Thanks to the tireless efforts of Sara Figal and the team at Nashville Conflict Resolution Center (NCRC), staff from five community mediation centers across Tennessee were able to together in Nashville at the beautiful Scarritt Bennett campus for a 3-day collaborative retreat. Many participants were meeting in-person for the first time and the opportunity to learn and connect was invaluable. The event was facilitated by Lorig Charkoudian, the Executive Director of Mediation Maryland and a Maryland State Delegate. She shared her experiences in the community mediation movement, which included the process of building the state-wide organization (Mediation Maryland) that supports all the community mediation centers in Maryland.
Community mediation centers in our state are invaluable community resources. They help disputants access the justice system regardless of ability to pay, and they connect mediators in their communities with pro bono opportunities. This event, which took place from September 25-27, was inspiring and thought-provoking. As mediation centers in Tennessee explore ways to better connect and support each other, they will also be exploring what it means to be a community mediation center, what the core community mediation values are, and how to adapt successful models from elsewhere to our own unique state.
All mediation centers in the state were invited to attend, and several centers were able to send representatives to this gathering. From NCRC, Sara Figal, Robin Wheeler, Shannon Wagner, Faith Klein, Liberty Liefeld, Lainey Krzystowczyk represented the Nashville Conflict Resolution Center (NCRC). Jackie Kittrell and Jen Comiskey represented Community Mediation Center in Knoxville. Michelle Lawrence Cochran represented The Mediation Center in Columbia. Linda Warren Seely represented the Community Justice and Mediation Center in West Tennessee. Yashika Ward and Alexis Leboeuf, who are launching a new mediation center in Chattanooga, attended on behalf of their organization. Kimberly Best (TAPM Chair) was also present to discuss ways that TAPM can collaborate with mediation centers.
This event was made possible by a grant to NCRC from the AAA-ICDR Foundation. This grant supports collaboration between CMCs in order to make mediation services more accessible for disenfranchised, vulnerable people in Tennessee’s General Sessions and Juvenile Courts. This event was the beginning of a conversation in Tennessee about how to build a stronger, more inclusive future for community mediation in our state.