Archive for ‘Gifts for Mediators’

October 25, 2016

Zombie Fight or Flight launches on Kickstarter!

PignPotato Games has just launched its Kickstarter campaign for Zombie Fight or Flight! This collaborative card game was developed at the CoRe Jolts Game Jam in June 2016.  PignPotato Games is made up of 7 Game Jam participants who decided to see if they could successfully launch the game created that weekend.

The group started by hiring Rachel Petrovicz to create amazing art for the cards, and have continued to test and improve the game over the past few months.  In the process, they’ve developed both ideas for classroom uses (for grades 3-12) and trainers’ notes for using the cards in conflict resolution and negotiation training.  In fact, the prototype decks will get a tryout on Halloween when they are used in the Continuing Legal Education Society’s course on Negotiation Skills for the Zombie Apocalypse.

cards-in-hand

The Kickstarter campaign will run until November 26th, but some rewards are limited in number, so check the campaign out soon if you’re interested in custom artwork, custom ceramics, or conflict resolution training and game jams!

Zombie Fight or Flight and Drunken Zombie Fight or Flight decks are available to ship worldwide, but if you’re in Vancouver, want to save shipping costs and can pick up on December 17th, make sure you choose the “without shipping option”.

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September 4, 2016

Game Jam 2 produces Zombie Fight or Flight

It’s been just over two months since CoRe Jolts’ second Game Jam took place in Tsawwassen, and it’s well past time to report on the exciting developments coming out the event!

Sludge (#WorkingTitle)

Sludge (#WorkingTitle)

We had a fantastic group of mediators, lawyers, and students (including both experienced and inexperienced gamers) assembled for three days of creativity! Like Game Jam 1, the group arrived with many different ideas and objectives: the one common theme was that we all wanted to develop a collaborative game.  Over the course of the weekend, two different games emerged – a very complex game which we called “Sludge (#WorkingTitle)” and a fast-moving card game called “Zombie Fight or Flight”.  Both games had fans within our group, but “Zombie Fight or Flight” fit nicely with plans two of us had to develop training tools and so received a bit more attention over the course of the weekend.  As a result, Zombie Fight or Flight will be the first game created in a CoRe Jolts Game Jam to be developed for sale!

Zombie Fight or Flight cardback: Art by Tuna.

Zombie Fight or Flight cardback: Art by Tuna.

Zombie Fight or Flight

The zombie theme arose because Emily Martin and I were thinking ahead to specific training applications, notably a CLEBC course we are preparing for October 31st – Negotiation Skills for the Zombie Apocalypse. Even as the game developed though, it was apparent that the basic mechanics could be adapted easily to other scenarios: Pirate Fight or Flight, Space Aliens Fight or Flight, or even Forest Animals Fight or Flight.  In fact, we also tested a wide range of variations intended to make the game more or less challenging depending on age, gaming experience, etc. and began preliminary work on an expansion pack to keep the game interesting over multiple plays.  Those of us who stayed overnight also took the opportunity on the Saturday night to create alternative drinking game rules: Drunken Zombie Fight or Flight.

Sunday afternoon was spent in a discussion of how to carry the game forward, and resulted in the formation of “Pig & Potato Games” as the entity that will market the game.  In the last two months, we hired an artist (Rachel Petrovicz) who has just completed designing the cards; identified a printer and will be printing prototype decks in the next few weeks; and sketched out plans for a Kickstarter to launch the game.  All of these tasks have been learning tasks for our team, and have resulted in a continuation of the creative energy of the Game Jam – we are all still stimulating new thoughts and ideas as we advance the plan to fully realize the game!

We are on track to launch our Kickstarter in late October – in time for Halloween – so watch for news about the game and opportunities to play it. We’re planning several game nights for collaborative professionals as we explore the options the game offers for collaborative training, and even for possible use in specific types of mediations.

Interested in joining us next year?

