Leveling the Playing Field

Stephen Thom

CRS Mediator, Los Angeles Office

[Full Interview]

Question: Do you deal with power disparities in bringing parties together?

Answer: That's why I think our pre-mediation process is so valuable because we need to, in our own way, have the parties believing that they're going to have a fair shake at the table and that they come to the table with leverage as equals. Certainly when you're the institution and you have all the power and you have a complainant, there's no way to say, "You're all equal." In the same token, you're not armless as a complainant and you have options. We need to level the playing field as we come in and we need to build and organize and at least get them to understand that their issues are valid. They have a right to bring these issues forward and that they should expect some give and some take. It's not a one way street and they have the right to that. In that sense, empower them to come to the table as equals. I think sometimes, particularly with community organizations, we have to spend some time in the pre-mediation preparing them for that. That sense of empowerment and valuing their position in their ability to expect some take as well as some give.