Julien is head of the legal department in a French green electricity provider cooperative. In his company, there are over 20,000 stakeholders who are consumers, producers, and employers and all together, they own a stake of the capital consistent of 16 million euros. Thus, according to Julien, it is “in the DNA of the cooperative to have a participative way of managing people, of negotiations. It is not a classic wealth managing company but one that manages relationships between different partners.” Julien has worked in this company for the past 11 years; and in 2017, he decided to pursue mediation training at the National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts in Paris, a very strong center formation in France. Though Julien is in the very early stage of his mediation career, his involvement in this institute among other efforts has continued his development as a mediator. Julien’s recent training goes back to 2018. He is now certified but part of his training has given him opportunities to observe mediation sessions and in certain cases, act as a co-mediator. He stated, “I use my mediation skills in my everyday life. I use my mediation skills in my personal life and in my professional life as a manager and make sure that conflicts can be solved in my team.”

Journey through MBBI

From a global perspective, Julien stated, “mediation is not yet the main way to solve conflicts.” In France, where he is currently based, people use to avoid conflict. In fact, bringing forth a case to the court is the common path people take. Thus, there is no effort to directly engage with the conflicting party. He stated, “there are many people trained in France more and more every year but the cake is still small, so it is still hard to have some missions of mediation.” However, people’s mindset about conflict evolves little by little. He hopes to expand this; therefore, finds MBBI a great platform for future expansion possibilities. He first heard about MBBI from another French mediator. She was involved in the MBBI Climate Change Policy Project. Julien got in contact with MBBI though Suzi Norbeck, and ended up attending the UNFCCC Bonn Climate Change Conference in June 2019.

He stated, “it was my first time at an international conference trying to promote mediation in Climate negotiations.” Besides his involvement in MBBI, he is planning to get involved with restorative justice programs. Nonetheless, all his experiences combined have provided him a unique outlook on mediation potential. He stated, “my engine for all this work is because I like when people work and act together in harmony. I would like to make things more fluid, easier for people in their relationships.”

He is particularly interested in the restorative justice programs considering it aligns with his mediation mindset, especially the French Institute for Restorative Justice. This is a program meeting between victims and inmates.  He stated, “it is very new in France. It was passed in 2014 and implemented in 2017. It is common in Canada, the U.S, Belgium, Australia, New-Zealand, and Switzerland. It is about gathering a group of victims and a group of inmates who have suffered or done similar acts (but it is not the injured meeting the author of their aggression, in this last case one talks about restorative mediation) in the same room with facilitators and community members (volunteers from civil society who are there to support unconditionally both groups during the process).”

He stated that this process has a beneficial effect on both parties. The restorative justice mediation is also another path, setting both parties up for a potential peaceful path. The facilitator and members of the community, in this case, are just there “to make sure the door is open for parties to move on.” When Julien first heard about restorative justice and mediation, through the Center for Justice and Reconciliation, he was excited for the prospect of bringing people together and how these relationship dynamics can shift both at the relationship and individual level. Thus, Julien wishes to expand his expertise in this area. Therefore, this is an opportunity to level up. For Julien, “this type of platform is also a way to repair dynamics in both parties – the injured and authors of aggression and in the long run bring more peace. This is not a dogma for me. I like that.”

Going Global

In mediation, at least in France, one has the judiciary mediation path, and the conventional mediation path. According to Julien, this type of procedure will bring about greater work possibilities in mediation. However, Judges end up selecting the mediators. The judges’ end goal is to have a solved case putting the mediators in a position of proposing solutions. However, for Julien, there is risk in this process because it may rush the process and become solution-focused work. Though there are lawyers who are sensitized to mediation, others are not. Therefore, according to Julien, one must truly rethink mediation dynamics from all party perspectives.

Currently, there are many different training paths for mediation specialties. For instance, certain mediators in France have developed their own model for mediation. At the moment, Julien is also interested in the “restorative circles” approach. He has gotten to do a brief training with the actual founder/developer of this model, Dominic Barter. He stated that even though on the surface restorative circles and mediation are clumped together, they are different. He stated, “in mediation, you try to open windows, open doors. Restorative circles on the other hand have a different sort of questioning. “

Anybody can Mediate

Julien used to deal with several regulations, companies and consumers within the energy field. However, in his training, Julien highlighted the importance of flexibility. He stated, “you do not need to have a legal background to do a mediation or judiciary mediation. All you have to know is the mediation process.” He further stated, “I would not say that you can be a mediator in all sorts of situations because some of them are so precise that you need sometimes someone who is an expert who can help the party understand what happened in that case and this is the role of the lawyers.” Julien however, recognizes that it is important for all junior or senior mediators to continue developing their own areas of focus but also a personal sense of self.

For him, listening and also creating a peaceful and calming atmosphere within mediation setting has helped his own development. Being able to understand the “mediation frame” is key. Part of holding this frame requires an open attitude to learning. He finds value in the process of co-mediation. He stated, “co-mediation is good because you have four eyes, four ears. You can also try and propose different alternatives and paths in a situation. However, you have to have a shared background with your co-mediator. He further stated, “I would like to have an experience on my own but as a new mediator, it is fruitful to practice with other mediators who are experienced and engaged in mediation.” For him being open to learning and exploring the angles of mediation becomes a key process.

Article by Elizabeth Gamarra, MBBI Writer