Q&A with Rae Kyritsi, Center for Conflict Resolution
The Center for Conflict Resolution, an IEJF grantee, works with individuals, communities, courts and other institutions to manage and resolve conflict.
What types of legal cases can benefit from mediation? And what’s the number one thing people are surprised to learn about the process?
Many types of legal cases are well-suited for mediation. People typically think of family or partnership relationships, but for mediation relationship, we mean anything: community members, neighbors, landlord and tenant, co-workers, mechanic and car owner, etc.
I think the thing that surprises participants the most is how much autonomy they have in the mediation. We often work with people who have been consulting a lot of different professionals, friends, and family members for advice and, especially if they’ve been involved in the court system, they may have had experiences where someone else is making the decision about how the dispute will end. In mediation, we really put that power back in the hands of the people engaged in the conflict.
The Center for Conflict Resolution is working closely with Cook County on the Legal Aid for Housing & Debt/Early Resolution Project to address the looming eviction crisis. Tell us a little more about how eviction mediation works and what both tenants and landlords can gain from it.
Eviction mediation gives landlords and tenants a chance to resolve their dispute in a manner and timeframe that works for both parties. While the cases themselves are often simple – a tenant has not paid rent – the circumstances that lead to the eviction case and the impact of the filing of the case are unique to each instance. Both landlords and tenants benefit from resolutions that allow for tenants to find a way to stay housed and for landlords to secure paying tenants. Sometimes the outcome is a plan that keeps the parties working together and sometimes the solution is a strategy that allows them to end their landlord/tenant relationship in an efficient manner.
You’re also supporting a community working group reviewing the Chicago Police Department’s use of force policies. Are there any key learnings you can share from working on such a high-profile issue?
Facilitating the community working group on Use of Force has been one of the great privileges of my career. I think a key learning from this work is how important it is to have the voices of community members with lived experience participate in the dialogue. I think that as an issue becomes high-profile it is easy for a lot of people to learn that they have an opinion on the topic. However, I have learned in my work that listening to the voices of people who have lived with the impact of a policy is critical to making impactful recommendations and to developing authentic community engagement.
What motivated you to purse mediation as a career? And has it impacted how you communicate in your personal life?
Roller derby. As I finished in college in the mid-2000’s I found myself running a small coffee company and playing flat track roller derby. Over time, I found my place as league facilitator. A few years later, when I decided to pursue a career in dispute resolution, I got some very sound advice to head to law school.
I would say that being a mediator has definitely impacted how I communicate in my personal life. It does not make me immune from having emotional or unreasonable responses to conflict! But I find that being a mediator does give me the good sense to realize when I have handled a conflict in a less than ideal fashion or when I might need a break from a conversation. I am an infinitely better listener than I was before I became a mediator and I think that makes me a better friend, colleague, and teacher.