SOAS University of London

Staff Development

Informal Mediation & Facilitated Conversations

What is Mediation?

Informal mediation (also known as a 'facilitated conversation') is an informal, confidential process where a neutral, non-judgemental third party (the mediator) brings the parties in conflict together in a safe environment to facilitate open and honest dialogue to promote mutual understanding. Mediation is a chance for parties in conflict to repair the past and build a better future. Workplace mediation aims to provide a way forwards enabling staff to work productively with each other. You can read more about mediation in the FAQs below and the SOAS Mediation Scheme (msword; 65kb)   document.

Conflict coaching is also available for staff who would like a 1-2-1 confidential conversation about a conflict situation.

Impact of Covid-19 & Remote Working

Virtual mediation and conflict coaching sessions are available where appropriate. Staff will need to have sufficient internet connection to make this possible. 

Benefits of Mediation & Facilitated Conversations

Mediation is helpful in resolving interpersonal disputes due to its common-sense approach. In particular, mediation:

  • Is voluntary, informal and confidential;
  • Focuses on the future, with an emphasis on improving working relationships rather than apportioning blame;
  • Gives all parties an opportunity to have their say, and to reflect on how they could put the situation right, including consideration of their own behaviour;
  • Enables parties to come up with their own practical solution(s);
  • Allows parties to rebuild relationships as they work together to find an agreement;
  • Can be attempted at any stage of a dispute.

Queries or requests for mediation/facilitated conversations

For more information or to request mediation or a facilitated conversation yourself, or a conflict coaching session, contact Kimberly Hovish, the Mediation Service Coordinator, in confidence, on

Referrals for mediation may come from any member of staff at SOAS, including (but not limited to) Human Resources, the Diversity and Inclusion Manager, Trade Union representatives, line managers, colleagues, and individuals. All referrals should be made, in confidence, to the Mediation Service Coordinator on for an initial assessment of suitability; this may include a brief telephone or face-to-face meeting.

The Service Coordinator will check there are no conflicts of interest between the mediators and the parties involved when making allocations to mediators.

For more information, read through the  SOAS Mediation Scheme (msword; 65kb)   document and the FAQs below.

Case Studies

Every situation is unique, but the case studies listed at the external links below help give an idea of how mediation works and what kinds of conflict can be dealt with:

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the objectives and principles of mediation?

    The objective of mediation is for neutral, independent mediators to assist those in conflict to resolve their differences and reach a mutually acceptable agreement on the way forward.

    The principles behind mediation are that it is:

    • Impartial – the mediator does not make judgements or offer opinions;
    • Confidential – the conflicting parties are given the opportunity to talk in private; the content of the discussion is not shared with anyone outside the room*
    • Voluntary – participants can choose to take part, and can pause or stop the proceedings at any time;
    • Independence – the mediator is a neutral facilitator and does not impose judgements, opinions or solutions;
    • Future focused – mediation is a chance to repair the past and build a better future.

    *except in cases where there is evidence of a serious breach of statutory positions, or where there is evidence of serious risk to health and safety.

  • Will mediation work?

    Mediation has a high success rate but there are no guaranteed outcomes. The mediators are there to facilitate but it is up to the parties involved to reach their own agreement. The earlier an issue is brought to mediation, the greater the likelihood of a successful outcome.

  • What is my role in mediation?

    Mediation is only as successful as you make it. Your responsibilities are to:

    • Decide what the issues are for you in the dispute
    • Come to the meeting with an open mind
    • Listen respectfully to the other party’s point of view
    • Look for solutions
    • Work with the other party to determine which solution is best for all parties

    Read more in the SOAS Mediation Scheme (msword; 65kb) .

  • What happens in an individual meeting?

    Mediators meet with each party separately for about an hour to find out more about the situation and how it has affected them. The mediators will not share anything you have said in the individual meeting with the other party without your explicit agreement.

    Read more in the  SOAS Mediation Scheme (msword; 65kb) document.

  • What happens in a joint meeting?

    At the joint meeting, mediators will encourage each party to participate. They will work with you to ensure you each have the same opportunity to express your feelings and concerns, look at the problems in turn and move towards a mutual agreement. The mediators will support and encourage all parties to generate ideas for solutions, but will not tell you what you should do.

    Below is the general structure of a joint meeting:

    • Stage 1) Mediator opens the session and each participant has uninterrupted time to describe the key issue(s) from their point of view
    • Stage 2) Mediator hears from both participants on each issue and creates an agenda
    • Stage 3) Participants have an open and honest dialogue, facilitated by the mediator(s)
    • Stage 4) Participants develop ideas and options for the future and move to resolution, facilitated by the mediator as appropriate. This may include a written Action Plan or Memorandum of Understanding.

    Read more in the  SOAS Mediation Scheme (msword; 65kb) document.

  • Do I have to agree to take part in mediation?

    No. Mediation is voluntary and needs the agreement of all parties. If you agree to take part, you are free to leave or withdraw at any time. This allows you and the other party to drive the process yourselves and come to your own agreement. It is hoped that this will make you all feel more committed to what you agree.

    Although mediation is an informal alternative to formal procedures, you retain the right to pursue the School’s formal procedures should you choose to do so. Other procedures that are already in process (e.g., grievances or disciplinary procedures) should be paused whilst mediation is happening.

  • Who are the mediators?

    SOAS has invested in training a number of volunteers from across the School to be internal workplace mediators. Mediators at SOAS have been trained to use the facilitative model of mediation as applied to the workplace. You can read more about this and other models on the Models of Mediation webpage.

    The Service Coordinator will do everything possible to allocate mediators that will be impartial and objective to all parties involved, and will check there are no conflicts of interest. In instances where internal mediation is not suitable, reciprocal arrangements with other university providers or providers of external mediation may be considered.

  • Will records about mediation be put on my personal file?

    Mediation is an informal process and there will normally be no records about mediation put on your personal file, except in cases where both parties agree to this.

  • What if I am unhappy with the mediation process?

    If you feel uncomfortable or unhappy with any aspect of the mediation process itself you should raise this with the mediator or Mediation Service Coordinator. If your concerns cannot be resolved the mediation will have to be abandoned.

    You will also be given the opportunity to provide feedback on what we are doing well and where we need to improve. Your response will be treated confidentially.

  • Can this service be used if a student is involved?

    No, this mediation service is only for staff at SOAS. If the situation involves a student, please contact Student Advice and Wellbeing.