The Transformative Approach

The approach our mediators practice here at Baltimore Mediation, referred to as “transformative,” seeks to empower the parties involved by focusing mainly on interaction and communication between the participants. The main difference between this and other forms of conflict resolution or facilitation is that the transformative mediator’s or transformative facilitator’s goal is to foster the opportunities for clear decision making and a better understanding of the other person(s)’ views, rather than to get the participants to agree or settle. While reaching agreement or settlement may still be the participants’ goal, the mediator’s interventions will focus on the quality of the interaction, with settlement or agreement being one of the many outcomes if so chosen by the participants. Other equally important and commonly reported outcomes are overcoming barriers to meaningful decision making, discovering clarity about possibilities and next steps and a fuller understanding of a situation or dispute.

A transformative mediator or facilitator assists the participants in designing their own rules and structure for a session, rather than the mediator imposing his/her own rules and guidelines upon the participants. This helps to empower the participants.

Unlike other mediation models, the transformative model explores issues and allows the participants to discuss any issues that they want to, rather than directing them to what the mediator thinks will help the parties come to an ultimate agreement. Unlike other types of facilitation, the transformative facilitator creates an agenda with the client and then allows barriers to discussion to surface and be understood. Mediators and facilitators from this framework view emotions like any other form of communication. According to those who have researched the approach for mediated disputes, adopting the transformative approach produces a greater likelihood that, when settlements are reached, they will be settlements that served the participants’ interests rather than the mediator’s.