After two incredibly fun and successful Game Jams, we know we want to have another one! The creative energy stimulated within the event, and flowing afterwards, is an amazing boost for any project -whether or not it leads to development of a fully formed game. The fact that Zombie Fight or Flight has emerged from this past game jam, and that we are learning new skills and gaining knowledge about game development, only makes the idea more exciting!  We are trying to find a date for the next Game Jam that will accommodate as many of our returning Game Jammers as possible, while also welcoming new folks to bring new ideas! We anticipate holding Game Jam 3 in Tsawwassen in spring 2017. Let us know if you hope to attend: we’ll send out periodic notices as we plan, and will canvass everyone on the mailing list for availability as we choose dates.  To be added to the mailing list, email a request to zombieforf@gmail.com.

 

 

 

December 16, 2015

Gift Ideas to Inspire Conflict Resolution

Sharon Sutherland offers a short list of gift ideas with conflict resolution themes.

Over the past few years, I’ve developed several “gift” lists for conflict resolution professionals (especially mediators):

This year, I wanted to take a different approach to the idea of conflict resolution gift giving and focus on ideas for gifts for anyone that might just inspire the recipients to think more about conflict resolution.  Here’s four categories of gifts, most with a few examples, that conflict resolution professionals might very well think about giving to their family and friends this holiday season. And please do check out previous lists for ideas that suit folks who aren’t mediators but have an interest in a world with a culture of collaborative decision-making!

1. Collaborative Games

HanabiIf you played board games or card games as a child, you almost certainly played competitive games.  While cooperative board games have been around for many years, the early ones were almost exclusively created for children and were so didactic as to be boring!  Hence, the cooperative game of yore was played once or twice and then relegated to the back of the closet while Monopoly, Risk and Trouble came out for family gatherings.  The consequence, of course, is that we were exposed to a constant stream of messages about the importance of being competitive, learning to be a good loser and a gracious winner, and the implicit notion that collaborating is “weak”.

Happily, over recent years, an enormous number of excellent collaborative games have developed – games which have all the excitement of competition, but that require genuine teamwork to “win” against the game.  My first recommendation for everyone this holiday season is to choose a collaborative game and introduce your family to an entirely different way of thinking about competition.  Let’s normalize a culture in which the best teamwork results in a “win”!

IMG_2273Here’s a list of collaborative games that Emily Martin (a labour mediator from Seattle) and I developed for a recent CoRe Speaker event.  Of this list, my favourite is Pandemic, but it’s a bit of a tough entrée game for people who aren’t very familiar with gaming generally.  (It’s great if you have one gamer who can help others figure out the mechanics for the first few rounds, but tough if everyone has to keep reading the rules!) So if you’re new to games, or haven’t played much besides Monopoly, I’d suggest starting with with Hanabi (very simple and easy to learn) or Forbidden Island (a bit trickier, but aimed at a younger crowd and so easier to get a handle on than Pandemic).

2. Books

There are so very many book possibilities!  Outside of the range of non-fiction books that offer negotiation advice or other ideas for conflict resolution practice, there are a large number of books that can be viewed through a “conflict resolution lens” to great effect.  Wendy Lakusta offered a brilliant example of the value of reading novels through such a lens when she led the first CoRe Book Club meeting in September and guided an enthusiastic group through a reading of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. Consider giving both the first book and Wendy’s Book Club question list to inspire someone to think about the book in a new way!

fledglingOnce you apply a conflict resolution lens to one book, it’s so easy to apply the same lens to others!  An easy way to start might be to give a friend or colleague a copy of Octavia Butler’s Fledgling along with a pass to the next CoRe Book Club session on January 26th, 2016.  This session is definitely not just for conflict resolution professionals, but will focus on lessons for conflict resolution in the book.  (And you might just want to package this book and book club combo with one more Octavia Butler book: Parable of the Sower is a brilliant exploration of a world in which hyper-empathy has the potential to be both a disability and a gift.)

What came beforeThree more books that strike me as powerful opportunities to examine conflict resolution themes are:

  • The Speed of Dark – Elizabeth Moon (This 2003 Nebula award winning novel explores a world in which autism can be “cured”. Who decides whether the “cure” is the best choice for an individual?)
  • What Came Before He Shot Her – Elizabeth George (While this book explores the backstory of a shocking murder in another novel, it’s not necessary to read this as part of the connected series.  This novel stands alone as an examination of a series of seemingly inevitable decisions leading a young boy to become a murderer.)
  • The Sunday Philosophy Club – Alexander McCall Smith (This series by the author of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency offers a fascinating lens on life: Isabel Dalhousie examines every choice through the lens of applied ethics.  For the conflict resolution practitioner, the explicit consideration of each and every nuance in decision-making will feel very familiar, despite the change of focus.)

