Cycles of Creativity. The story of one Mediation program


Beer, Jennifer (2015) Cycles of Creativity. The story of one Mediation program. Journal of Mediation & Applied Conflict Analysis, 2 (1). ISSN 2009-7170

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Abstract

This essay summarizes reflections offered at the 2014 Edward Kennedy Institute Mediation Conference. Using as an example her community mediation program in Philadelphia, the author outlines the how the cycle of creativity affected the program (and the wider community mediation field) over time—starting with identifying a problem, then experimenting with exciting ideas, improvising, then formalizing, sustaining, and institutionalizing. The author observes that both creativity and formalizing are essential, yet are necessarily in tension. After offering several ways mediators and programs can encourage creativity through co-mediation, mentoring, interacting with other fields, and risking improvisation, the essay concludes that the excitement of creative energy can propel a program and its offshoots for a long time afterward. However creativity is ephemeral and at its heart, mediation is less about fostering creative approaches than about helping parties “be real.” For the next creative cycle, mediators need to be “real” about the causes of community conflicts, and co-create pathways to conflict resolution that people in those communities find effective. The 2014 Edward Kennedy Institute Conference theme of “Creative responses to conflict” prompted me to look again at my youthful experiences in an early community mediation program, with attention to the role of creativity — how it emerges, improvises, formalizes, finds ways to sustain and institutionalize, and appears again. The story may tell us more about the role of creativity in the formation of a new profession than it reveals about creativity in mediation and conflict resolution per se, so I visit that latter question briefly at the end. For our purposes in this essay, “creativity” refers to the process of inventing a significant, original approach to something. Ideally the creators also have the craft skill to bring their idea into the real world. When a big-scale creative idea comes along at a receptive time, it can generate many offspring. The movement to apply “mediation” to whole new categories of disputes was one of those moments. There are several commonly noted characteristics of how creativity unfolds that I will list briefly, then look at how they played out in a community mediation context: • Although we tend to think of creativity as an intuitive and sudden insight—that Eureka! moment—durable ideas are most likely to emerge from sustained practice and study and experimentation. • Within that field of knowledge, focusing on a limited problem, a puzzle, an idea, a specific situation also helps concentrate the creator’s attention. • Creativity often bubbles up at the margins and intersections, when someone deeply familiar with one area encounters practices and knowledge from an • Two other factors encourage creativity. • One is a loose, playful approach, as it helps loosen the mind from habit and judgmental voices. • The other is collaborating and/or competing with other people, either of which can increase social motivation to create something or solve a problem. Teamwork also has the advantage of pulling and together a greater mix of knowledge and therefore the chance of productive cross-fertilization and more careful selection of winning ideas.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Cycles of Creativity; Mediation program;
Academic Unit: Faculty of Social Sciences > Research Institutes > Edward M Kennedy Institute
Item ID: 5838
Depositing User: Kennedy Institute
Date Deposited: 17 Feb 2015 12:01
Journal or Publication Title: Journal of Mediation & Applied Conflict Analysis
Publisher: Maynooth Academic Publishing
Refereed: Yes
URI:

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