Settlement Mediation model project

Partner organization: Youth of Szabolcs (County) for the Country Association

National Crime prevention Committee, Crime prevention model project, 2009

1. Starting point

The project’s aim is to solve local conflicts, through residents’ increased empathy and taking of responsibility. Our organization’s goal is to empower local residents to solve their problems with restorative solutions facilitated by trainings of mediators and family conference methodology.


In Nyírgyulaj people are waiting for the solutions of problems in the form of help from outside—primarily from the mayor’s office, health visitors, and family care. Youth of Szabolcs (County) for the Country Association, including the notary of the settlement, were explicit that conflicts must be solved with the active contribution of interested parties. The major, who has a degree in social work, supported their initiative as did the colleagues of the major’s office, who were open to the collaboration. A local health visitor who knows the and enjoys the trust of the families was easily motivated. Child Care, the director of the kindergarden, and others were also receptive to the program.


Nyírgyulaj is one of the country’s most disadvantaged settlements. The 2200-person township in Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg County has the typical problems: high inactivity, poverty, domestic violence, alcoholism, aggression, and the conflict between employed and unemployed is growing. These problems are sources of tension in and between families. Most of the parents are poorly educated and live in inadequate conditions. Most of the people of the township live on state support; the Roma minority’s rate is 10-12%. Most of the children grow up in a stimulus-poor environment with few positive role models. The training of the experts working with them is incomplete. People face conflicts every day, and large numbers of residents seek the help of authorities. The number of these cases is growing, so the program’s restorative techniques could assist in mitigating these problems.


2 . General presentation of the project


The work has started in Nyírgyulaj, with the two cooperative associations getting to know each other’s activities, the details of the execution, and the timing and sharing of the tasks. We have organized a residential forum where preparations, aims, and expected results of the program were guided. We also showed the movie “Conflicts and Solutions,” which deals with topics of mediation, family group conferences, and the circle model, as well as the restorative approach.


Reason of application of restorative techniques in the model program

The program’s central elements are the two following trainings:
Mediation can be applicable in conflicts of social symbiosis – consumer protection, health legislation, family legislation, labor affairs, etc. – and the most applied restorative practice. Private style facilitated dialogue between two people. In mediation an independent third party (mediator) intervenes with people who have conflicts and assists them in discussions of conflicts in order to reach an agreement. It is a future-oriented process that can be applicable in equal partnerships when partners decide on participation voluntarily because they both agree on the common interest.

Family group conference (FGC) decision making process is able to make for the family and its environment to find solutions on emerging problems and to support on their own resources to involve family members willing to participate. In application of FGC, family members (relatives, friends, neighbors, etc.) decide in common how best to solve the problem of the family, and by which methods. The aim of the method is – behind the conflict solving is- the collection of people who belongs to the people who has a problem, the make visible their expectations, and also the contributions of the members for solving the problem. The application of the method is contributing to the strengthening of the community. Assist the social cohesion, because people who confront with norms give an opportunity to find solution for their problem within their family and culture and in the other hand it is not criticizing them or damn them but support them toward appropriate solutions.

The mediation training

After learning the techniques of mediation, participants practice it in their own jobs. After their cases’ directing they participate twice in smaller group discussions and with the whole group.


After the training

With the school drawing tender we aimed to involve the youngest and also direct attainment of parents we wanted to raise attention about the theme.


The family group conference training

We wanted to get close the view of professionals working with clients to the child rights based methodology in order to alter their service according to their clients’ needs.


Ending of the model project 

We have announced the winners of the model project and published the Cinemas of Nyírgyulaj second edition, wherein we reported the children’s results, the acceptance of the project, and the experiences of the project’s work and its results.

3. Evaluation of the elaboration

The two trainings have involved health visitors, teachers (including kindergarten teachers) and associates of the major’s office. All of the participants were in daily touch with the residents.


The result of the program can be calculated by numbers—as number of participants and their cases—but we felt that strengthening of the workers’ formal and informal relations to the township, the changed communication, is a greater result.


We know by the reflection of the participants that the recognition of situations, the elaboration of applicable solutions, and the creation of the communication process have all been improved.


Strengthening the program was the practice of leaving no clients alone, and following the application of both techniques with mentoring/facilitation. Trainers learned workers’ life circumstances during the programs. This could contribute to the success of both the trainings that are able to provide complex conflict-solving tools, [because in a family crisis sometimes mediation or FGC can be contraindicated


Instead of summary

We illustrate the success of the model project with an opinion of a resident of Nyírgyulaj who said to one of his relatives: “Come here to Nyírgyulaj to live because we can go here anytime to the major’s office. It is true that they don’t give earnest money, and the state support is not that much neither but they consider us as people and they really help. My son is not afraid of his father anymore because they were speaking of them as in a negotiation.”


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