Shared Neutrals Alternative Dispute Resolution

The Shared Neutrals Program is a cooperative arrangement between diverse federal, state, local and tribal agencies in the Pacific Northwest region. Each member agency makes a reciprocal agreement to submit requests for mediation and facilitation services and to share resources cooperatively. 

Mission

The Shared Neutrals Program is designed to serve three objectives.

  • To provide agencies with low cost and flexible access to sophisticated conflict management services. '

  • To provide individuals in conflict with accessible, timely, and confidential neutral services.

  • To support a diverse cadre of trained and experienced neutrals (mediators, facilitators and trainers) who mentor individuals from other agencies on a collateral duty basis.  

Flexibility is a core value for this Program. Individual agencies have a great deal of choice in how they access and use this Program. The benefits an agency derives from the program are intended to roughly approximate its contributions. 

A Brief History

The Oregon Federal Executive Board (OFEB) sponsors the Shared Neutrals Program to facilitate the use of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) among federal, state local and tribal governing agencies. Participating agencies may use the Program’s cadre of neutrals free of charge and with minimal documentation requirements. 

The Oregon Federal Executive Board adopted the Shared Neutrals Program 1996, following the model of similar programs.  Oregon Shared Neutrals enjoys a reciprocal agreement with the Intergovernmental ADR Consortium sponsored by the Seattle Federal Executive Board. Agencies with offices in both regions may use either Program, depending on the availability of neutrals.

Over 40 agencies currently participate, along with over 30 mediators and facilitators.  Since 1997, participating neutrals have mediated over 1000 cases around the Pacific Northwest, saving the participating agencies well over $18 million dollars (cost savings calculated at $78k per EEO case and $18k per non-EEO case by 2015 OPM estimates). 

Got conflict?  

Looking for someone to listen and help to identify options?  Mediation offers a confidential, voluntary way to better understand what is going on, identify more options for moving forward and get help in evaluating options.  Please contact the Program Chair for more information.  

Interested in joining?  

Participating agencies gain access to a roster of experienced, skilled neutrals free of charge (travel expenses paid by requesting agency).  This consortium offers participating agencies great flexibility in how the Program is used for ADR services.  Core values are self-determination, confidentiality, non-retaliation, and contribution commensurate with benefits.  Please email OFEB Executive Director and acting Shared Neutrals Program Coordinator Joyce Hamilla to for more information.

Interested in serving as a Neutral?

Agency staff (and volunteers) who serve as mediators and facilitators gain access to powerful professional development and continuing education opportunities with a respected group of talented neutrals.  Applicants must be certified through a 40 hour basic mediation training program, commit to 15 hours of annual continuing education, adhere to standards of practice and complete a training orientation with a mentor.  The Program Guide describes the application process.   Please email OFEB Executive Director and acting Shared Neutrals Program Coordinator Joyce Hamilla to apply.

Governing Subcommittee

The governing Subcommittee usually convenes on the first Monday of each month via conference call or meeting to discuss program evaluation, outreach, training and recruitment.  Subcommittee members are recruited from participating agencies according to bylaws detailed in the Program Guide. Please email OFEB Executive Director and acting Shared Neutrals Program Coordinator Joyce Hamilla if you are interested in getting involved.

CONTACT

Co-Chairs: Kimberly Koch-Hult & Mary Lind

Acting Program Chair: Joyce Hamilla

Location: 620 SW Main Street, Suite 330, Portland, OR97205

Phone:  503-326-3030


Shared Neutrals FAQ

What are the benefits for an Agency in Shared Neutrals participation?

  • The benefits of mediation/informal resolution of conflict are challenging to quantify because the costs of workplace conflict are equally so: quality, productivity, absenteeism, morale, and so on. The best attempt to quantify these costs was a comprehensive study published by CPP in 2008. It continues to be cited frequently and can be useful in directing the attention of risk-averse decision-makers to the risks of NOT providing avenues for the (informal) resolution of conflict.

