Volunteer mediators extend the reach of the ADR field by lending their valuable expertise to those in need. Through their work with local community mediation programs, court rosters, mediation clinics, pro bono agencies, and untold number of special events and organizations, these volunteers bring constructive conflict-assistive services to those who would otherwise slip through the slowly narrowing cracks of accessibility and affordability which currently fissure the mediator marketplace and public services landscape.
As a field, we know the use of volunteers is extensive. Recent research by NAFCM found that within the community mediation context alone, over 20,000 mediators contribute a personal average of 35 hours per year and an aggregated estimate of $20 million in donated professional services to the nation’s network of 400 local programs. This commitment to serve is an astounding testament to the service-oriented temperament of our field’s professional and volunteer mediators.
What is less known, however, is the personal experiences, motivations, and preferences of these generous volunteers. Beyond anecdotal or program-specific reports, little exists to provide insight into the collective volunteer mediator mind. Absent these insights, mediation programs are unable to structure the most responsive and rewarding volunteer opportunities; volunteers may commit to sub-optimal arrangements; and the field’s ongoing interest-based discussions about balancing both fee and free is left relatively under-informed.
Responding to this gap, Advancing Dispute Resolution is coordinating a Fieldwide Survey of Volunteer Mediators. Open to all active mediators who have served as a volunteer at least once in the past 12 months, this survey will systematically capture the expectations and experiences of our field’s vast volunteer network. Survey results and analysis will be publicly shared, including an Executive Summary for survey respondents, as well as customized program-level reports for programs which secure at least 30 responses from their current volunteer rosters. We invite mediators to complete the survey, and ADR programs to share the survey with their networks by its close on May 31, 2013. We look forward to sharing with the field many volunteer insights thereafter!
Justin R. Corbett
Chief Project Officer