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What do we know about mediators? : a short literature review

Wilson, Barbara and Irvine, Charles (2014) What do we know about mediators? : a short literature review. Working paper. Social Science Research Network, Glasgow.

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This brief review focuses on the question of whether mediators may share a number of traits, or characteristics, and whether these are identifiable from the literature. Mediators are drawn from a number of disciplines and backgrounds, and do not constitute a unified cohort. This is reflected in the very varied and widely dispersed Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) canon. We find that the literature divides roughly between (a) empirical research and (b) narratives about practice and practitioners, and that the line between skills and traits is often blurred. We identify two main groupings of mediators: those who practise by virtue of their personal characteristics, discipline or profession of origin, and those whose recognised social standing, eldership or prestige within a given community qualify them to act as mediators. We also review some of the many debates and discourses at play in the field. We find that a coherent account of mediators’ traits is still missing from the literature. This remains to be further explored, and we consider possible directions for future investigation.