Mediator Responsibility and Accountability in Public Disputes

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Lawrence Susskind

An educational video for mediators or mediation students regarding mediator responsibility when parties have unequal knowledge, skills or power

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A 1992 PON Video Lecture

“Anyone who thinks mediation is not manipulation is nuts. It is utter manipulation. But, towards what end? Toward the qualities of an outcome, not toward my notion of the right solution.”

Professor Lawrence Susskind begins his video lecture on mediator responsibility and accountability with these provocative words. Susskind bases his lecture on the principle that mediators have special responsibilities when the parties have unequal knowledge, skills, or power. Drawing on his extensive experience as a mediator and teacher, Susskind offers specific recommendations for how mediators should intervene in such situations.

Susskind argues, for instance, that when parties have unequal knowledge about the rules of the game, about their own interests, about mediation strategy, or about the context and constraints under which they operate, mediators should inform all parties about the mediation process. In addition, mediators should help the parties speak clearly about their interests and inform the parties of the advantages of a principled mediation strategy. Furthermore, Susskind argues that it is the mediator’s role to help parties gain access to information about the constraints involved for all parties. He goes on to offer advice for mediators working with parties with unequal skill levels and unequal power.

Susskind concludes his lecture by discussing mediator responsibility to ask questions that address issues of fairness, efficiency, and stability. While maintaining neutrality, he says, mediators have the responsibility to intervene in order to create agreements that are sustainable and address all parties’ self-interests.

Larry Susskind is Ford Professor of Urban and Environmental Planning at MIT, Visiting Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and President of the Consensus Building Institute. He is also Director of the Program on Negotiation MIT-Harvard Public Disputes Program.

Production Quality: Utility.

Mediator Responsibility and Accountability in Public Disputes Attributes

Time required: 2 Hours
Teaching notes available: No
Produced by: Lawrence E. Susskind
Run Time: 89 minutes