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Collecting Basic Information

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Gathering the most important information in the first meeting you have with either party.

Solutions summary

Facilitators say that collecting the right information in the first meeting helps a facilitation go well. To gather the information you need, these steps can help:
  • When a person comes to visit you with a problem, you should first explain your role and how you think you can help him or her (see Tool 1b).
  • When asking questions about the dispute, speak openly and warmly. This generates a good atmosphere and supporting environment (see 5a and 6a).
  • If the party would like you to facilitate, you need to gather some basic information. The basic information can include:
    • The names and contact details of the parties concerned including address.
    • When and where the dispute took place
    • What does the party identify as the problem
    • The relationship between the parties
    • What the parties have already done to try and solve the conflict
    • What the party expects from the facilitator
    • What solution the party hopes to achieve
    • If and how the case is going to be followed up. For example through paralegals making more of less random home visits or phone calls.
  • You can also ask some questions to check that the party is ready to take part in the process. Questions about readiness to start the process gives some questions you might want to ask.
  • If you want to make a map of the problem Tool 2x can help. To ask questions to clarify the problem tool 7a, 7b, 8a and 8b can help.
  •  Finally, check the availability of clients for future meetings.

Here is an example Intake form

Local solution: Conference Comments

Votes at Conference: 8

There is much information that you might want to collect at the first meetings:

  • Evidence such as photographs or documents
  • You might want to fill out a registration form.
  • Find out how private the information you are collecting is
  • The core information: name, address, problem
  • Check availability of client for future meetings.

When you are collecting this information

  • Speak openly and warmly to promote good atmosphere and supporting environment.
  • Keep neutrality: Don't say you are 'on their side'. 
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Local solution: Intake

In order to mediate a conflict successfully, a clear analysis of the conflict is the most important factor. This analysis shows you the importance of data collection in the first meeting. But, how should mediators carry out a detailed analysis of the problem between the two parties?

  1. Data collection; When a case is received, the following information should be found out, using investigation forms or direct questioning;
  2. The problem at face value between the parties
  3. Actions that the two parties have acted/committed against each other in the past
  4. Other parties involved in the conflict (e.g. Husband, Wife, brother, sister, relatives and neighbours).
  5. If there are other parties involved in the conflict, the mediator will need to find out similar information about these people.
  6. The interests of the parties: The mediator needs to find out what the interests of the parties to the claim are. This provides the mediator with a greater ability to ask questions to the parties about interests during the mediation process
  7. Purpose of the parties: The mediator should find out what kind of outcome the parties expect through the mediation. It can also be checked here that both parties are taking part in the mediation voluntarily
  8. Analysis of the culture and custom of the region: Mediators need to study the customs of the region that the two parties are living in, focussing on traditions in speaking to each other, how people meet, beliefs, and whether mediation methods are normal for the culture.

In order to collect this information, the following questions are suggested as being asked of each party:

  • What do you expect to obtain from the mediation process?
  • What do you want to talk about in the mediation process?
  • What would you like the mediator to do to help achieve your objectives?
  • What are your most important objectives? (Such as: concern about compensation, cost for treatment, apology or maintaining reputation etc.)
  • What do you think are the objectives and needs of the other party?
  • Aside from compensation, what other outcomes might there be to the conflict?
  • Up to now, what has been the relationship between you and the other party?
  • Have you tried to talk to the other party about this problem?
  • Was there any outcome of these conversations? Why do you think there has not been a solution to the problem?
  • Do you have any concerns about your representation or ability to make decisions in resolving your problem?


