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New Mediator Self-Reflection Tool

Susan M. Yates, January 9th, 2019

The Supreme Court of Virginia has developed a wonderful new self-reflection form for mediators. While the Court developed this tool for their certified mediators as part of their re-certification process, it is a valuable tool for any mediator (just ignore the instructions about continuing mediator education credits). There is a lot of content, so if you are using this on your own you will probably want to pick and choose among the questions. This new tool coordinates with Virginia’s excellent Mediator Self-Reflection Treasury.

Even though mediators work very closely with people when we mediate, typically no one else in the room shares our mediator perspective. There are exceptions, such as co-mediation or when we are observed by new mediators, but mediation can be an isolated activity (made especially so by the limits of confidentiality). This isolation makes self-reflection particularly important.

I can imagine many uses for these tools beyond self-reflection. A group of mediators could pick a few of the questions to discuss over lunch. For co-mediators, the tools could aid their debriefing. The forms might help a new court or community mediation program get clear about what they expect from mediators. The tools will probably spark other ideas when you read them.

Many thanks to the good people of the Supreme Court of Virginia for taking the time to produce and share these tools. They are a real gift to the mediation community.

A Look Back on 2018

Nicole Wilmet, December 21st, 2018

What a wonderful year 2018 has been! From court program evaluations and trainings to celebrating Resolution Systems Institute Day, we have had an exciting year and continued to great make strides in serving communities with court alternative dispute resolution! As RSI’s Resource Center Director and Court ADR Connection Editor, I have had the pleasure to share each exciting moment with you this year. To culminate 2018, I am looking back on all of RSI’s monumental moments this year.

This was a hallmark year for AboutRSI.org with several new resources added to our Resource Center. March brought the launch of Mediation Efficacy Studies, the most comprehensive collection of resources on the subject of court alternative dispute resolution effectiveness. This summer, Director of Research Jennifer Shack published her evaluation of Washington, D.C.’s Child Protection Mediation Program, and we shared our Model Tools for Mediator Peer Review.

This fall, we released two new chapters to our Guide to Program Success, a step-by step guide from Executive Director Susan Yates and Jennifer Shack that discusses how to design, manage and evaluate a successful court ADR program. We also collaborated with the National Association for Community Mediation to share a Community Mediation Special Topic that explains the basics of community mediation, explores the relationship between courts and community mediation centers, delves into the important activities of data tracking and evaluation and compiles exemplary studies on the effectiveness of community mediation.

Finally, we rounded out our year of new resources with Jennifer Shack’s program evaluation of the eight foreclosure mediation programs funded by the Illinois Attorney General and developed a digital summary of the evaluation.

In 2018, we also launched our series My Favorite Resource that collects resources from our court ADR friends across the country. I would like to thank Heather Kulp, Debora Denny, Doug Van Epps, Missy Greathouse, Rebecca Price, Raeshann Canady, Kevin Malone, Catherine Geyer, Annalise Buth, Renee Salmon, and Peter Salem for participating in our inaugural year. I have truly enjoyed learning about each of your favorite ADR resources and network groups and I look forward to connecting with more friends this year!

This year was also a milestone year for our foreclosure mediation programs here in Illinois as our five-year grant from the Illinois Attorney General ended. Under the grant, RSI developed and administered foreclosure mediation programs in Illinois’ Lake, Kane, Winnebago, and Boone counties; trained mediators for all Attorney General-funded foreclosure mediation programs throughout the state; developed an online case management and monitoring system for those programs; and conducted two statewide evaluations of the programs. We are happy to report that all three of RSI’s foreclosure mediation programs will continue to operate thanks to the support of their local courts. RSI’s Kevin Malone and Olga Kordonskaya will continue to administer our programs in Kane County and Lake County, respectively, and moving forward, the court will administer the foreclosure mediation program in Winnebago & Boone counties. We consider the continuation of the programs as evidence of their success given that the courts value these programs enough to continue to provide funding for them. We are grateful to the Attorney General for supporting these programs, to the courts for their partnership and to the skilled mediators for conducting the mediations.

Last, but certainly not least, we also celebrated several important events this year. In April, we welcomed Grace Barter as our new Administrative Assistant. On July 11, 2018, Rockford, Illinois Mayor Thomas McNamara declared that day as Resolution Systems Institute Day in honor of RSI’s work on foreclosure mediation in the Rockford community. That same month, we celebrated Kent Lawrence, founder and steadfast supporter of RSI, for receiving the Decalogue Society of Lawyer’s Hon. Gerald C. Bender Humanitarian Award. The Hon. Gerald C. Bender Humanitarian Award is presented to individuals whose excellence and dedication demonstrate commitment to justice by serving the community.

In September, we celebrated our one-year anniversary of the new AboutRSI.org, and Eric Slepak-Cherney was named RSI’s new Associate Director. In November, Jennifer Shack was appointed to the American Bar Association Section of Dispute Resolution Research Advisory Committee and this month, Olga Kordonskaya and Kevin Malone celebrated their five-year anniversary with RSI.

As December comes to a close, I know that each of us here at RSI is thankful for a wonderful 2018. We look forward to all that awaits in 2019!

RSI December Staff Gathering

Nicole Wilmet, December 18th, 2018

This month, to celebrate 2018, our staff gathered in our Chicago office for our annual Staff Holiday Gathering! Our day started with an interesting and informative discussion with Director of Research Jennifer Shack as she reported on the findings from her evaluation of Washington, D.C.’s Child Protection Mediation Program. In the afternoon, we braced the cold Chicago weather to visit to the Christkindlmarket and tour the Chicago Design Museum’s “Keep Moving: Designing Chicago’s Bicycle Culture” exhibit.

