Bringing together the strengths of a focus on process – as represented by the theory and practice of conflict resolution or transformation – and a focus on social justice content – identifying and seeking to end oppression, there are enormous possibilities for increased effectiveness in social change initiatives. Using a case study to look at bringing these two approaches together, this research explored how anti-oppression concepts and actions are incorporated into the practice of mediation.

This study examines perceptions of western Massachusetts mediators regarding their preparation and training to deal with oppression (in mediation-related vocabulary, “bias” and “power imbalance”) in the mediation setting. Based on an action research approach, a questionnaire and individual and focus group interviews were used to explore mediators’ views on what they felt they knew about bias and power imbalance, how prepared they felt to identify and deal with such issues in the mediation setting, and what kind of training and preparation they’d had and would like to have on such issues.

The findings demonstrated considerable mediator knowledge of bias and power imbalance. Nearly all research participants considered these issues important, recognized at least some obligation to address them in some fashion when they arose in mediation, and were able to name numerous techniques for doing so.

There was more divergence in the findings on who is impacted by bias and power imbalance (mediators, disputants or both), how self-aware mediators believe they are, what limitations exist on mediators’ roles in addressing bias and power


Interpersonal and Small Group Communication | Peace and Conflict Studies