting coordinator with Riverdale Mediation Ltd. Elizabeth’s practice is focused on providing effective and informed family mediation involving parenting plans, child and spousal support and property division.



Jared is a registered social worker and an accredited family mediator with the Ontario Association for Family Mediation. Jared has a diverse professional and practice history, and has applied his skills in numerous community and clinical settings, including the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Frontenac Youth Services, and the Distress Centre of Toronto.


Posted in ADR Training, Culture, Diversity, Mediation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Without Borders : FDRIO UnConference

FDR Without Borders- Family Dispute Resolution UnConference May 4, 2016

On May 4, 2016, FDRIO is hosting the first-ever “Unconference” in dispute resolution, taking place at The Centre for Social Innovation on Spadina Avenue in Toronto.

The idea was borrowed from the tech industry, where unconferences are used to generate creative thinking and build networks.

What is exciting about unconferences is that they are loosely structured, allowing for the
informal exchange of information and ideas between participants, rather than following a conventionally structured program of events.

May 4 will begin with those present proposing ideas. We then vote topics and the
unconference begins. The theme, “FDR Without Borders”, welcomes a wide range of speakers and participants.

To get started, FDRIO has lined up a couple of speakers you will want to hear, including Les Jacobs, Professor and Director of the Institute for Social Research at York University and Senior Research Fellow of the Canadian Forum on Civil Justice.

If you have an idea, presentation, topic, or innovation to present (or debate!) that is related to best practices in FDR, bring them with you. We want you and need you to be there!

The only drawback is that space is very limited – to the first 90 registrants. Our last conference sold out and we expect this one will too.

Admission is only $75 – $25 for students.

You’ll have an opportunity to visit our display area, where thinkers, innovators, authors, artists and colleagues will promote their ideas and products to help you in your work.

For more information and to register, visit the FDRIO website.

Posted in Collaborative Practice, Mediation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mediate Like a Roman

Canoe - 2What does a mediator do? In helping to understand what a mediator is & what a mediator does I have gone to Latin sources. I refer the reader to the Latin word interpres (which came to me on my phone today as my Latin Word of the Day). This word means a middleman, “an agent between two parties, mediator, broker, factor, negotiator” in English. In looking at various Latin sources an interpres includes “messenger of the gods” and “goddess of marriage”, a “soothsayer”, “a translator” and of course the obvious meaning of interpres “an interpreter”.

I suggest that the Latin word interpres accurately describes what a mediator is and does. It’s trite that many disputes have their roots in lack of communication or misunderstandings. The mediator’s role is to ensure that each party not only hears the other but understands the other. By being empathetic and objective a mediator is much more likely to accurately hear what a party is really saying. The mediator, unlike a party to a dispute, comes to the table with a lack of “involvement” or “history” & unlike a party to a dispute is more likely to accurately filter out background noise & hear what is really being said. As an interpres the mediator’s role is to act as a translator to the other party by ensuring the latter has accurately heard the former through the mechanism of reframing.

The interpres by acting as “the messenger of the gods” has the job of helping the parties recognize their interests in the particular dispute. By acting as an interpreter the mediator is there to assist the parties to arrive at their own solution to the dispute in such a way that both parties interests are met.

Some mediators, like the writer, are more directive and not only help the parties recognize their interests but suggests a solution that meet those interests. Whatever style a mediator adopts the mediator is acting as an interpres which leads me to believe that mediation is a very old profession known to the Romans which is not surprising when one considers that most Western legal systems have their roots in Roman Law.


Joel Skapinker, B.A., LL.B., LL.M. Barrister & Solicitor, Accr. Family Mediator

Posted in Collaborative Practice, Culture, Family Law, Lawyers, Mediation, Negotiation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gender in Negotiation

In light of International Women’s Day being this week, here is an article by Deborah Kolb reviewing the role gender plays in negotiation.



After many years of indifference, the study of gender is now an important area of scholarship in negotiation. At the same time as interest has grown, so too have the perspectives on gender and negotiation evolved. Elsewhere, we have suggested that there are three major ways to look at gender.[l] The first, and by far the most common, is to treat gender as differences between men and women. A second approach, an interpretive one, treats gender as being socially constructed. And the third approach, with its roots in postmodern thinking, uses a lens of gender to look at how theory and practice render invisible key elements of the social enactment of negotiation. Our purpose in this paper is to review these different perspectives, but to focus more directly on research based on the interpretive and postmodern approaches. Because most of the gender research occurs in the laboratory, the focus has been primarily on individuals in interaction. To extend our understanding of gender and negotiations, we need to look more closely at organizations as a primary site for the construction of gender identities.[2] In this paper, we will trace the different ways gender has been studied in negotiation and show how a focus on organizations as gendered entities is critical to understanding about the ways gender matters in negotiation.

