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.
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).
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.
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.
Acting Program Chair: Joyce Hamilla
Location: 620 SW Main Street, Suite 330, Portland, OR97205
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
Forms for Mediation
Forms for Agency Liaisons
Forms for Facilitation
* Used with permission from Community Mediation Services, City of Vancouver/Clark County
Shared Neutrals Participating Agencies
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
Oregon Federal Executive Board