How did CRS measure the success of your work?


Bob Hughes


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

I know in CRS, the number of mediation cases can be of significance. In the past, there have been certain factors in personal evaluations relating to the numbers of mediation cases. These are put into records, to show somebody having mediated this number of cases during the past year, or certain period. This can have the effect of people developing mediated cases just for the numbers. A numbers game. I think that's unfair to the parties. It's important not to let the numbers of cases dilute the significance of the qualitative aspects of mediation, or mediation casework. Qualitative versus quantitative.



Werner Petterson


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
How did CRS measure success?

Answer:
Probably like any bureaucracy. How many cases you successfully had some agreement on. I remember we did have a training at one time where we generally talked about success. One thing that people quite commonly say is that I manage tense situations very well. People talk about my being a calming presence. I don't respond or get threatened in situations. There have been a few situations where I felt threatened but very few. I think other people can feel threatened in a situation, and if you feel that way then that gets communicated. I think I'm a pretty good listener. I think that's one of the real tricks of the trade in mediation is to listen. In fact, in the case that I was talking about, in a very indirect way one of the parties said something and let me know exactly where this thing was going. If I had missed that, if I hadn't heard that I would have wasted a lot of time and I think maybe it's a way that people test you. That's for some reason what I seem to do very well. Sometimes I hear something, and I think it has to do with something else, and it sets off some thinking and some talking.




Dick Salem


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
How did you measure the success of an intervention?

Answer:
Well, you are always trying to project your successes in a bureaucracy. Information is always needed for budget purposes, annual reports, monthly reports, you are always expected to put your best foot forward. People need achievements, you'd always want to go up to a higher level. To a Congressman, a constituent, anything would support the agency's needs because you need to get money, you need to budget, you need to get staff. So at times we didn’t think of how you measured success, we just thought of what our best foot forward was. At times we were trying to show how many dollars were saved in mediated case, rather then a court case.

Question:
How do you do that?

Answer:
With great imagination. You say, "here's how many hours were spent on this case and here is what it would have cost had this case been litigated.” You make some estimates and say hundreds of thousands of dollars were saved because this case was handled this way rather than that way. I think, in reality, the test of success is whether or not the parties involved in the case would invite you back if they have another conflict. That's an issue that I gave some thought to later when I was writing about it, when I did that article for Peace and Change, 'How Do You Measure Success?' My primary answer was, would the parties want you back if there was another case? Then you know you were successful, because not every case will settle or should settle. Every dispute should not be resolved. I told you about the Minneapolis proposed mediation that fell through and the community was stronger because of it. They wouldn't let it go to mediation. They were able to heighten awareness in the community and have better results in the end, better outcomes. Sometimes you run into people afterwards and find out how successful it was because you did something they remembered. It can't simply be a head count of how many cases you won, because that becomes a game too. You do know, though, that in many cases there were very few resources available to the communities and you were there for them. You point to them in directions, you brought in assistance. We used to do a survey each year for the attorney general, an assessment of the potential for violence and for disruption in communities around the country. We would do an assessment of major areas in our region where there was a potential for racial violence. The reality was we could never really predict anything. We could say tensions are high and there is a real danger of violence if this situation is not addressed, but nobody could really predict if violence would happen or not. Also, you can't say that there was no violence because of our presence. I'd like to think that because we were at Wounded Knee there was less violence. But how can we be certain? Failures I often know immediately. Some things didn't work. To measure success, I would stick to the question, "Would the parties want you back to work with them again?” Do they feel you did everything that could be done? That's part of success. There were an extraordinary number of things CRS mediators did that clearly helped people's lives and made important contributions. No matter what spin we put on it, how we perceive it, how we put ourselves in the picture, there can be no doubt that many conflicts were addressed with tensions mitigated, people counseled and progress made.






Edward Howden


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Did CRS measure success any differently than you would've measured it?

Answer:
I'm not sure that I ultimately know. There might have been a few times when my superiors thought that I had spent enough time on a case and suggested that I leave before I was ready but that didn't happen often.




Will Reed


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

I got the agency's award for being able to mediate long-lasting systemic changes in civil rights cases and it was simply because with most of the places and cities I went into, I didn't go in with the idea of just resolving the situation. I sought and I tried to teach others, the ones that I had to work with and supervise, to look for systemic change. If you want to look at a mediation and say that you're a mediator, and want to point back to some of your work years later, well the idea is to shoot for systemic change that's going to be lasting, that's going to have some carry-over value in it. One should be able to point to a number of cases -- or quite a few, for that matter, where he or she tried to effectuate change, brought about change, and where there are some remnants of it still going on.

Question:
How does this differ from perhaps how CRS measures success?

Answer:
It doesn't. Everything I've told you can fold in line with CRS mandate.




Nancy Ferrell


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Earlier you talked about personal success and institutional success. How did CRS measure success?

Answer:
It goes back to what I said about evaluation systems having to match philosophy and mission statements. The most consistent evaluation system was number of cases closed. So if we had sixty cases closed, that was the equalizer in a year.

Question:
What does closed mean?

Answer:
Opened, assessed, you did some intervention, whether it was technical assistance, conciliation, or mediation. Or you did the assessment and made a determination that it was non-jurisdiction or that the parties weren't open. So you had some sort of involvement and closed it. The problem with that is, in one region, you may read about something in the newspaper, make a phone call, open a case, close and call it a case. In another region, if you don't have a document showing institutional change, you don't have a case. That creates some morale problems. If somebody burped in Atlanta, they knew it in Seattle. The internal network, as far as information sharing, especially that kind of information, was pretty quick. There wasn't a consistent measure of success across the agency. You were more likely to be recognized by your being called on to do a task, being called on to offer assistance, either from headquarters or another region. That was a measure of respect and success for your work. There was never an official evaluation system that would measure success, that the agency as a whole felt confident. There was not any real confidence in the way it was done. It wasn't consistent from region to region.




Silke Hansen


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Do you think CRS measures success the same way that you measure your success?

Answer:
I think we have to. I think we have a hard time sometimes, and we typically have difficulties in explaining to Congress what it is that we do and why it is so important. It's very difficult to measure violence that didn't occur. How do you document situations that could have become more confrontational, had you not been there? I think what we have learned to do is to focus very heavily on what we would call "the assessment process." That is assessing who, in fact, are the parties, what are the issues that are on the table or are at play here, who are some other parties who are on the periphery parties that might have an interest in this, or have other resources or skills that might be applicable. In light of all of that, CRS considers what it can do in a particular setting. Very often it isn't solving the big problem, but it's being able to deal with a little piece here and there. If we can deal with that little piece, we would consider that having been successful, even though it might still be in a broader sense, a very tense and very conflicted situation. Right now we've got two CRS people in this region, for instance. Even if we concentrated all of our resources on just one case, we wouldn't be able to resolve that enough that there wouldn't be any more racial problems there forever and ever and ever, but we can identify an immediate peace . If we can make a difference for that time, we would consider that a success.






Bob Ensley


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

CRS measures success the same way you do?

Answer:
More or less, yes.




Dick Salem


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Did CRS deem this successful? You were regional director so we're talking about the Washington director. Did they consider this to be successful?

Answer:
Well, I must say as a regional director, I always try in important cases to bring it to the director's attention. So a letter was written either to my director or to the attorney general from the Commissioner of Corrections and we got a favorable editorial, coincidentally. I didn't promote that, but they gave us a nice boost and I made sure that Washington appreciates that. Then my boss can send it to his boss, and sometimes it gets to his boss. So that's useful.







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