Archive for the ‘Top Stories’ Category

2017 Pathways Luncheon

2017 Pathways Luncheon

Service, Peace Are Inspirations for 5th Annual Pathways Luncheon

Cindy Tierney, Pat Bourne, Gene Klein, Annie Bird, Mark Draper, Elizebeth Murphy, Tom Richards, Kristi Gibbs, Andy Rikli, Grant Story, Greg London, Ron Volkmer

“We are fortunate to live in a community with so many talented, caring people! We were delighted to honor Gene Klein, Executive Director at Project Harmony, and Grant Story, mediator, minister and therapist, during our Annual Pathways Award Luncheon. This event allowed us to publicly recognize members in our community who share our values of peaceful conflict resolution, open communication and bringing communities together, as well as the opportunity to educate our event guests about Concord Mediation Center’s many beneficial programs and services,” said Concord Mediation Center Executive Director Cindy Tierney.

Another event highlight was the art display created by Blackburn Alternative Project Art Teacher Hilary George’s students. The students were tasked with reflecting upon what peace means to them, then bringing that vision to life.

Charitable sponsors and caring friends are an integral part of any successful event, and several local organizations, individuals and families demonstrated their support to help make this year’s Pathways Award Luncheon a success!

Luncheon sponsors included:

Additional support was provided by Schirber & Wagner, LLP; OPPD and emspace. Serese Cole, morning news anchor for WOWT Channel 6, served as the emcee.

Because of generous financial support, the awareness and money raised from this event will help us achieve our mission of “creating pathways of constructive dialogue and conflict resolution through consensus building activities of mediation, facilitation and education.” Most importantly, contributions will help offset our costs so all people in our community can access our services.

It’s not too late to show your support for Concord Mediation Center. Go to our secure online donation page today. Thank you in advance for your donation!

(All photos courtesy of Abe Jackson.)


Be a Good Neighbor

Be a Good Neighbor

Tips to Resolve Conflict

Be a Good Neighbor, Maintain Peace in Your Neighborhood

You come home after a long day at work, looking forward to a relaxing evening. You change clothes, grab the mail and a cold drink, then sit down outside at your patio table. Ahhhh…peace and quiet.

Instead, you hear the neighbor’s radio playing way too loud. You go back inside and you can still hear the pounding musical beats. It seems even your windows are rattling.

Before you stomp over to the neighbor’s house and demand that they turn it down, we offer a few tips to keep the peace in your neighborhood.

  1. Don’t react now, when you are angry, frustrated or impatient. Few people react well to emotionally charged ultimatums. And your problem isn’t likely to be solved. Or, you have created a tension between neighbors that reduces the quality of life for you and your neighbors.
  2. The next time you see the offending neighbor, take a moment to have a friendly conversation. Ask him about his garden, his kids, his work. You’ve created a setting that welcomes open dialogue.
  3. Once you’ve exchanged neighborly pleasantries, you can tell him how the loud music affects you. Don’t be defensive; rather, be direct and polite. Instead of angrily saying, “You must turn down that loud music,” we recommend you phrase your request in a way that builds camaraderie. “How can we work this out?” is a forward-thinking question that indicates you want to work with him to find a positive conclusion.
  4. If your neighbor indicates that he isn’t open to working things out, don’t call 911. This isn’t life-or-death, nor should you escalate the situation to this level. You have other options.
    • You may wish to contact your neighborhood association for their input, including acceptable noise levels.
    • Since it is unlikely either you or your neighbor are moving any time soon and you genuinely want to work things out, another option is mediation. When your usual problem solving skills aren’t working, consider the professional assistance of a neutral, highly trained mediator.

Mediation is more likely to help mend relationships, rather than end relationships.

Check out this article – also on our website – Why Mediation Works  to learn more. And feel free to contact us at 402-345-1131 for more information about how mediation can help.

Omaha Gives! 2017

We are excited to be a part of the metro area’s charitable holiday – Omaha Gives! on May 24! Check back for more details coming soon. Learn more at and get ready to prove how generous Omaha can be!

The Power of Listening

The Power of Listening

March is International Listening Awareness Month

The Power of Listening

One of the most critical skills a mediator or facilitator can bring to the table is the ability to be an “active” listener. When working with people engaged in a dispute, our trained mediators use their active listening skills to go beyond just hearing words; they note what people say and do. They listen for facts and emotions. They acknowledge what the parties in conflict are telling them by clarifying messages, then restating those messages so everyone in attendance understands.

Mediators and facilitators build trust and credibility when they utilize active listening skills. If participants share their side of the situation and realize that they being heard by an active listener, they sense that they are being validated, not judged. Mediators recognize that disputants are more willing to open their minds to creative solutions when they feel respected and what they have to say truly matters.

“People start to heal the moment they feel heard.”
~ American author Cheryl Richardson

All of us want to be heard. Unfortunately, most of us are passive listeners. We spend our time waiting to interject our own point of view, rather than being an active listener. Can you recall a time you felt you weren’t being heard? Chances are, rather than being open to perspectives that are different from yours, you dug your heels in deeper and shut down the conversation?
Recognizing that people “shut down” and refuse to find common ground when they feel judged for their comments, our facilitators and mediators are experts at active listening. Here are a couple of examples:

  • Concord Mediation Center’s facilitators arrange a Family Group Conference (or FGC) to bring together families involved in the child welfare system, as well as child welfare agency workers, professionals and community resources. The purpose of this meeting is to create a plan that ensures the child’s safety and meets the family’s needs. (See “A Mother’s Voice Heard During Family Group Conference” on this website for a detailed story of the process.) Facilitators demonstrate their active listening skills to empower the parties to speak up, to give a voice to parents and extended family members and to concentrate on resolving the problems faced by the families that could lead to reunification or permanent placement of the child in a healthy home.
  • During a mediation, our mediators assist those in conflict work toward having a conversation that permits both parties to openly express their hopes for resolution. Communication-based resolution processes like mediation tend to improve the relationship between the parties, which can prevent or minimize future conflicts.

