John S. McCain III
National Center for Environmental Conflict Resolution

Find a Mediator or Facilitator - Choosing an ECR Professional

The following steps provide a framework for collaborative process sponsors and participants to consider when identifying and selecting ECR professionals.

  1. Identify what the ECR professional will do and the expected outcome of the process:
    Consider what the participants would like the professional to do, e.g., conduct an assessment and issue a report, facilitate the exchange of information and create a record of input, assist with building a consensus recommendation, mediate an agreement that will resolve a highly contentious dispute, conduct a negotiated rule-making. If the expected outcome and process are not known, an assessment can help to shape the process to address the multiple needs of participants.

  2. Identify selection criteria:

    Consider the following in determining your selection criteria:
    • Should ECR assistance be internal to or outside of your agency/organization? (Consider the effect this choice may have on perceived or actual neutrality, ability to understand the context, and ability to handle confidentiality.)
    • Is location of the professional important? (Is local or regional knowledge important to the process? Would an outside perspective be advantageous? What implications will location have on any travel costs for the ECR professional?)
    • What types of experience and skills are necessary to handle a situation or process of this type, size, and complexity? (e.g., court connected, high public visibility)
    • What substantive issue experience or professional background is needed? (e.g., superfund, endangered species, law, natural sciences etc.)
    • Is a particular style/approach important? (e.g. does the process require someone more evaluative, directive, or facilitative)
    • How will you assess reputation and neutrality? (consider asking for references from past work)
    • Are there any special requirements such as language skills and/or interpretation, technical support, etc.?
    • What is your budget? (consider hourly rates, potential travel, etc.)
    • Is a team or individual ECR professional needed for this situation? (consider the size of the group and complexity of the issues. ECR professionals often form teams for particular work, especially on longer projects like FACA committees where multiple sub-committees may require simultaneous facilitation.)
    • Are there any cultural differences that the professional should have experience with? (think of cultural differences broadly, for example: professional cultures - lawyers and scientists; gender; social cultures - rural and urban; generational culture; etc.)
    • Are there any potential conflicts of interests for the professional that need to be explored during the selection process?
    • What is the professional's availability to take on the project?

  3. Gather information about ECR professionals
    • Identify what sources are available for finding ECR professionals, such as, rosters, contracts, professional networks, community resources, court connected lists, state dispute resolution offices, and web searches or other advertisements. Identify what is required for listing with rosters, contracts, or other listing services. Once you have a "list" of possible candidates, identify what information is necessary to evaluate based upon your selection criteria. This may include a project proposal, resume, case descriptions, fee information, information regarding the neutral's availability for the project, and references. Identify how the information will be gathered (e.g., a Request for Qualifications, a short email request, a phone conversation to each candidate). It is helpful to request and compile the same information from each candidate so that a meaningful comparison can be made.

  4. Choose candidates to interview and prepare for the interviews:
    • Determine how interviewees will be selected. As examples, a designated group or sub-committee can select (through a facilitated process or without facilitation), or a "score/rank" and/or "strike" list can be used to choose interview candidates.
    • Assess how well each candidate meets the selection criteria.
    • Determine who will contact references and what questions will be asked of them.
    • Determine who will participate in the interview and how questions will be asked. For example, questions can be asked by one person from a script, or the group can rotate asking questions. Determine what questions should be asked and how much time is needed. (See the list of possible interview questions on below).
    • Determine how the professional(s) will be selected. For example, a designated group or sub-committee can select (through a facilitated process or without facilitation), a "score/rank" and/or "strike" list can be used to choose the professional, or some other decision process can be developed.

  5. Interview candidates and select the ECR professional
    • Determine how well each candidate meets the selection criteria and also review the feedback from references.
    • Did the professional seem to have a grasp of the essentials of the situation, use impartial language, ask good questions, listen well, give good advice on how to proceed, appear patient and flexible, describe a style/approach likely to succeed in the situation, seem to "resonate" with the group, and use the interview opportunity to set a collaborative tone?
    • Possible interview questions