Mediators help individuals and organizations resolve conflict. They serve as a buffer when strong emotions come up, help the conflict parties clarify their wants (which are often enough more compatible than it seems at first sight), and help make clear agreements.
Over the years, I've heard of conflicts within a variety of EA organizations. Professional mediation might have helped resolve many of them earlier and more smoothly.
I already bring a solid background in facilitation, counseling, and minimal training in mediation. In addition, my next career step is open.
Accordingly, I'm currently thinking of training up to become a mediator for the EA/rationalist ecosystem. Services I'd include in that role would be:
- Offering conflict mediation for individuals and organizations.
- Giving workshops for EAs on how to disagree better.
- Offering communication trainings for organizations to a) build healthy team cultures that prevent conflict in the first place, and b) transform friction into clarity and cooperation. (I'm already working on formats for this with the team behind AuthRev and the Relating Languages.)
Do you think this is a good idea? If yes, my next step would be to apply for 6-12 months of transition funding in order to do specialized skill-building and networking.
Here are the reasons for and against this that I've come up with so far:
- Especially after last year, there are a some boiling conflict lines within EA. And, the agile startup environments of EA orgs offer plenty potential for friction.
- It may be valuable to have an "in-house" mediater who has an in-depth understanding of EA culture, the local conflict lines, etc.
- As far as I know, no one else currently specializes in this.
- While the average EA likes to have controversial intellectual debates, I perceive the community as relatively conflict-averse when things get emotional. I tend to enjoy conflict and have an easy time trusting the process. I think that's useful for filling this role.
- Trust in EA leadership seems to be at an all-time low. While I've heard that CEA's community health team is remarkably good at not being partisan, some people might be more comfortable with having an EA mediator who is not directly involved with CEA.
- It may be hard to convince those who'd profit from mediation to actually make use of it. (Just as with therapy or coaching.) I.e., there might not actually be a market for this.
- Subcultural knowledge may be less important than I think. External mediators may be able to fulfill this role just fine.
- The community health team, as well as the current coaches and therapists in EA, might already be sufficiently skilled and a sufficiently obvious address in case of conflict.