(You can purchase any of these books through the CoRe aStore and support CoRe Conflict Resolution Society).

And check out these lists for books that might appeal to younger readers (or folks like me who love YA fiction):

3. Theatre Tickets

nirbhaya_1

Nirbhaya

Just as books can explore conflict resolution themes in new and enlightening ways, live theatre can engage with all the same topics but brings a number of qualities that are simply not part of the usual reading experience such as immediacy, the sense of communal engagement in the narrative, direct engagement of the senses in the performance.  The simple fact that most theatre-goers attend with a friend increases the likelihood of an engaged discussion about the topics raised in the production.  Over the past year, I’ve seen a number of excellent productions that explicitly engage with conflict resolution topics. (I’ll blog about my 2015 top picks on CoReJolts over the holiday, but they certainly include A Story of Os (Vancouver Fringe), Cock (Rumble Theatre), Nirbhaya (The Cultch) and 52 Pick-Up (Twenty Something Theatre/Theatre Wire)).

Why not look ahead and book a couple of tickets to plays in 2016?  Here’s a few that I have on my list that look like they’ll stimulate great conflict resolution discussions:

  • The Motherf**ker with the Hat (Firehall Arts Centre)
  • Little One (Alley Theatre/Firehall Arts Centre) – I saw this one at the 2014 Fringe Festival and it’s both creepy and excellent.
  • Ga Ting (thefranktheatrecompany/The Cultch)
  • Reclaiming Hope (Theatre for Living) – I’ll be watching for news about public performances when this one is developed.

VanFringeFest_2016_RGB-with-datesAnd, of course, buying someone a Frequent Fringer pass for the Vancouver Fringe Festival is a perfect option, too!  (They’re not available until the summer, but a promissory note now works.) I wasn’t specifically looking for conflict resolution themed productions this past September, but still saw 12 shows that I would classify as fitting the bill.  Next year, I’m going to blog about my best bets for conflict resolution shows in advance of the Festival so others can join me to view them and discuss at a CoRe Speaker event and/or a Mediators’ Lounge.

4. Human Library

I can’t list books and plays and leave out the Human Library project!  If you haven’t come across the project before, the Human Library is an explicit response to a hate crime that seeks to end violence one person at a time. Borrow a “human book” for a 20 minute conversation intended to narrow ideological gaps through personal connection.  The Human Library is offered as part of the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival.

PuSh2016_HumanLibrary_credit-Liesbeth-Bernaerts-1200x590

This post is shared here by permission of True North Collective.

May 17, 2013

Board Games for Mediators

“Don’t be a d**k.” – Wil Wheaton

Who gets pneumonia suddenly just as the weather turns warm and a period of relative calm appears in both work and family schedules?  Apparently, that’s me. I’ve just spent two weeks laid up with pneumonia!  Still not recovered, but sitting up and taking the opportunity to share my (possibly) fever-induced insights…  For much of the past weeks, I have been too weary for much reading, and restricted in television watching by a promise not to get ahead of my husband on anything I’d really like to watch.  Netflix was misfiring on our device and wearing down my patience, so Youtube it has been – and a bizarre marathon of TableTop with Wil Wheaton.  For those readers unfamiliar with TableTop, the show is remarkably simple in concept: Wil Wheaton (now primarily an internet celebrity, but for older folks often better known as young Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation)  plays tabletop games with his friends (usually other internet and television actors, producers, writers, etc.) and introduces viewers to a wide range of cool games in the process.

No doubt occurring to me as a rationalization for my odd compulsion to watch every TableTop episode in order, I started thinking early on about the potential value of the various tabletop games played on the show for conflict resolution purposes.  And lo and behold, there really are quite a few that lend themselves to such consideration!  I’m going to concentrate here on two games that illustrate two different categories of possible interest to mediators:  Dixit – a game about understanding indirect communication (through a wide range of skills); and Pandemic – one of many collaborative games that require teamwork and joint problem solving to have any chance of winning.  There are many other examples of each of these categories of games, of course, but these two happen to have been featured on TableTop which allows me to link to a more detailed explanation – and they’re really fun!