Gender Equals Difference

As Rubin and Brown noted in 1976, sex is one of the most easily measured variables, so it is not surprising that the question, “Do men and women negotiate differently?” is frequently asked.[3] Recent research suggests that women don’t ask, often let opportunities for negotiation slip by, typically set low goals, concede easily, and let their emotions show, among other factors. [4] Although individual studies on sex differences may produce significant findings, cumulative results across studies are often contradictory. Meta-analyses of these studies have shown only small statistically significant differences and on just two dimensions: women tend to be more cooperative than men and tend to receive lower outcomes when money is at issue.[5]

To ask a question about differences between men and women assumes that gender is a stable attribute of individuals. Accounting for these differences requires that there is some basis in biology, socialization, role theory, or entitlements to explain why they exist. [6] The most common argument posits that women emphasize nurturance and support in their relationships because of their social development and the mothering roles they often play (or are expected to play). In contrast, according to this argument, men are groomed for separation and individualism, behaviors presumably more suited to the demands of negotiation.[7]Thus women are more likely to treat a negotiation as an event in a long-term relationship, one linked to a larger social context and concerned with fairness and sensitivity to others, while men see it as a one-time event with no direct consequences for future interactions.[8] Without directly testing for the origins of gender differences, these explanations become tautological and are often marshaled after the fact to account for women’s deficiencies when they negotiate. For example, when men outperform women in salary negotiations, the explanations given for these differences are “the problems” that women have in negotiating.[9]

In a field that prides itself on pragmatism, the advice that results from this stream of research is problematic. First, the findings boil down to two points— either women are the same as men or they are different from them (i.e., deficient). So the advice is directed only to women; namely, how can women overcome their deficiencies and better equip themselves to negotiate or how can they strengthen their instrumental orientation to the task. [10] No similar advice exists for men. Second, the advice from this work may itself be gendered and subject to gender stereotypes that people use to judge behavior.[11] Thus, to tell a woman to act in a more self-interested, assertive, or instrumental way assumes that these behaviors are neutral in the sense that men and women can use them with the same effects and same consequences. However, these behaviors when enacted by a woman are likely to be seen differently than they are when men employ them. Assertiveness, self-orientation, and an instrumental focus may backfire against women. This type of asymmetry has created double binds for women in other research arenas. [12] In the leadership field, for example, it has been shown that beliefs about effective leaders, which tend to reflect masculine, agentic qualities, conflict with beliefs about femininity. A double bind test for a woman leader is the question can she be a leader and a woman too? If she acts decisively and pushes for what she needs—behaviors we might expect from leaders—she may be seen as too pushy. But if she conforms to feminine expectations and consults widely, she is seen as indecisive. [13]

Others value difference—articulating a woman’s point of view that brings unnoticed benefits to the negotiation process and the agreements that it produces. From this perspective, a focus on relationships, the skills of empathy, and the ability to manage conflict and competition simultaneously are thought (although not explicitly tested) to be advantageous in negotiations. [14] However, when researchers have tested to see if a “feminine concern” for others is correlated with joint gains, the findings are not encouraging.[15] It is not enough to care about the other party. For women to achieve high joint gains, in this case profit, they need to be primed to pay more attention to their own needs. Further, appreciating the feminine skills that negotiators bring to the table ignores the ways that these skills are not equally valued when compared with the more “masculine” skills basic to claiming behavior in distributive negotiations.

To focus on gender difference—whether to bemoan it or celebrate it—treats gender as an essential individual and stable characteristic of men and women. First, the approach treats men and women as internally homogenous categories, yet we know there is considerable variability within the sexes. Second, it fails to recognize that gender is hierarchically arrayed in society, and so to focus on difference is to accept a false symmetry in which the masculine emerges as the standard and the woman as the other.[16] In the negotiation field, the research and the pragmatic advice derived from the gender difference perspective reinforces masculine attributes; that is, it inadvertently places a premium on enlightened self-interest, analytic rationality, objectivity, and instrumentality.[17] In contrast, those attributes typically labeled as feminine—empathy, concern for relationships, subjectivity, and emotional expressiveness—remain less valued. As Joan Scott points out, what may start out as an explanation of the experiences that lead to differences between women and men, often translates into “women are the way they are because they are women.” [18] When we focus on the question—whether men and women negotiate differently—it is the women that emerge as in deficit and in need of “fixing.

