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The Best Kept Secret in American Peacebuilding

Craig Zelizer

June 29, 2017

I had a long call the other day with D. G. Mawn, Executive Director of NAFCM, the National Association for Community Mediation. We had actually just met a few weeks ago when we helped organize a meeting of American peacebuilders I discussed here a few weeks ago

As we talked, D. G. referred to NAFCM at the best kept secret in American peacebuilding. Although I had known of the organization for years, I didn’t know much about it. On the assumption that he was bound to be right, I checked it out.

The Community Mediation Services of Central Ohio defines its mission as preventing “the harmful physical, emotional and economic effects of unmanaged or mismanaged conflict on individuals, families, neighborhoods and organizations by providing, promoting and teaching non-adversarial conflict management strategies that empower disputants to create lasting, ‘win/win’ resolutions to their concerns.”

That’s a mouthful, but it tells us that NAFCM members go beyond the mediation of disputes many of us encounter when we disagree with our neighbors over a property line or need to come up with a divorce settlement. To see that, take apart that sentence.

NAFCM members seek win/win solutions to “unmanaged or mismanaged conflicts” by promoting “non-adversarial strategies that empower disputants” to find “lasting” solutions. That’s as good a way of defining peacebuilding in a single sentence that I can think of.

So, I checked out the Virginia Association for Community Conflict Resolution which has nine member centers in my home state. Its member centers will help you work out an amicable divorce settlement or an agreement with your neighbors. The Northern Virginia Mediation Service(where I live) has a staff about 20 mediators who provide a full range of services, including a restorative justice practice to “help participants engage in a safe and confidential conversation about the incident of harm. They will assist the participants in constructing an agreement that repairs the harm (as much as feasible) and restore affected relationships.”

As a peacebuilder, I’m drawn to that part of community mediators’ work because it addresses some of the country’s most divisive issues where it affects people the most–in their home towns. I’m drawn, too, by the fact many of these centers quietly work with their state and local governments to expand the use of mediation and similar services.

Their work on divisive issues that have led community mediation centers to address issues involving restorative justice, educate state legislators about the benefits of mediation, and helping address community wide divisions over race, school (re)districting, drug use, and more.

In short, I’m looking forward to expanding not only our contacts with D. G. and NAFCM with an eye toward addressing some of the disputes that are dividing this country. Either he or would be delighted to talk with you.


More importantly, that’s also what many member of the Alliance forPeacebuilding where I work seek as the explore ways of engaging in disputes here in the United States as well as abroad where most of them have based their efforts so far.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Alliance for Peacebuilding or its members.

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