Jolts for Mediators (and possibly for Mediation?)

dixit-odyssey-8n7jgji1. Dixit

Dixit is an award-winning European card game that I’d never heard of before my TableTop marathon.  It’s remarkably simple in concept. Each player starts with 6 cards with artistic images on them.  Players take turns being the Storyteller.  The player who is the Storyteller chooses a card from her hand and lays it down on the table face down, giving a short descriptive phrase that might allow others to identify the card.  Everyone else also lays down a card  – one that they think is most likely to fool other players into thinking it was the Storyteller’s card.  The cards are shuffled, turned face up, and each player places their bet as to which card was the Storyteller’s. The Storyteller scores points only if at least one player, but not all, chooses her card.  Others score by choosing the right card and by having votes on the card they played.

dixit_cardsIIHere’s a simple example:  Suppose the Storyteller played the second card in this set (the books) and gave the description “From above”.  Players might well choose photo 1, 3 or 5 instead – depending on how they understand the description.  So in essence, success in the game relies on the following skills:

  • Reading any clues from the Storyteller’s tone and body language
  • Interpreting the clue through the lens of the Storyteller (which means really listening to the clues a person gives from one round to the next and developing a sense of how they interpret visual images)
  • Fooling other players by selecting cards that you believe they will see as matching the description (which means, again, understanding the lenses that others bring to the game and speaking to their worldviews rather than automatically and unconsciously choosing according to your own)
  • As Storyteller, communicating to some, but not all of the people in the room (by utilizing clues that one or two people will recognize, but that you think at least one other will not).

It seems to me that each of these skills are closely connected with strong mediation skills, particularly the need to recognize and speak to different worldviews and backgrounds, and to do so consciously and with awareness.  One could certainly play the game without doing so, and I am sure that many players do approach it fairly unstrategically, but what a great warm-up/practice of conscious skill development when one is deliberately focused on that aspect of the game!

I can imagine utilizing the game as a pattern interrupt in a conflict resolution skills training workshop.  Allowing the participants to debrief the skills utilized and to practice them consciously could provide a great reinforcement of discussions of varied lenses, cultural differences, etc. while changing the rhythm should students reach a point of low energy or discouragement with the speed of their skill development.

The game is so simple that I suspect that in the right setting one could play a single hand (or a couple of hands) in an actual mediation to introduce a discussion of communication challenges.  Again, a pattern interrupt aimed at stimulating reflection on and discussion of the process as opposed to the content of the mediation.  Most tools that effectively shift parties to a discussion of process can be effective in breaking impasses based on positional posturing, and I suspect that Dixit could too.

If you’d like to watch the TableTop episode on Dixit, here it is.  Watch Casey McKinnon’s play, in particular, for a great example of explicit strategizing about clues that will communicate with one but not all players.

Pandemic2. Pandemic

This one is a bit “on the nose” for my current bout of pneumonia, but my daughters have kindly indulged me by letting me play multiple rounds with the intention of eradicating pneumonia (and three other diseases) from existence!

Pandemic is one of a wide range of collaborative board games.  Players are trying to wipe out 4 diseases that spread quickly throughout the world.  Each player has a different character who has different abilities.  Only by working together, and strategizing carefully do players have the slightest chance of winning the game and curing all 4 diseases.  There are three ways to lose the game, and only one to win.  Very difficult to win even at the simplest level of play with only 4 epidemic cards in the deck, and almost impossible at the highest levels!  But oh so much fun!

I love Pandemic because I love the way it brings people together to focus on problem-solving.  It very quickly feels like that moment in a mediation when everyone transitions from positional gamesmanship to solution-oriented communication. Gaming scholar, Carly A. Korucek, captures much of my reaction to Pandemic in her description of playing the game for the first time and her thinking about the culturally celebrated model of competition in games of all sorts.  Here’s a fairly lengthy quote from her blog, Casual Scholarship, that provides a gaming scholar’s insight into collaborative gaming:

I was impressed by Pandemic. Sure, it was fun, but I was more impressed by the effect it had on those of us playing. We weren’t just sort of working together, we were painstakingly thinking through the ramifications of every possible move for every player. At some points, we plotted out series of actions involving 3 or 4 players’ turns. We were sucked in. When we — all of us — lost, there was swearing and shouts of disappointment.