Interpretive Perspectives on Gender

Interpretive perspectives shift the focus away from essentialist characteristics of men and women to the negotiation interaction itself. From this perspective, gender is continually socially constructed, produced and reproduced. In other words, we “do gender” rather than have a gender. [19] “Doing gender” means that in the process of enacting a social practice (such as negotiation), individuals are constantly engaged in constructing identities and social situations in gendered ways. In this way, gender is not an individual characteristic, but both a means and an outcome of the ways parties socially construct negotiation. Interpretive perspectives emphasize the fluidity, flexibility, and variability of gender-related behaviors. The challenge is to understand how parties enact negotiation in a particularly gendered way. If the research question from the first perspective is, “Do men and women negotiate differently?” the interactive perspective raises a more useful question, “When and under what conditions does gender shape the course of interactions?[20]. Three levels of analysis comprise these conditions—the individual, the interactional and the situational/organizational levels.

Continue Reading Gender in Negotiation

Posted in Arbitration, Diversity, Family Law, Inspiration, Lawyers, Mediation, Negotiation, Parenting Coordination, Separation & Divorce, Training | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Reflections on Teaching ADR in Grenada – Part 2

Photo Collage - 160304 - GrenadaOur colleagues Nicole Stewart Kamanga and Liz Waisberg are on our teaching team in Grenada this week. They, along with Riverdale associate Elizabeth Hyde and mediate393 mediator Joel Skapinker are delivering training to 35 community leaders as part of the IMPACT Justice Project. See our previous blog for more information about this exciting project. 


Another perfect weather day!

As our Group’s skills continue to build, today they worked on a complex multi-party land use dispute between First Nations, vacationers, campgrounders and the government.

Their enthusiasm was contagious as everyone got into character.  They observed directive and facilitative styles as each coach took a turn mediating the dispute.  By the end of the exercise, they had resolved several of the issues.   The Group also worked on drafting skills and identifying the Do’s and Don’ts of effective MOU and Report writing. They practiced these skills when they drafted an Agreement based on the land dispute resolutions they generated earlier in the day.

Once the day’s work was done, we toured the central part of the island. Our guide drove us up winding roads into the mountains, pointing out local foods and plants and providing us with some background information about the island.  We enjoyed this opportunity to learn more about the beautiful island of Grenada.

We have learned from our students that it can take 5 years to obtain a court date and that the local legal aid centre has one lawyer and one social worker. They have told us that mediation will be a welcome and highly effective means of resolving disputes here.


We had the opportunity to have a short tour of the island and see some of the communities outside of St Georges. The island is extremely hilly and most of the houses are built into the mountains.

It was important to see how people in Grenada live because their issues are quite different from North American issues. Land disputes are common in Grenada.

The participants in the course are extremely engaged and want to use their new skills to try to resolve issues because the courts are so back logged it can take 5 years for a case to be heard. They have discussed how the course content will help them to navigate issues of conflict and try to resolve disputes.


NicoleNicole Stewart Kamanga
LL.B., LL.M., Acc. FM.
Nicole is a lawyer and an Accredited Family Mediator. Prior to entering her legal career, Nicole worked as a Children’s Advocate in a women’s shelter, providing individual and group counseling to the children and their mothers.



Liz SWCG PicLiz Waisberg 
Liz is a registered therapist and accredited family mediator with a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Toronto. She also holds a Bachelor of Social Work degree from Ryerson University. Liz has extensive clinical experience working in hospital-based settings since 2001. She has worked as a clinical social worker in the Emergency Department and in Mental Health settings working with children, adults and families. Liz has also worked in the mental health field providing support and crisis intervention to individuals and families struggling with issues such as depression, anxiety, chronic pain and grief. Most recently she has been working with individuals who have experienced trauma or sustained traumatic brain injuries.
Posted in ADR Training, Announcement, Arbitration, Culture, Diversity, Event, Mediation, Training | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment