Welcome to the final blog post in a series showcasing how RSI uses our expertise in dispute system design to improve access to justice in the three foreclosure mediation programs we administer. If you’re wondering how this series came to be, check out my introduction to the series, as well as the posts highlighting our work in the 19th and 17th Judicial Circuits of Illinois.
This last post will look a little bit different than I anticipated, in large part because it will also be my final post as RSI’s Director of ADR Programs before I take on a new position as Counsel for Innovation and Technology at the Lawyers Trust Fund of Illinois. In my upcoming role, I will continue to work to promote access to justice, this time focusing on using technology and process improvement in the legal aid context. As you might imagine, transitions and continuity have been on my mind quite a lot, especially because of how close RSI’s programs are to my heart and how passionately I feel about their ongoing success.
At RSI, we think carefully about transitions and work hard to promote continuity during times of change. Current Resource Center Director Eric Slepak will begin his tenure as Director of ADR Programs after I leave today, and the two of us have been working closely together over the past two months to minimize the impact of this transition on our programs. RSI is lucky to have Eric, and I know the programs at RSI will be in great hands.
Still, it’s obviously difficult for everyone when things change. In my very first blog post at RSI, I explored the way seeing a program through fresh eyes can reconnect administrators and mediators to the experiences of first-time participants. Now I am thinking about how transitions impact program participants and what we can do to support people through change. All of the programs we administer at RSI – including our soon-to-launch Child Protection Mediation Program in Kane County, Illinois – involve collaboration among many interdependent individuals and organizations. The intersecting relationships among these stakeholders strengthen the programs, but they also pose challenges during times of transition.
In Kane County’s Foreclosure Mediation Program, for example, RSI’s Mediation Program Manager Kevin Malone and Mediation Program Assistant Mariah Heinz work closely with the 16th Judicial Circuit Court’s paralegals, administrators, judges and clerks. The program brings together Northern Illinois University School of Law Professor Alan Boudreau and a rotating cadre of law students in his clinic, who provide legal information and sometimes representation to homeowners facing foreclosure in the program. Additional legal services are provided through Prairie State Legal Services, Administer Justice, and the Court’s Lawyer in the Lobby Help Desk, staffed by volunteers from the Kane County Bar Association. We also work with three different housing counseling agencies: Consumer Credit Counseling Services of Northern Illinois, Neighborhood Housing Services of the Fox Valley, and the Joseph Corporation. Mediators for the program are paid through Dispute Resolution Institute, an organization that received funding through the Illinois Office of the Attorney General at the same time we did to develop and manage foreclosure mediation programs in Illinois.
What does all of this collaboration mean? First, it means that the program is surrounded by experts in each of the different program components. It also means that there many different people working on the 16th Circuit Foreclosure Mediation Program at any given moment. If one of those people leaves, then it can be challenging not only for the people they serve, but for the people they work with as well if the communication chain connecting that person to others in partnering organizations is severed.
So what solutions are available to us? As I think about RSI’s own transition from me to Eric and the transitions we have watched our partners face, I keep coming back, in true RSI fashion, to communication. RSI’s Foreclosure Mediation Program in Kane County has been an excellent model of communication through change. Mediation Program Manager Kevin Malone has led regular stakeholder meetings to discuss the program’s progress, successes, challenges and changes since the program’s inception. These inclusive conversations bring together all of the many people and organizations involved in the program that I described above. Having this communication infrastructure in place allows the program to adapt to change quickly and bring everyone together at the same time to strategize about improving the program.
I have been fortunate to be able to follow this model in my specific position, communicating in-depth with Eric and introducing him to the people he will be working with in the future to make sure that our ties to other entities remain strong before I go. I look forward to continued communication with RSI as my relationship with this wonderful organization evolves alongside its program offerings!