The point I want to suggest here is that playing collaborative games can be a very different experience than playing, well, most other games, which pit players against each other, either individually or in groups. In the realm of boardgames, games like checkers, Clue, Sorry, and other household names encourage players to compete directly with each other. This model is so established that when I ask people if they can think of any collaborative games, they often draw a blank.  …

In writing about the history of competitive video gaming, I have been thinking a lot about  models of play that aren’t based on competition among players, not because they are prevalent, but specifically because they are obscure. The fetishization of individualized competition in much of gaming shouldn’t be seen as either natural or neutral. Our investment and interest in the successes of individual gamers is part of a system that broadly values individual achievements and may, even in the case of corporate- or team-based achievements, give credit for success to individual actors rather than the collective involved.

Professor Korucek makes an important point when she notes that individual competition is neither natural nor neutral.  Competition is a value embedded so deeply in our culture that we don’t even question it.  We celebrate the most competitive individuals and strive to instil competitive drive in our youth, even while suggesting that we should all cooperate.  To quote a favourite song from Todd Snider, Ballad of the Kingsmen:

…First grade where they teach the kid pride
They tell him he’ll need to thrive,
In a world where only the strong will survive,
So he’s taught the art of more
To compare to and to keep score Monday thru Friday while
He stares at the floor til’ Sunday they make him go to
School once more only this time they make him wear a suit and a tie
And listen to some guy who claims to know Where people go
When they die tell him that only the meek are gonna inherit the earth…

In this context of unexamined competitive values, collaborative games like Pandemic are important in that they are every bit as fun as any competitive game you can name, and they reward wholly different values than games based on individual victory – the values that underlie all collaborative decision-making processes.  Of course, cooperative games were an education buzzword when I was a teenager, and they have been part of many children’s programs at least since then.  But, as Professor Korucek comments regarding video gaming, competition has remained the norm in much the same way that competitive bargaining remains the expectation when people sit down to negotiate.  The challenges that so many in the justice field have written about in shifting dispute resolution culture (and perhaps especially legal dispute resolution culture) to create space for collaborative approaches are the same challenges that any game designer faces in creating a collaborative game – we have unconsciously adopted competitive values from virtually all aspects of our culture and assume that competition is a universal norm, making collaboration risky.  This normalizing of competition has led us to simply not think of games as being collaborative unless they are didactic and offered in school to teach young children about cooperation.   Well, happily that is changing and games like Pandemic may just be a little wedge in the dominant culture of competition.

Pandemicg01t04How to introduce Pandemic to mediators, and maybe even sneak it into a team-building setting or other collaborative process?  Try playing Pandemic at a mediators’ retreat, or (and I would love to be invited!) at a monthly mediators’ gaming evening.  And introduce it to your families and friends to spread the word about collaborative gaming.  And yes, perhaps in the right setting, you could even use the game in a long term facilitation.  I’m thinking here of longer term work with families who need to learn (or re-learn) how to work together and might need to include pre-teens and teens in that process.  Playing a game might be a “homework” assignment to help the family prepare for a joint problem solving session.  Or similarly imagine the game used as part of work with family members planning around a loved one’s illness.  I found it remarkably therapeutic to name the red disease ‘pneumonia’ and set our to eradicate it as quickly as possible; others might find similar moments of unexpected lightness in bringing caregivers and family members together to defeat cancer or dementia.  (I think of dementia, in particular, as I look forward to Don Desonier’s upcoming CoRe Talk about working with families planning around dementia, but any illness might be equally appropriate). Likewise, workplace retreats and workshops aimed at building teamwork and increasing collaborative problem solving could be an appropriate situation for a game of Pandemic.  In many such events, games of one form or another are already normalized as part of team building.  I know I’ve attended a number of firm/faculty/workplace social events that involved competitive games. Doesn’t building an event around a game in which the whole team wins or loses more closely match the real workplace ideal of competing together than pitting half the group against the other half?

