Spotlight On … Community Dispute Resolution Center

By Rob Montana
Tompkins Weekly

Photo Provided
A group of participants of the Community Dispute Resolution Center professional development training that took place at the Scheinman Institute.

Non-profit organizations are plentiful throughout Tompkins County, and make a big impact in our communities. Despite their contributions, area non-profits can sometimes go unnoticed or unknown. In an effort to shine a spotlight on those who are making a difference in our county, Tompkins Weekly will be showcasing these organizations on a regular basis.

This week we are highlighting the Community Dispute Resolution Center, which began in 1983 as a project of CRESP with a $20,000 grant from the Unified Court System of New York. Co-founders Jeff Furman and Judy Saul split one full-time staff position. They recruited a group of willing volunteers, brought in a trainer from an existing mediation center in Syracuse and trained CDRC’s first mediators.
To learn more about what the CDRC does, now more than 30 years since its founding, we asked Executive Director Paula Wright some questions about the organization.

Tompkins Weekly: What is your mission?
Paula Wright: CDRC’s mission is to foster constructive responses to conflict.

TW: How do you fulfill that mission?
PW: CDRC accomplishes its mission by:
— educating people about conflict
— teaching people to respond constructively to their own conflicts
— training people to help others who are involved in conflict
— facilitating processes that enable each person to make the best choices he or she is capable of making
— facilitating processes that enable each person to understand another’s perspective and respect that person’s choices
— using the mediation process and mediation skills to facilitate communication between individuals and groups
— partnering with organizations in the community to develop policies and programs that foster constructive responses to conflict
— modeling an organization that welcomes differences, cares for the people who work with it, and deals with its own conflicts in constructive ways.

TW: What are the biggest challenges your organization faces?
PW: CDRC’s biggest challenge is the tendency to be invisible to the public and professional communities we want to serve more effectively. Couple this with our culture’s tendency to be conflict adverse and CDRC has its work cut out! At the same time, our community’s need for conflict resolution services has never been greater as resources dwindle, job loads increase and cultural ideals and values clash with increasing frequency. So, our visibility is vital and we are addressing it in several ways, through outreach, networking and training.

TW: What is something people do not know about your organization?

PW: CDRC recruits, trains and sustains almost 50 volunteer mediators from the communities we serve. They are the reason we are able to provide our mediation services at little or no cost to participants. Our mediators go through an intensive 6-day initial training, followed by a 6 month apprenticeship, and are required to mediate 6 sessions every year, as well as 6 hours of in-service training each year. Their commitment is substantial! And to top it all off, we have 10 mediators who have been volunteers with CDRC for 15 or more years. I think that means they enjoy what they do and believe in its benefit.

TW: How can people best support your mission?
PW: Visit our web page where you can find information about the following: Consider mediation as a way to talk things out, Sign up for our next professional development training, Hire us for a staff training, or Pledge your support for our work.
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In addition to its website at, people also may connect with the CDRC on social media. Its Facebook page is and the organization’s Twitter handle is @CDRCtalkworks.