Community Mediation helps people, organizations, and communities transform conflict into constructive solutions through mediation, facilitation, and training.
Thirty years ago, a few dedicated dispute resolution pioneers established the Fair Haven Community Mediation Program, now known as Community Mediation, Inc. (CM). Given the deep divisions and violent conflicts in this world, in the United States and even in the New Haven area, the conflict resolution work CM remains as important as ever in bringing people together to work creatively on resolving problems instead of fighting with each other and making those problems worse. CM's programs overcome these divisions by building relationships between people, and bridges between groups.
Our current programs include:
· School and Youth Based Training – Workshops for all school and youth serving organization staff in effective communication and tools for a compassionate classroom. Peer mediation training for students and staff as well as assistance with setting up infrastructure to maintain the program.
· Juvenile Review Board (JRB) Mediation & Restorative Conference Training – providing training for the New London and Middletown JRB staff and volunteers to provide a forum for victims and first-time juvenile offenders to discuss the conflict and reach agreement.
· Eviction & Foreclosure Prevention Program (EFPP) training – Providing mediation training and technical assistance through a contract with the CT Department of Housing for all statewide providers of EFPP - combining financial assistance with landlord/tenant mediation to keep low-income residents stably housed.
· Veterans Mediation Program – Providing training for veterans and experienced mediators to assist veterans in the community to resolve conflicts with landlords, employers/employees, neighbors and family members.
· Mediation services – Providing mediation services for any all residents of CT on a sliding-scale fee basis.
· Facilitation services – Providing facilitation services for groups to clarify problems and create Action Steps
· Training – providing a variety of training from 40-hour mediation certification to Workplace Conflict for individuals, municipal agencies, non-profit organizations and for-profit businesses.
A few highlights of CM’s work this year include:
The University of New Haven has subcontracted with CM to provide mediation services for the Branford Police Department. CM is providing mediation services for situations which do not have a clear legal issue and/or repeat calls for which the police do not have a solution.
Through contracts with the City of New Haven and the New Haven Board of Education, CM continues to work with several schools and youth-serving organizations providing peer mediation and conflict management workshops for youth and staff members.
As a result of our amazing outcomes (only 3% re-arrest rate in 12 months) providing mediation services for the New Haven and Hamden Juvenile Review Boards (JRB,) the Tow Foundation has funded CM to run a pilot program providing mediation and Restorative Conferencing training for the New London and Middletown JRB staff and volunteers.
In 2015, CM continues with all of the above programs in addition to the following efforts:
CM secured funding from three key donors to pilot a Veterans Mediation Program. CM staff members will provide 40 hours of mediation training for interested veterans. These veterans will be paired with experienced mediators to assist veterans who are having landlord/tenant; employee/employer; neighbor and family conflicts.
CM was accepted as a contract trainer for the Judicial Branch’s Court Support Services Division. CM staff members will be providing workshops for employees from around the state in Mediation, Conflict Resolution and Facilitation to enhance their case management skills with people who have entered the court system.
CM's Executive Director is the Vice President of the Board of a new statewide organization - the Connecticut Mediation Association. Our goals are to create standardization in the field; provide networking events for mediators; and educate the public about the benefits of mediation. The kickoff event held at the Quinnipiac School of Law in February.
CM has had its share of adversity in the past few years and dealt with these problems directly and expediently. As a result, the organization is making a comeback and looking a little different than in the past.
In July 1, 2013, the E.D. and Board made the decision to end all funding from the state for housing financial assistance programs. This was not an easy decision to make since a significant portion of CM’s funding throughout the years had stemmed from these programs. Losing financial resources actually gave CM a chance to become more mission-focused and concentrate of the needs of the community rather than the needs of the organization. Since there are numerous agencies in New Haven that provide housing, as well as other forms of assistance, CM board and staff members believed it was time to give those agencies an opportunity to pick up the programs that they had the resources to handle more effectively. CM is now solely focused on conflict resolution through the use of mediation, facilitation and training.
Through the assistance of The Community Foundation of Greater New Haven (CFGNH), CM was able to bring on a part-time staff person, now working full-time, to assist with mediation intake, volunteers and interns. As a result of this staff members’ contributions, the E.D. and was able to spend more time identifying customers and collaborators in CT. CFGNH also assisted our organization with a survey of our strengths and weaknesses and plans to address those. Due to this assistance, CM began with a staff/board member retreat in February that led to a distillation of CM’s focus in the coming years. It also laid the ground work for a comprehensive and collaboratively created strategic plan that all board and staff members can support.
