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 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 is providing workshops for employees from around the state in Mediation, Conflict Resolution and Facilitation to enhance their case management skills.
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. A kickoff event was held at the Quinnipiac School of Law in February, 2015.
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: smaller and more focused.
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 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, youth development, effective communication training and restorative justice.
Through the assistance of The Community Foundation of Greater New Haven (CFGNH), CM was able to move a part-time staff member to full time, who assists with mediation intake, oversight of volunteers and interns; and training youth. As a result of this staff members’ contributions, the E.D. 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. Due to this assistance, CM held a staff/board member retreat in February, 2013 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.
The board and staff members are passionately pursuing carrying out these goals of this strategic plan in 2015. CM 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.
In 2013 and 2014, the CM Board developed a strategic plan for the next three years. The plan has five major elements:
(i) building awareness about CM’s work, not only in Greater New Haven but throughout Connecticut;
(ii) expanding our mediation services while maintaining their high quality and affordability;
(iii) expanding our training programs;
(iv) strengthening our organizational resources, including adding new board members to the excellent group we now have, and continuing to develop our network of donors; and
(v) strengthening our internal systems both by finding opportunities to increase efficiency and improving how we track and evaluate the effectiveness of our programs.
We also developed a list of implementation steps and a timeline for implementation of the plan, and we make a regular practice at Board meetings of reviewing our progress against the timeline.
To give one example of this process: as part of our efforts to build awareness, board members are conducting a series of small focus groups with key stakeholders and opinion leaders in the business, government, social services, education, and faith communities. The focus groups allow us to gather information about what people know of CM and its work, what mediation and training services they believe are needed, and how we can meet those needs. The focus groups have already been helpful, both in sharpening our understanding of the market for our services and in increasing the participants’ awareness of those services (more than one participant has described a recent conflict experience and said “I should have called CM for help”).
Another example is our recent decision to restructure our staffing to rely to a greater extent on independent professionals from our network of excellent training providers, rather than our own staff, to conduct many of our trainings. This both shifts much of our training budget from fixed to a variable costs (which helps us absorb both increases and decreases in demand and to expand beyond the New Haven area), while allowing the staff to devote more time to outreach, quality improvement, and other activities.
In a world full of resolvable but unresolved conflict, Community Mediation’s work is crucial. We have an outstanding and devoted staff and an energetic, enthusiastic Board. I am proud of them, and of CM’s continued success in pursuing our mission of helping people, organizations and communities transform conflict into constructive solutions, and our vision of inclusive communities where people communicate effectively to understand and address their own needs and the needs of others.
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 again for this conflict..
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 disputes, workplace conflicts, 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
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 statewide EFPP providers and training and technical assistance for the New London and Middletown Juvenile Review Boards.
Another program that CM is launching in 2015 is the Veterans Mediation Program. The purpose of this program is to encourage the use of mediation to help veterans resolve conflicts, increase their quality of life and improve their ability to reintegrate into their communities effectively. This program will provide 40 hours of mediation training for volunteer veterans. These veterans will then be paired with experienced community mediators to address conflicts that involve other veterans with: landlords, employees/employers, friends, neighbors, and family members. Veterans have a unique perspective and vocabulary that can best be understood by fellow veterans. CM is aware that there is a sense of immediate connection and trust that is created by introducing services through other veterans.
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 Coordinator, Volunteer & Intern Coordinator & Trainer: 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. Furthermore, Mr. Lewis assists with training youth, both in the New Haven public schools and within youth-serving organizations such as Music Haven.
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.
In September, 2014, the CM board created a new Nominating Committee. The function of nominating new board members had been residing in the Development Committee, but it was determined that we needed a more focused and concerted effort to recruit passionate and diverse members. The new Nominating Committee has already created a list of over 50 potential partners/board members and has begun meeting with various stakeholders in the community. The Nominating Committee has also created a process for approval and mentoring of new board members. Ideally, we would like to have 16 members to increase the diversity of perspectives and geographical representation.
That being said, the existing 10 members are extremely active, dedicated and excited about bringing the services of CM to a wider community. Nine of our ten board members have received a minimum of 32 hours of Basic Mediation training so they have a clear understanding of how to explain our services to their peers. They also provide volunteer training, mediation and facilitation services to the organization in addition to all members donating to the organization at least once annually.
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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