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Added by: ADHOC

Local solution: How to identify the problem

The practitioner should listen to  all the details of the dispute as described by the clients. Usually, clients try to identify the problem and tell the practitioner the problem as they perceive it. Once the background of the problem was described by the client, the practitioner can ask complementary questions in order to establish the scope of the problem: why and how this problem occured, what is the claim of the client, what are the main counter arguments of the opposite party, what does the law and practice prescribe in this situation, how does the opposite party perceives the problem etc. The questions should be posed correctly in a simple and clear way in order to receive a complete picture of the problem. The practitioner should explain to the client that the information provided by him or her on the issue, shall be true and correct. This would enable the right strategy to be selected to achieve an effective solution to the problem. It shall also be highlighted that in case the issue reaches the court, judges will establish the facts and in case there is an incorrect infomation, this would work against the client. In addition, the practitioner shall review all the available documents and papers on the case in order to identify the problem correctly. Documents review may help to independently identify the problem, as the client most often presents facts and information from his or her perspective. All the details are important in this terms.Very often, clients tend to forget telling the practitioner the detail or showing him/her a reference or paper that might completely change the substance of the case. For example, when the land or any other property was purchased matters in property division disputes in cases of divorce. If the property was purchased before the marriage, then the other part does not receive a share if there is no child from this marriage. If the property was purchase after the marriage the wife shall be entitled to a share from this property even if there is no child in the family.

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Added by: Praxis

Local solution: Intake

Intake questions to manage expectations and know what service to offer:

  • What are the important issues?
  • What needs to be discussed ?
  • What is the aim of the meeting, what does the party want to achieve
  • What is the role of the facilitator, how can he/she help?
  • What do you want to achieve? (importance to put the emphasis on the future, H. Prein; 2004)

Questions to map the problem :

  • When did the problem start ?
  • How did you respond?
  • What was the response of the other party?
  • What happened after?
  • What was the situation before the event?
  • If the problem is not solved what will happen?
  • What did you do to solve the problem?
  • And the other?
  • How did that affect you?
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Added by: DAS

Evidence from practice

Intake forms: Used in a variety of countries, including Egypt, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Azerbaijan

Key Questions: Many countries report of a set of key questions that can be used to ascertain what the key issues are during the intake process

Problem Map: In Indonesia, a map of the problem is drawn which pictorially shows the parties to the conflict, the relationships and problems between them, actions that have been taken and third parties who have influence.

Evidence from handbooks

Example formats can be found in:

  • The Community based paralegals, practitioner’s guide Open society institute 2010
  • The paralegal practice manual, The legal aid forum Rwanda 2009

Evidence from literature

Mapping the problem is a key first step in mediation. A good example of a sequence of questions to be asked at intake:

  1. What do you hope to accomplish and what problem(s) would you like to address in this mediation? How can the process, the mediator, or both help you accomplish these goals?
  2. If the mediation focuses on the legal strengths and weaknesses of your case and the likely cost of continuing in litigation, will this be sufficient to help you reach a complete resolution of your dispute with the other party? If not, what other non-litigation issues need to be addressed? How could they be addressed?
  3. As you imagine settling this dispute, what are your most important needs or goals? (For example, are you most concerned about compensation for expenses? The availability of future medical coverage for you or your dependents? Training? Assistance in finding a job? An apology? Maintaining your reputation? A change in the other party’s behavior or business practice? A change in your relationship with the other party?)
  4. What do you think are the most important needs or goals of the other side?
  5. If not already described, is there anything besides the payment of money that would help to resolve this matter?
  6. If not already described, do the parties need to change any behaviors to resolve this conflict? If yes, what behavioral changes are required?
  7. If not already described, are emotions a significant part of this conflict? If yes, what outcome or procedure could help you (or the other party) to feel at peace about this dispute and its resolution?
  8. How would you describe the communications or negotiations you have had with each other up until now? Why haven’t you been able to reach a resolution?
  9. Do you have any questions about how the mediation process works? Do you have any questions or concerns about your role during the presentations or discussions? Do you have any questions or concerns about our role in making a decision about whether to settle your case?

Riskin, L. L. and N. A. Welsh (2008). "Is that all there is? "The Problem" in Court-Oriented Mediation." George Mason Law Review 15(4): 863-932.
H. Prein (2004)

Collecting Basic Information

by admin on March 3, 2011

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