Although some of us are based in our Chicago office, our RSI staff are also hard at work operating programs across Illinois and working remotely from Maine and Michigan. As such, our holiday gathering was a wonderful opportunity for us to come together and connect in one place. We are very much looking forward to the staff gatherings to come in 2019!

Holidays. Gratitude. Hoping. Giving.

Susan M. Yates, December 12th, 2018

Popular American culture portrays the year-end holiday season as a special time for friends and family to gather. Over the years I have also seen that this time of year can bring a mixed bag of feelings. That certainly is the case at RSI! Here is some of what we are feeling as the year comes to a close.

EXCITED

RSI is dreaming big. We are developing an online dispute resolution process that will help parents work out how they will co-parent after they split up. We are encouraging more courts to tap into our deep well of research and evaluation expertise to improve their ADR programs. And we are working to increase the use of mediation when children who have been neglected are removed from their homes.

PROUD

One thing we are especially proud of is the work we have done and continue to do on foreclosure mediation. Our programs have helped to save more than 750 homes, we have completed the two most comprehensive evaluations of foreclosure ever conducted and all three of our programs are continuing with support from their courts after funding from the Illinois Attorney General ended August 31, 2018.

ANXIOUS

The end of that five-year grant from the Attorney General has added a certain sense of anxiety to our holiday cheer! We are facing the challenge of finding new financial support to continue working on our mission of strengthening access to justice through quality court ADR.

HOPEFUL

As we look forward to 2019, I am hopeful. Maybe that is because hopefulness is a job requirement for any non-profit executive director! But more than that, I see opportunities to make real differences in the lives of people who turn to the courts for civil justice.

GRATEFUL

I am personally so grateful to everyone who is part of RSI’s work. We have a dedicated Board and an amazing staff. We appreciate and are appreciated by the courts with whom we work. We know we can rely on skilled mediators and they, in turn, are appreciated by the parties they serve. We are supported financially by generous individuals, corporations, law firms, bar associations, courts and foundations. For all this, I am extremely grateful.

Whatever you are feeling during this holiday season, I hope that you share RSI’s desire to make justice more accessible through ADR. With your support, we can give voice to people when they need it most.

Please consider making a contribution to RSI, online at https://www.mightycause.com/organization/Resolution-Systems-Institute or by sending your check to RSI at 11 East Adams St., Suite 500, Chicago, IL 60603. We are a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, so your contribution can be tax-deductible.

Thank you for supporting RSI’s mission to improve access to justice by enhancing court ADR.

Findings from an Evaluation of Eight Foreclosure Mediation Programs

Jennifer Shack, December 5th, 2018

As I mentioned last month, I recently completed a comprehensive evaluation of eight foreclosure mediation programs in Illinois. One great benefit of evaluating eight programs with different approaches to resolving the same cases is that it allowed me to uncover program design factors and other variables that promote program success. The three big takeaways from the evaluation are that proper program design is essential, provision of services has an impact on homeowner outcomes, and data is crucial to program improvement. The evaluation was a final look at the eight programs that were funded by the Illinois Attorney General, encompassing up to four years for each program. Seven of the eight programs used relatively uniform data that was collected on the same online case management system. Further, I worked with each program to define the variables used so that we had a clear understanding of the meaning of each variable. This allowed me to develop uniform measures for the programs that enabled comparisons of program performance across them.

First, some basic findings. The eight programs helped 4,766 homeowners, representing 23% of all foreclosure filings in their jurisdictions. They saved 1,100 homes. Once homeowners entered the programs, 21% to 40% saved their homes, depending on the program. More than 90% of homeowners who completed surveys said that they gained a better understanding of their options and how to work with their lenders. Almost all homeowners felt that they were treated fairly and with respect. Most felt that they were able to talk about the issues and concerns that were most important to them and almost all felt the mediator understood what was important to them. Most were satisfied with their experience.

Now to the takeaways. Program design played a significant role in how many homeowners a program was able to help and how many homeowners participated in the program. The two variables are different because most programs helped homeowners to understand their options and the foreclosure process, even if they could not or decided not to participate. Those programs that told homeowners that they must appear for their initial session and provided a date and time for that had significantly higher proportions of homeowners appear and participate than programs that had them contact the program in other ways. And those programs that told homeowners they had to call the program coordinator, provided a deadline to do so and sent additional reminders had significantly higher proportions of homeowners contact the program and participate than those programs that informed the homeowners of the program and told them how to start the process to participate.

Participation rate is very important, not just because higher participation means that more homeowners are helped. The greater the proportion of homeowners facing foreclosure who participate in the program, the greater the proportion of homeowners who save their homes.

Other aspects matter as well. Having the homeowners meet with a representative for their lender from the outset appears to improve program completion rates and possibly improves the probability that participating homeowners save their homes. Within individual programs, those homeowners who worked with a housing counselor are more likely to complete the program. Those who worked with attorneys were much more likely to complete the program. Interestingly, they weren’t more likely to save their homes.

It was very gratifying to see that those programs that made changes based on the data they were collecting and the recommendations from my first evaluation were improved by those changes. For example, the 19th Circuit and 20th Circuit programs made changes to the manner in which homeowners contacted and entered the program, significantly improving participation. The 16thand 19th Circuits worked with mediators to improve their skills, leading to fewer mediator issues and more participants leaving mediation with a good experience.

For a quick take on the evaluation, see the Executive Summary.
To access a digital summary of the evaluation, click here.
For the Full Evaluation, download PDF .