Here’s the TableTop episode on Pandemic.

And to circle back ever so briefly to the potentially obscure quote that led off this discussion, one of Wil Wheaton’s further contributions to the betterment of the world (beyond providing inspiration for collaborative gaming and mediation skills training) is the naming of July 29th (his birthday) as Don’t Be a D**k Day.  Simple message, but definitely one that will resonate with many mediators.  Personally, I plan to schedule mediations on July 29th whenever I can simply so I can declare at the outset that it’s Don’t Be a D**k Day and that the main ground rule for collaborative problem solving is just that simple.

February 6, 2013

“Apps” for Mediation

“You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club” – Jack London

Mediation Apps

My mediation apps folder

This post is for everyone with an unused iTunes gift card lying around or for mediators wanting to dabble in new technology.  (Ben Ziegler and I have been exchanging preliminary thoughts about a session we will be presenting at the Northwest Dispute Resolution Conference on “digital natives” and “digital immigrants” in mediation, so this post is definitely partly inspired by those exchanges. Technology can certainly act as “jolt” – perhaps all the more so for the digital immigrant.)

And okay, mediation apps for impasse breaking may not quite be going “after it with a club” as the quote above suggests, but …  I get the impression from several friends that pulling out a smart phone or a tablet during a mediation may seem just as counter-intuitive at first blush as Jack London’s assertion that inspiration might come best to those actively chasing it.  Sometimes, however, a little technological jolt is just what it takes to kickstart a discussion, provide a tool for reflection, or settle a minor distributive dispute.

I’m an iPhone and iPad user, so my list of favourite mediation apps is decidedly “iCentric”.  It looks like a fairly high percentage of the apps are available for other operating systems – or there is a very comparable (if untested by me) app that might well serve the same purpose.

I’m hopeful that others will add their favourite apps to the list I’ve created below!

Jolts for Mediation and Mediators

I’m framing the following list of apps as jolts for mediation – in that many are recommended specifically as a tool for breaking impasse in the mediation room – but also as a jolt for mediators.  I know of a few mediators using apps in their work, but most of the folks I’ve spoken to are surprised by the very idea.  Hopefully this list will provide a jolt for a few mediators simply to consider the many different ways that apps might be of use in a mediation.

1. Tie-breaker apps

You quite like the idea of offering parties the option to roll dice to break a small deadlock – typically some final item like court filing fees that has suddenly come back to the parties’ attention when everything else is worked out satisfactorily.  But you can only carry so many things around with you from mediation to mediation, and dice didn’t make it into the mediation kit.  Never mind, you probably have your cell phone and lots of tiebreaker apps available!

  • Dice Roller offers just what you’d expect: the option to roll one, two or three dice.  You can also choose colour of dice and background.  Simple and convenient.  Try offering a dice roller when parties are stuck on that last, minor but still “a matter of principle” issue.  You may be surprised by how often the offer to resolve things this way is exactly what creates the space for a party to let go of her position and propose something new.  On at least a couple of occasions, I’ve been surprised by the complete turnaround that follows the suggestion to “roll for it”.   For example, I’ve seen the offer of a game of chance to settle things evoke a proposal that one tradesman take another to lunch instead of letting it get that silly.  Similarly, I’ve seen exchanges of concert tickets and even haircuts.  Of course, some people happily accept the dice roll, too.  In any event, the selection of decision-making process and the eventual outcome are still in the hands of the parties.
  • iChoose is a simple, free app for choices.  Use a coin toss, dice roll, card choice, random number, etc. to choose between two options (or positions, or parties).
  • Coin Flip is just what it sounds like – prettier images of the coins than iChoose, and you can switch the automatically loaded American coin to a Canadian one without needing to upgrade to the premium version.  Allows you to flip by tapping or flicking the screen upward (which is kind of fun).
  • rpslsRock/Paper/Scissors and Rock/Paper/Scissors/Lizard/Spock come in a wide variety of free and paid apps.  I don’t have a favourite RPS version, and it’s not quite the handy addition to the toolkit that a dice roller is since there’s only so much added surprise value from pulling out a phone to run the game rather than simply playing it “old school” – with the parties’ own hands.  RPSLS, on the other hand, is tricky to play because almost no one remembers the rules the first few times they hear them.  The game gained much attention when it was used to resolve disputes on The Big Bang Theory (though note it is credited to Sam Kass and Karen Bryla) so it’s not uncommon for people to have heard of it, but not mastered the rules.  Hence the app saves everyone the embarrassment of yet again forgetting that “Paper disproves Spock” and makes the game run smoothly.

