For more than 30 years the Dayton Mediation Center has been helping people resolve conflicts, such as neighbors arguing over a parking space, or a couple at risk of divorce.
The resolution sessions are generally done face-to-face, with the conflicting parties and a mediation specialist all present. Now the COVID-19 pandemic has changed all that — and in some ways, it’s sparked some positive outcomes for the mediators.
Mediation Specialist Arch Grieve says the center put its services on hold when Ohio's stay-at-home order came down. Then, they made the move to online mediations, all handled by staff members.
“We've gotten to a point now where we're pretty comfortable doing mediations as staff members,” Grieve says. “Now, we're trying to really get the volunteers involved at this point. And so, we've created a list of volunteers who are able to mediate through the week and then we're going to be start reaching out to them so that we can get them involved in some cases again.”
Grieve says the center has seen a spike in people looking for resolution services since their program went all remote. He believes some people feel less vulnerable by not having to be in the same room with the person they’re in conflict with.
And, he says the move to online mediation has made the organization’s services available to people outside of the Dayton area for the first time.
“Our services aren’t connected to geography so much anymore,” he says. “And so, we're actually able to mediate cases, you know, all the way up near the Cleveland area or down near Cincinnati, or wherever people might happen to be.”
The Dayton Mediation Center has about 70 volunteers who help arbitrate more than a thousand conflicts every year. Their cases are usually small-level conflicts between residents, neighborhood organizations and businesses, or between employers and employees.
The City of Dayton established the center in 1987 “in an effort to ease the impact of community conflicts on public resources.”