Formulating solutions in mediation

2016-01-19T14:08:46Z (GMT) by Elizabeth Stokoe Rein Sikveland
This paper examines the work done by formulations in the service of pursuing solutions to disputes between neighbours in a community mediation setting. In particular, it shows how mediators formulate the talk of mediation clients – the parties in dispute – in a particular sequence of activities. Parties’ complaints are formulated by the mediator, often proposing common ground between them. Mediators ask ‘solution-focused questions’ (SFQs), which are treated in mediation training as a key method for effecting client-generated solutions to neighbour disputes. Drawing on a collection of 30 recorded mediation sessions between mediators and their clients, conversation analysis shows how formulations do more than (or do not necessarily) ‘summarize’ what clients have said. Rather, they do institutional work of various kinds, including reconstructing clients’ versions of events and initiating sequences in which decisions about change are accomplished. In other words, formulations are at the heart of the mediation process, in which mediators attempt to scaffold clients to come to an agreement about ways to move forward, without giving direct instruction or advice.