As a result of this strategic planning process, CM has distilled its goals. The board and staff members are passionately pursuing carrying out these goals in 2015. CM still continues to struggle with grant-funding, since most foundations are focusing on basic needs and often do not understand mediation and its long-term benefits to individuals and communities. CM has expanded its services throughout the state with training programs for the Department of Housing and the Judicial Branch’s Court Support Services Division, as well as training for Juvenile Review Board staff and volunteers in New London and Middletown.
CM will continue to seek fee-based and contractual work both within its home region of New Haven and other areas of the state that do not currently have mediation services in their cities and towns.
Community Mediation, Inc. is moving successfully through a challenging and exciting transition. After the retirement of our previous Executive Director, Charlie Pillsbury, who served with distinction for more than 20 years, and the appointment of Brenda Cavanaugh, our Associate Director, as his successor, we identified a number of tasks we needed to accomplish:
i. We needed to establish CM in the community as more than “Charlie Pillsbury’s organization,” as it had come to be known.
ii. We needed to tighten our focus on our core mission, which we define as providing conflict resolution services and training others in conflict resolution skills.
iii. At the same time we needed to broaden our vision of the communities we serve, and to increase awareness throughout Greater New Haven of what we offer.
iv. Because our state and local government funders cut their budgets severely, while some of our foundation supporters decided to concentrate their funding in areas that did not include our work, we needed to reduce our expenses.
v. We needed to add new board members to replace several long-serving ones who elected to step down, and if possible increase the diversity of our board.
vi. Finally, we needed to improve staff and volunteer morale and generally increase the energy and enthusiasm our staff, volunteers, and board brought to their work.
Thanks to outstanding work by Brenda and Joe Brummer, our Associate Executive Director, we are well on our way to accomplishing all of these things. Brenda and Joe are increasingly recognized as the new faces of the organization. We are gradually reducing our commitment to the parts of our housing programs that do not involve mediation, while greatly increasing the amount and variety of training we provide. We are actively seeking to work with communities throughout the New Haven area and elsewhere in the state, and have already begun work with the Branford and Hamden town governments. We have reduced our annual expenses substantially, by eliminating several staff positions and relocating our offices to smaller and less expensive space in downtown Hamden, and we expect to be able to have a balanced budget. We have added 5 board members to replace retiring members, and are in the process of recruiting 3 to 5 more; at the end of the process we hope to have a board that is more diverse in age, profession, and ethnic background than we have had for several years. The staff, volunteers, and board are all feeling very positive about the organization.
As Board President I am more enthusiastic than ever about the important work we are doing. My vision is of a Greater New Haven community in which
· the honest, respectful, peaceful discussion of differences is the rule, not the exception.
· it is widely understood that conflict resolution and effective communication involve skills that can be learned.
· as many people as possible have learned those skills and experienced the difference they can make.
Community Mediation is integral to the achievement of that vision.
CM offers mediation services to all community members with a sliding-scale fee. We provide impartial mediators to help guide clients through a process in which they can tell their story, clarify issues, brainstorm options and create mutually satisfying agreements. Some examples of issues that we mediate are: neighborhood issues, tenant/landlord conflict, employment disputes, family issues including parent/teen and parenting plans, juvenile and school disputes, public policy disputes, and interpersonal conflicts.
80% of mediations end with an agreement. 75% of participants report that they better understood the perspective of the other party.
CM does not currently track long-term success for this program. It is generally the philosophy in the mediation field that as impartial third parties, we do not have an interest or stake in the outcome of the mediation, nor do we contact parties once they are no longer using our services. They must take full ownership of their own agreements and responsibility for the follow-through.
Case notes indicate whether an agreement was reached; CM administers post-mediation evaluations from which we collect information about the client’s experience during the session.
Generally, we have an 85% success rate with agreements and 80% of clients report understanding the perspective of the other party. One of our success stories was when we held 7 mediation sessions between representatives of the New Haven Board of Education (BOE) and the parent advocacy group, Teach Our Children (TOC). The relationship between these two groups had become so rancorous, that the mayor suggested mediation. The New Haven Independent reported on June 30, 2010, after the sessions had ended, “In past years TOC has been at loggerheads with the Board of Ed on issues such as translation, suspensions, and bullying. After a seeming impasse, six months ago TOC and the board submitted to institutional marriage counseling by Community Mediation. The results have been real. Aponte said communication has improved greatly and a sense of partnership around the translation issue has supplanted sometimes acrimonious conftrontation.”