2. Polling apps for larger groups

Playing with Clickers in law class settings has been so much fun over the last several years, that I knew I wanted to find something that allowed me to “poll the audience” in other large group settings. Happily, the app world has developed a wonderful range of such tools – many created for the classroom (to make use of students’ phones rather than requiring the purchase of a “clicker”).

My daughters and I played with eClicker during the holidays and I’m looking forward to testing the system out in my Mediation Clinic this term.  It requires everyone to have an iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad.  That does limit the range of situations in which it’s going to be handy, of course.  The presenter needs to load eClicker Presenter and others need to download eClicker Audience.  The presenter can enter a variety of question types (and can even include illustrations/photos in the question) and then deliver the question to groups of up to 32 (or 64 in some circumstances).  Responses are then collected as a “poll” result, which can be either a useful guide to what one needs to revisit or a decision-making tool for process choices.

Now it would be unusual for most mediators to be in situations where polling 32 parties might be useful, but imagine instead sending a few small groups out of joint session to discuss settlement options and polling them in their respective rooms.  A multi-party scenario like a leaky condo dispute, for instance, might have a significant number of defence counsel consulting with their clients and examining a particular offer.  One or more may be very circumspect about their own willingness to settle and holding back on discussions of specific numbers.  Rather than shuttling amongst parties and nudging all to share their settlement ideas with the mediator, there might well be value to polling everyone as a group on a specific proposal.  There might be potential to discover common ground or possible scope for settlement which could be followed up by discussion.  Why not just discuss first?  For some, the chance to reflect and then respond to an anonymous poll might simply be an easier, and more face-saving, way to shift one’s firmly stated position.

3. Creativity stimulators

whack packI’m not a fan of apps that simply provide you with the contents of a book.  If you want the book, then downloading/purchasing/borrowing the book seems simple enough.  But I do enjoy an app that takes book content in an entirely different direction and makes it into a useful tool in and of itself.  One good example I’ve found for mediation is Creative Whack Pack ($1.99).  I’ve used my Creative Whack Pack cards to choose a method for idea generation in mediations (and classrooms) for years now, so was thrilled to find the app is, if anything, even handier.

Creator Roger Von Oeck has created a collection of 84 “creativity strategies” divided into 5 “suits”: explorer, artist, judge, warrior, and Heraclitus.  Each card (which is also how they are referred to on the app) provides a story and questions to “whack” you into creative thought.  You can “draw” cards in a variety of ways:

  • Give Me A Whack offers a randomly drawn card
  • Card of the Day offers a new card each day
  • Do a Workshop offers the ability to “Ask the Oracle” which provides 4 randomly drawn cards or “Four-Suit Classic” which provides a card from each suit (except Heraclitus).
  • Choosing intentionally from the Card Index

I particularly like asking the oracle – in part because it’s simply fun to say “let’s ask the oracle,” but also because it’s a good stimulus to receive four random ideas about how to generate ideas and then try to figure out how any of them might apply to the issue at hand.  The process of jointly trying to apply the cards to the problem at hand is itself a tool for transitioning everyone into joint problem solving.  Parties and the mediator are challenged to thinking creatively about something that is not in dispute which frequently leads to creative problem solving about the issues that are in dispute.

There are simply too many other possibilities to cover here, ranging from Pro & Con apps, to mindmapping tools, to negotiation and litigation specific apps for calculating settlement values.  If you’re interested in testing some of them out, consider coming out to the CoRe Clinic’s Mediator’s Toolbox workshop on April 11th where one station will be devoted to the smartphone toolbox.  For details or to register, email coreclinic1@gmail.com.

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