Facilitation or Mediation: Transparency in Discussions

When communication may become or have become sensitive, facilitation and/or mediation are usually the next logical step.  These are tools to create a safe place to talk about unsafe things.

Facilitation is the preferred approach; it is a proactive process that brings people together to create mutually agreeable and usually unexpected results. It is different than debate, mediation or negotiation. It is a process whereby individuals from different backgrounds and perspectives seek to explore together a subject or issue through speaking and listening to each other without the need or expectation of persuading or converting others to one’s own point of view. The strength of facilitation is that it enables the full exploration of issues or topics without the necessity of suppressing or overcoming differing or conflicting points of view. It brings about common understandings through the expression of diversity not by the suppression of it. . Facilitation encompasses a broad range of activities such as:

Facilitation is used to break down communication barriers between parties to assist them to come to understandings about how they will communicate on their perspective interests, their respective rights and responsibilities. For example:

  • What is the nature of the relationship?
  • How will we treat each other?
  • How will new projects be reviewed?
  • What will be the employment and contracting opportunities?
  • How will continued access be assured?
  • How will true partnerships be developed

Mediation can form a powerful tool for the resolution of conflict by creating opportunities for exploring new meanings and shared realities. This is also a particularly useful approach for turning chaos into collective creativity or simply be in an open-minded space where there is possibility of exploring all sorts of things. It is a type of facilitation that is often used when the communication has already become sensitive.

Facilitation and mediation can encompasses a broad range of activities, such as:

  • Chairing meetings or negotiation sessions to keep the parties on track and productive;
  • Assisting parties in jointly solving problems;
  • Acting in a mediation role. Sometimes this is “shuttle diplomacy” or more active joint problem solving;
  • Option identification. At times parties need an outside expert to hear their respective interests and arguments and come up with options for them to consider;
  • Workshops to assist an organization better understand their interests or improve their aboriginal competencies;
  • Or, facilitation can mean to make presentations and hear comments at, for example, aboriginal or non-aboriginal community meetings.