CM offers mediation, facilitation and conflict managment trainings and shorter workshops. CM offers local agencies, businesses, communities and schools mediation, communication, problem-solving, anger management, decision-making, leadership, workplace conflict and other trainings. We have a cadre of professional, experienced staff and consultant trainers with many years of experience in the field. These trainings are tailored to both youth and adults and available to anyone in the New Haven area and beyond.
80% of participants will report that they were “satisfied” or “more than satisfied” with the training. 80% of participants will report that their needs were met by the training.
CM does not currently track long-term success for our training services. Not sure how appropriate it is to call people one year later and ask if they are still using the skills that they learned in the training, however, it is a possibility.
CM administers post-training evaluations to collect information about the client’s experience during the training.
CM provides assistance to groups who want to host large group discussions. Whether the subject is race relations, improving a neighborhood, or youth/police dialogue, CM can provide technical assistance to create agendas, form appropriate questions, and arrange for venues and other issues to host a successful dialogue. CM also provides trained, volunteer and staff facilitators to provide impartial guidance through the process.
In 2010, as a result of a comment from a youth to one of our volunteers, CM organized as series of dialogues with a group of neighborhood youth to discuss their concerns about the local police. The youth had opportunities to: identify the issues, imagine how they would feel in the shoes of the police and brainstorm constructive ways to solve the problems. Parallel to these dialogues CM staff met with the Chief of Police and the District Manager, who both agreed to come to the last session of the dialogues and talk with the youth.
At the beginning of this last session, the youth were nervous and the chief’s assistant and the District Manager were not clear about what was going to happen. Within minutes after the introductions, however, the youth started asking questions and the adults answered calmly and honestly. One of the youth, a girl who had felt very anxious about this session, turned out to have the most questions and even asked the Chief at some point why he made such a grumpy face, as if he wouldn’t want to be here, to which he answered “Oh no, that’s just my face! I’m Irish-Scottish and my entire family looks like this. I am very happy to be here with you and have this conversation.” Soon the conversation was rolling with a respectful exchange among all participants. In the end, the youth had a better understanding of the police and the police had an opportunity to create a bond with the neighborhood youth.
· Of those 25 JRB youth, 4 were re-arrested on charges unrelated to the first arrest. Which means 84% experienced no further arrests.
· 52 (96%) participants reported no further issues.
· 27 (93%) of complainants reported that they have found closure.
· All 54 participants reported an understanding of alternative ways to deal with conflict.
· All 54 participants found Mediation to be helpful, here are some of the comments
As noted earlier in the profile, CM ended all financial-assistance housing programs in July, 2013. Although this was a great source of funding, it did not align as well with our mission as we anticipated when first creating those programs. CM staff and board members also believed that the clients would be better-served by going to New Haven agencies that employed trained social workers and had a variety of programs to offer an economically-disadvantaged population.
CM is now markedly focused on its mission and will only seek funding for programs that are truly aligned. In place of expanding the number of program areas, CM staff and board members hope to expand geographically, bringing our training and impartial services to a greater number of towns and cities in CT. We have already begun this expansion through a contract with the Judicial Branch to provide training for its employees, a contract with the Department of Housing to provide training and technical assistance for EFPP providers and training and technical assistance for the New London and Middletown Juvenile Review Boards.
Executive Director, Community Mediation Inc., New Haven, CT 2010 - Present
Fundraising/Marketing – state, municipal and foundation grants; special events
Coordinate collaborations with other nonprofit organizations
Create and manage agency budgets
Cultivated relationships with new and existing donor base
Associate Director Community Mediation Inc., New Haven, CT 2007 - 2010
Recruited, trained & evaluated program staff, interns & volunteers
Program implementation; reports; outreach; grant writing; program & general budgets; staff development
Staffed Board’s Program & Volunteer Committees
Mediator - Community Mediation Center, Charlottesville, VA 1996-2006
Mediated over 200 Civil and Family cases
Planned & implemented Community Police/Mediation Program
Certified Mentor for mediators in training
Facilitated Community meetings for a Regional Visioning Initiative
Created/implemented trainings for youth, woman’s prison inmates, community members
Supervising Coordinator 1998-2000
Vice President, Connecticut Mediation Association Founding Board 2013- Present
Workshop Presenter, CT LIST Conference, Southern CT State University, New Haven, CT 2013
Workshop Presenter, America Year Abroad, Local Collaborators’ Conference, Washington, D.C. 2013
Workshop Presenter, America Year Abroad Local Collaborators’ Conference, Panama 2012
Panel Speaker, CT Bar Association, Speziale Conference, Quinnipiac School of Law, Hamden, CT 2012
Workshop Presenter. CT Bar Association, Speziale Conference, Quinnipiac School of Law, Hamden, CT 2010
Advisory Board Member, New Haven & Hamden Juvenile Review Boards 2009- 2014
Adjunct Faculty Southern CT State University, New Haven, CT 2007- Present
Special Education Teacher Massachusetts/Virginia 1989-1995
Wheaton College, Norton, MA 1983-1989
MA – History; BA – History/Education, Magna Cum Laude
In the past 2 years, CM has provided services to and/or collaborated with the staff and clients of the following agencies:
Ongoing, CM collaborates closely with New Haven Family Alliance to provide mediation services for their New Haven and Hamden Juvenile Review Board. CM has also begun a partnership with the University of New Haven to research the effectiveness of community mediation/police partnerships. CM is a member of the CT Mediation Network, sponsored by Quinnipiac Law School, with the goal of promoting the field of Alternative Dispute Resolution in the state of CT.
