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Inviting the other party

In dispute resolution it is crucial that both parties take part of the resolution process.

What challenges does it focus on?

Ensuring the other party takes part.

Short summary

Practice has shown that to solve the dispute both parties need to take part. This will happen when participating is more attractive than staying away. You can influence this by:

  • Make talking more safe, secure, a positive experience, with a good expected solution.
  • Make not attending appear more expensive, stressful, time consuming, with uncertain consequences.
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 You can do this by:

  • Making parties feel safe and respected. Most facilitators use and recommend a personal visit or phone call to start with. This is not the same in all situations. The best way to approach the other party has to be established. This can be discussed with the client. Or with people close to the other party.
  • Explain who you are and that you want to help to solve the dispute.
  • Tells who has come with a problem and provide a very brief indication of problem. In very neutral terms.
  • Ask for their perspective. Listen carefully to what they say.
  • Build trust in the process and a good working relationship by explaining and answering concerns.
  • Make sure that your role is understood: that facilitator works for a fair solution appropriate for both parties.
  • Not start working on solutions to quickly: "Go around the bush."
  • Explain that not taking part is an option. But show that the client will then still need a solution. And may take steps such as involving other people, starting procedures. Threats generally do not seem to work.
  • Making clear the high profile (standing, qualifications, reputation) of the facilitator can be helpful.

When you use a letter to influence parties, you need to take into account that:

  • Authority of letters can be constructive when they are a normal and common way to communicate.
  • Starting with a letter can be scary and intimidating to people who have difficulties to read.
  • A letter can be used as a confirmation. And a way to give more information about your role and the process. The other party can think about this. Or ask advice on it.
  • Letterheads with reference to rights, justice or organizations that support this are helpful. They build trust and make clear that serious consideration is needed. .

Recommendations for a confirmation letter:

  • A brief indication of the dispute. Who experiences the problem? What is it about?
  • Using neutral terms is important. Blaming should be avoided.
  • It should also be made clear that a solution is needed. And that it cannot be found without the help of the other party.
  • Give details of who you are and what your role is: Be as clear as possible about your approach and that you do not 'take sides'.
  • Clearly addressed: The letters or phone calls are clearly addressed to the particular person that you would invite to respond. Sending a letter to a household or family does not work as well. You can include: "please come alone/ bring.." to make it even clearer.
  • Contact details: If they have questions or wish to talk to you about something, it is important that they are able to contact you.
  • Proposal about what will happen next. This could be a meeting with both parties (talk phase) or a separate meeting with the other party.
  • If a meeting takes place: send a follow up letter with more details about what to expect. Example Invitation Letter

In some cases, showing the positive effects of participation does not work. The other party may expect to lose a lot from cooperating. Money, loss of face, time. Then the negative consequences of not participating can be stressed. Practices used then:

  • A more formal letter.
  • More clarity about which actions will be taken.
  • Setting time frames for responses.
  • Threatening with going to courts can help persuade people to cooperate.
  • Even if it is not an attractive option. The treat to cause trouble and costs for the other party can work.

Research evidence

Evidence from practice

  • Multiple Letters: In Bangladesh they use letters in sequence to maximise the opportunity for the other party to take part in the mediation process. First they send a friendly letter, and if there is no response, another friendly letter. If there is still no response then a letter with a more formal tone indicating the risks of non participation and indicating the formal steps that the first party will take if they do not agree to a mediation.
  • Personal Contact: In Egypt the mediators consider that it is generally better to call the other party on the phone, rather than sending a letter.
  • Personal Visit and a letter: In Cambodia, CDRC’s find that it is best to go and visit the other person in their home, but they also send a letter to a parties because it is highly effective to make people come to the meeting.
  • Perseverence: Facilitators in Anlong Veng, Cambodia feel that it is most effective to continue to try and contact the other party 1 2 or 3 times and to maintain a friendly tone.

Evidence from handbooks

The following format for an invitation letter to a mediation can be found at;

Invitation to ADR
In the spirit of the CPR and in order to achieve a mutually satisfactory settlement of the matters presently in dispute between us clients we are client is willing to participate in confidential, non-binding, voluntary mediation.
Accordingly, we propose that a neutral mediator the panel of Consensus Mediation be appointed to assist the negotiation of a settlement without the imposition of a judgment or other evaluation of the case, and that we clients agree to participate in mediation on a strictly confidential and without prejudice basis, further agreeing that nothing disclosed during the course of the mediation may be admitted as evidence in court or other proceedings.
We invite your client to agree to participate in good faith. If your client is unwilling to attempt this method of settlement we reserve the right to bring this letter to the attention of the court on the question of costs pursuant to CPR 44.4 and 44.5, relying inter alia upon the Court of Appeal's decision in Halsey v Milton Keynes NHS Trust.
Please let us have your considered response to this invitation no later than on etc.

"Yours faithfully”

Evidence from literature

Invitation letters are more effective when they apply the principles of interactional and procedural justice (equality and fairness in the interactions between individuals and in the process as a whole)
Wenzel, M. (2006). "A Letter from the Tax Office: Compliance Effects of Informational and Interpersonal Justice." Social Justice Research 19(3): 345-364.

Best practices