Determining Appropriate Role

Nancy Ferrell

Former CRS Mediator, Dallas Office; Private Mediator and Trainer

[Full Interview]


The CRS's person's role was technical assistance. A lot of what we did was considered technical assistance. We would help them know what resources they needed, what equipment they needed, who needed to be there, and how to get information back into the community. A lot of times the media wasn't the best way to get the information back to the community. If you're going to create a curfew in a community, you need to work with the community leadership to do that so you don't create another problem. Those kinds of things were considered technical assistance and we were coaching and teaching and giving resource information about what you need to make that happen.


How did you decide that was the appropriate response as opposed to a more intensive conciliation or mediation?


If technical assistance resulted in a remedy for the parties, then that drove it. Sometimes it didn't, like the community where I ended up with five different groups and five different issues. Certainly technical assistance is the beginning. Everything you're doing is basically technical assistance. If it were an outside term, it would be a consultant to the group. But then you move on toward developing a remedy that has systemic long term benefit. This is probably an oversimplification, but the more trust the parties already have in each other to communicate, the less likely you'll need to go to the table. Because you don't have to help them build the trust, there's just been a breakdown in communication over a particular issue. You can help them reconnect and move on.

If the history is there and the breakdown has been long term, then in my opinion, the table mediation was as much about helping them establish or reestablish the connection, confidence, and the trust, that everyone at that table wanted what was best for the community. We may have a different answer as to what that is, what's best for the community, but we all believe that our interests are what's best for the community. It's the ability to bring them together and begin to watch them learn that these people really do want what's best. These people want the police department to be safe. These people want the business community to be successful. The leadership wants the minority community to be effective and successful. They want to do the right thing. When you can do that, to either establish or reestablish that confidence with each other, that's the payoff. That's the intangible payoff, and the piece of paper is the tangible. That intangible is what's going to give them the framework for addressing, on their own, the next issue that comes along.