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Sharing Neutrals

Sharing Neutrals (SN) is an interagency mediation program in the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area. SN provides free mediators to participating Federal agencies. SN operates through a pool of trained and experienced collateral duty mediators who provide mediation services to agencies other than their own in exchange for like services to the program from the recipient agency.

Who is involved?
Over 40 federal agencies and sub-agencies currently participate in SN. The roster primarily serves the Washington-Baltimore area although SN will mediate elsewhere if travel costs are paid by the requesting agency.

Who are the mediators?
Roster members are federal employees who mediate as a collateral duty or government retirees who volunteer their services. They must have considerable expertise: (1) at least 20 hours of basic mediation skills training; (2) at least three co-mediations with a qualified mediator or five independent mediations and positive evaluations from a qualified trainer/evaluator; and (3) at least two references from two qualified mediators or trainer/evaluators.

What is a co-mediator?
A co-mediator is trained in basic mediation skills but has limited mediation experience. SN maintains a registry of co-mediators who team with experienced mediators and, after a mentoring period, are eligible to become lead mediators.

Who is the contact person?
For more information about the program, please contact Anthony J. Smith (Tony) at tony.smith@hhs.gov or by phone at (202) 565-0161.

What are the logistics for the process?
The agency requests a mediator referral for a specific case. The SN group provides the names and phone numbers of mediator/co-mediators. Most referrals are made within two business days, but the requesting agency should allow up to ten business days. Once the mediators/co-mediators are identified, the requesting agency assists in scheduling the initial session. The agency also lets the SN group know which mediators are handling the case.

What are the principles and standards used?
Every individual and agency participating in SN agrees to abide by principles of confidentiality, as outlined in Section 574 of the Administrative Dispute Resolution Act as amended in 1996 and the Standards of Practice for Sharing Neutrals.

What final action takes place at the close of a case?
Mediation agreements are generally drafted by the mediator and signed by the parties. If mediation ends without agreement, the case is referred back to the requesting agency for the next steps in the agency processes; mediation does not limit other formal rights. At the close of mediation, the mediator provides the parties with evaluation forms and asks parties to return the forms to the SN group. For tracking purposes, the SN group asks mediators to report the outcome. To ensure confidentiality, the SN group receives limited substantive information about the case.