All staff members, including our Office Manager, have received a minimum of 32 hours of Basic Mediation training and most members have received additional training in the conflict management field up to 400 hours.
Brenda Cavanaugh, Executive Director: Ms. Cavanaugh has been in the field of mediation for almost 20 years with over 400 hours of training in mediation, facilitation, and restorative processes. She has mediated over 250 general and family cases. She is the Vice President of the CT Mediation Association Board and an adjunct faculty member of Southern CT State University.
L’Enchental (Berta) Holmes-Reed, Housing & Peer Mediation Trainer: Ms. Holmes-Reed has been with CM for 18 years, beginning as an outreach worker at a public housing site and later become the Housing Coordinator for the Eviction & Foreclosure Prevention Program. She received her Master’s degree in Leadership from Albertus Magnus in 2010.
Jacques Lewis, Intake & Volunteer Coordinator: Mr. Lewis handles all calls for mediation and has also been instrumental in arranging meetings with various municipal officials in surrounding towns, helping to further our mission outside of New Haven. Mr. Lewis also coordinates and supervises all volunteers and interns.
Kathy Benoit, Office Manager: Ms. Benoit has been an employee of CM for 12 years and is an indispensible member of our organization. Ms. Benoit knows our donors well and is constantly imagining new ways to raise and save money.
One of the referrals received from the Branford police resulted in mediation services for all the residents of a particular street. Over the course of 6 months, CM met with 18 residents to clarify the issues and assist them in creating their own solutions. According to the police, they had spent 100 man hours on that street in the 2 years prior to the first mediation session. From the date of the first session to the present time, the police have not been called out once.
Indirect Public Support HelpIndirect public support represents revenue received through solicitation campaigns. This includes funding United Way and other federated fundraising organizations, but does not include donor designated contributions.
Earned Revenue HelpEarned revenue represents income generated in direct exchange for a product or service.Earned income includes income from government contracts.
CM has been through some challenging years since the loss of its long-time E.D., Charlie Pillsbury, in 2010. Due to state and municipal budget cuts; the closing of local Foundations; a new focus among funders on basic needs; and CM’s own decision to become more mission-focused in its programming, CM has reduced its budget from $1,000,000 in 2009 to approximately $400,000 in 2015.
Although CM has had to reduce its staff, move to less expensive offices and reduce other expenses, it has also become more distilled and diverse in its service delivery. CM now works with towns and cities in many areas other than the New Haven region, which had been its geographic focus for 30 years. Mediation is still a fairly new field of practice in the United States. It is our belief that by educating the public and community stakeholders about the financial and emotional long-term benefits of mediation, CM will begin to grow again in the next few years.
This profile, including the financial summaries prepared and submitted by the organization based on its own independent and/or internal audit processes and regulatory submissions, has been read by the Foundation. Financial information is inputted by Foundation staff directly from the organization’s IRS Form 990, audited financial statements or other financial documents approved by the nonprofit’s board. The Foundation has not audited the organization’s financial statements or tax filings, and makes no representations or warranties thereon. The Community Foundation is continuing to receive information submitted by the organization and may periodically update the organization’s profile to reflect the most current financial and other information available. The organization has completed the fields required by The Community Foundation and updated their profile in the last year. To see if the organization has received a competitive grant from The Community Foundation in the last five years, please go to the General Information Tab of the profile.
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