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Mediation - how can it help your charity?

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People who work or volunteer for charities are highly committed and provide vital work in the community and therefore relationships are always happy and constructive with everyone working together towards shared objectives. True? Unfortunately not!

As in any group, people do not always agree or get on easily with each other and in charities difficult situations can easily arise out of the complex relationships between volunteers, staff and boards. The very passion, drive and commitment that draws people into charities can heighten issues and very quickly escalate disagreements into major disputes. This is not only stressful and unpleasant for everyone involved but can lead to the loss of valuable individuals who choose to walk away from the stress and in some cases it can jeopardise the future of the whole charity.

Usually an informal discussion can resolve most issues but not everyone has the skills or confidence to handle potentially sensitive and difficult conversations and sometimes the informal approach just isn't enough.

This is where mediation can help. It is one of the most successful ways of resolving a dispute or disagreement and is particularly effective in "nipping issues in the bud" before they become too disruptive. It is a flexible process and can be used in a wide variety of situations. It is entirely voluntary and is usually much quicker and more effective than traditional dispute resolution methods such as grievance and complaints procedures.

Mediation involves a skilled, independent mediator who supports both parties in finding a solution to the issues they are facing. The mediator helps people work out and express what their issues are and then explore what options might be available for moving forward.

The mediator does not take sides or make judgements but will make sure that everyone gets a chance to tell their version of events, hear the other side, work through the issues that are important to them and come to an agreement on how to move forward.

Disputes can be very costly not only in terms of the financial impact on the organisation and the time spent trying to resolve the issues, but also in the personal stress of those involved and their colleagues. Mediation is an effective way of minimising these costs but even so, for small charities, cost may be seen as an insurmountable barrier to the use of mediation.

Scottish Mediation can arrange for a professional, accredited mediator to conduct a mediation at a low cost depending upon the size of the charity. Charities with an income of under £50,000 p.a. may be eligible for pro-bono mediation at no cost.

For more information or to discuss a specific case contact the Scottish Mediation Helpline on 0131 556 118 and quote "Third Sector".