About the Dispute Resolution Center
The Dispute Resolution Center (DRC) was created in 1982 as a pilot project co-sponsored by the Minnesota Supreme Court, the Ramsey County Bar Association and the City of St. Paul. The mission statement of the organization is:
The Dispute Resolution Center promotes the constructive resolution of conflict through open communication and shared decision-making.
We believe that people can resolve disputes respectfully, without litigation, to the mutual satisfaction of all parties. We advocate for managing disputes peacefully through the use of problem-solving techniques that help build feelings of community. We provide the highest quality service possible and ensure that these services are accessible to all residents of the communities we serve. We partner with community members, groups, schools, and businesses to develop and maintain an open organization that reflects diversity and welcomes all people. We promote the peaceful resolution of conflict as a preferred method of building healthy communities and reaching mutual goals.
We work with individuals, families, community groups, government agencies, and businesses to assist them in resolving conflict. Mediation and facilitation bring together parties in conflict to address issues in a constructive and respectful manner, and to arrive at a solution that is satisfactory to all involved. DRC has resolved thousands of conflicts since it began offering these services, and has prevented conflicts from escalating to the point of violence or requiring costly court intervention.
DRC handles many types of community problems. These include matters of public safety, traffic and parking, rental arrangements, consumer-merchant disputes, neighborhood conflicts, complaints about noise or pets, property line disputes, small claims concerning money, property damage, or breach of contract. Studies have demonstrated that mediation produces more lasting and more satisfying solutions than those imposed by the courts or other decisions makers. Mediation also equips participants with tools to resolve their future conflicts. Our services are offered on a sliding scale, and it is our policy that no one is ever turned away for inability to pay.
To accomplish our goals of fostering open communication and encouraging positive responses to conflict in all neighborhoods in the East Metro Area, DRC recruits and trains a diverse group of volunteer mediators and maintains a roster of approximately sixty to seventy-five volunteers who represent a broad cross-section of the community and serve as mediators, staff assistance, and board members.
DRC also provides valuable and innovative workshops and presentations on conflict resolution and communication to schools and colleges, landlord and tenant unions, community councils and block clubs, youth centers and businesses. Education about effective communication and conflict resolution skills builds and strengthens community members’ capacity to peacefully address conflict.
A Brief History of Community Mediation
The beginnings of community mediation in the United States can be traced to the Community Relation Service (CRS). The CRS was established through the 1964 Civil Rights Act to provide a constructive model of dealing with conflict without violence. CRS continues its work in community development to this day.
A second early venue that would give rise to the field was the Philadelphia Municipal Court Arbitration Tribunal. Philadelphia’s program started in 1969 as a collaboration between prosecutors and the courts, and offered arbitration hearings for disputants to resolve their issues. The Philadelphia project was created with support from the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, which would go on to fund an innovative Columbus program as well.
In 1970, mediation was introduced in the Columbus Night Prosecutor program with the aid of local law professors to provide an avenue to work out minor disputes. Around the same time, San Francisco’s Community Boards Program (SFCB) was established to provide panels of neighbors to resolve disputes within their local communities, and developed a language and model of mediation wherein hearing panelists conduct a conciliation.
From these beginnings, community mediation has spread throughout the country and moved from the margin to the mainstream. There are innumerable community and school resources for mediation, dozens of states have created court-annexed programs, and there are a number of national and international organizations focused on mediation. The National Association for Community Mediation has located 650 community mediation resources that handle over 50,000 cases each year nationwide.
Community mediation has taken hold in Minnesota as well, with eleven centers comprising the Minnesota Association of Community Mediation Programs. The Dispute Resolution Center in St. Paul has served thousands of residents and businesses in the East Metro Area since it opened in 1982.
History from Merry and Milner, The Possibility of Popular Justice, 1994, and the Community Resolution Manual: Insights and Guidance from Two Decades of Practice, 1991.
Dispute Resolution Center Staff
Jeanne Zimmer – Executive Director
David Bauernfeind – Case Developer
Samali Mutazindwa – Case Developer
Dispute Resolution Board Members
Board Chair – Marcell Walker, Minnesota Department of Transportation
Vice Chair – Metric Giles, Community Stabilization Project
Secretary – Karen Hollaus
Treasurer – Coleen Luna, St. Paul Police Department
Donna Evans, Community Organizer
Kimberly Nightingale, St. Paul Almanac
Saymoukda Vongsay, Author, Playwright and Performance Artist
Barbara Williams, Minnesota Department of Human Services