  • The past two years, we have had a 100% success rate for our case resolution saving agencies roughly $19,300 per case. Moreover, there is a significant cost savings in using mediation earlier in the process than would otherwise be possible with contracted mediation, in order to forestall costly escalations. The participants are more satisfied with the outcome, and the agency avoids expensive and morale-killing legal escalation.

What are the risks for my Agency in Shared Neutrals participation?

  • There is very little risk. Mediation does not take any of the normal tools off the table for solving issues, and Agencies can choose which cases they want to refer, if there are some areas which are especially sensitive. Our mediators work in the strictest bounds of confidentiality, and as OFEB is a federal agency, there are considerable protections in place. We also carry liability insurance for the program, although we have never had to use it. Finally, the programing has a governing subcommittee monitoring day-to-day program execution (and who serve as advisors for sticky cases), and we have a larger governing board of federal agency heads for the OFEB who oversee any major decisions.

What kind of mediation cases does Shared Neutrals handle?

  • We handle largely two categories of mediation cases: “interpersonal” and “EEO”. The majority of cases that agencies/orgs send to Shared Neutrals involve “interpersonal issues”.  They are focused on helping parties in conflict to communicate their concerns and express their underlying interests.  The mediator helps them listen to one another, and integrate their perspectives and needs into proposals and ultimately agreements, when possible.  In some cases what transpires is more about building understanding and reducing/dissolving tension, in which case a substantive agreement may not be needed. Shared Neutrals also handles EEO cases. Additionally, many agencies refer cases when they determine that while a “perception of bias” is operating, the behavior in question does not rise to the level of an investigation.  Ultimately, is up to the participating organization to determine what types of cases to send for resolution.


Forms and Resource Documents

SN Program Guide

Shared Neutral Program Guide

 

Forms for Mediation

Primary Mediator Sign-off (updated 07-16)                              

Case Intake Form                                                  

CMS Opening Statement

Agreement to Mediate, Federal                                                 

Agreement to Mediate, Oregon                           

Agreement to Mediate, Washington

Resolution Agreement                                   

Mediator Debriefing Form                                    

Mediation Feedback Form

 

Forms for Agency Liaisons

Shared Neutrals Case Referral Intake Form                     

Shared Neutrals Brochure

Shared Neutrals Membership Agreement Form                

Expense Reimbursement Form 1164

 

Mediator Resources

OMA's Core Standards of Mediation Practice                                  

Mediator Application                                      

Mediator Contract

Mediator Training Activity Log                                                            

Mentor Profile                                                 

Mentoring Guide

 

Forms for Facilitation

Primary Facilitator Checklist                                    

Case Intake Form                                            

Consent to Facilitation

CMS Opening Statement *                                                                 

Facilitator Debrief

* Used with permission from Community Mediation Services, City of Vancouver/Clark County


Shared Neutrals Participating Agencies

Federal                                              

Army Corps of Engineers                                      

Bonneville Power Administration                            

Bureau of Land Management

National Energy Technology Laboratory           

Environmental Protection Agency                         

Indian Health Service

Internal Revenue Service, Seattle                           

Oregon Military Department                                   

Small Business Administration

U.S. Attorney, Oregon                                             

USDA, Agricultural Statistics Service                       

USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service

USDA, Forest Service                                               

 VA Medical Center, Portland & Vancouver           

VA Regional Office, Portland

State, Local, and Tribal

Centennial School District                                       

City of Beaverton                                                       

City of Gresham

City of Milwaukie                                                     

City of Portland                                                         

City of Wilsonville

Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission       

Dept. of Corrections HR, Washington                     

Dept. of Social Health Services/Washington

Evergreen School District                                       

Oregon Health & Science University                       

Portland Community College

State of Oregon Executive branch agencies and the Oregon Judicial Department



Funding Organizations

Oregon Federal Executive Board