By learning the active listening skills our mediators and facilitators utilize, you can experience the power of listening.

Active listeners:

  • Make a conscious effort to hear not only the words the other person is saying, but also try to understand the complete message being conveyed (including body language).
  • Pay close attention and don’t get distracted.
  • Acknowledge that you hear what is being said. You can nod, smile or encourage the person to continue with verbal comments such as “yes” or “uh huh.”
  • Provide feedback by reflecting back what has been said by paraphrasing. “What I’m hearing is” is an example of listening with respect, without judgement and asking for clarification.
  • Allow the speaker to finish each point before asking questions and don’t interrupt with counter arguments.

Author Alice Duer Miller notes, “People love to talk but hate to listen. Listening is not merely not talking, though even that is beyond most of our powers; it means taking a vigorous, human interest in what is being told us. You can listen like a blank wall or like a splendid auditorium where every sound comes back fuller and richer.”

You can start practicing active listening techniques and use them in conversations with family members, co-workers, neighbors and others in your community. You’ll find that you become a better communicator, improve productivity at work and develop better, fuller, richer relationships.

Omaha Gives! 2017

We are excited to be a part of the metro area’s charitable holiday – Omaha Gives! on May 24! Check back for more details coming soon. Learn more at and get ready to prove how generous Omaha can be!

Victim Offender Conferencing

Victim Offender Conferencing

Healing and Hopeful

Victim Offender Conferencing is effective form of Restorative Justice

Following a crime, a victim may feel vulnerable and powerless. Concord Mediation Center’s Victim Offender Conferencing (VOC) provides victims the opportunity to meet with the individual who committed the crime. The goal is to hold the offender accountable for his or her behavior, while providing assistance and making amends to the victims.

(The following is a fictional VOC case study.) The Jones are an elderly couple who have lived in the same house since they married more than 50 years ago. One day, the couple notices graffiti on the side of their detached garage. Curse words have been spray painted in large letters on the building. The couple contacts the police, and during the interview, Mr. Jones wonders aloud if he and his wife are the targets of a local gang. What’s next? Will the perpetrators take the next step and break into the couple’s home? The Jones feel they are at risk for more property damage, if not something worse.

Another neighbor contacts the police, noting that she saw a young man in the neighborhood the day before the graffiti vandalism was discovered. The police use this tip to arrest a teenager, who later admits to the crime.

A VOC can be requested by a number of referral resources who think the offender would benefit from the process, such as a county attorney, a defense attorney, a probation officer, a diversion officer, the offender’s parents or even the offender him/herself. In this case, a juvenile court judge ordered the offender to take part in Victim Offender Conferencing.


Concord Mediation Center’s mediators conduct preliminary individual meetings with the offender and the victim to assess the appropriateness of this case, including the willingness of the parties to participate fully and benefit from the process. For the sake of our story, the mediators were convinced of the readiness of the parties, and moved forward, arranging for the VOC.

The meeting begins with Mr. Jones describing the incident. Mrs. Jones shares how the incident impacted the couple’s lives, by living in fear, experiencing sleepless nights and wondering how, on their fixed incomes, they would be able to fix the damage to their property. They ask the young man why they were targeted for this crime and if he understood why they didn’t feel safe in their own home.

The young man is faced with the knowledge that his actions were more than a stupid prank. Together with the victims, he sees the real human costs of his actions. The victims and the offender then figure out how to make things right.

The mediators help facilitate the discussion between the Jones, the teenager and the young man’s parents to find the best way for the offender to repair the harm he caused. The young man will use the earnings from his after-school job to pay for the paint and will arrange a date with the Jones to come to their house to paint over the graffiti. The teenager agrees to participate in a community-based youth group, to identify more positive peer groups. The VOC session concludes with all participants signing an agreement that specifies their expectations and commitment.

While this story is fictional, the steps are a realistic depiction of how and why this evidence-based process is an advantageous alternative to the court system.

Many Benefits of a Victim Offender Conference


  • Provides the offender the opportunity to take direct, personal responsibility for the offense;
  • Gives the victim a voice in the process that can assist in closure and healing;
  • Saves the community the cost of incarcerating another offender, by providing an intervention that has a high success rate in reducing recidivism (reoffending).

Child-Centered Divorce

Child-Centered Divorce

Why Mediate Your Parenting Plan?

Child-Centered Divorce

Child-Centered Divorce occurs when you are going through a divorce and you put your child’s best interests first during the process. January is “Child-Centered Divorce Month,” but we observe this tenet every day of the year.

Despite any negative emotions you feel toward the other parent, focusing on what is truly best for your kids can help avoid or minimize the negative effects on children when the end of a parental relationship takes place.

A Parenting Plan is a vital part of a Child-Centered Divorce. This plan helps parents living in different homes think through all aspects of their child’s life. A Parenting Plan can be created in the courts, by the parents through attorneys or with the assistance of a trained mediator.

Why mediate your Parenting Plan?

  • Mediation is an informal, confidential process guided by our mediators.
  • Our mediators will help you work through complicated emotions, so that your focus is on your child’s future.
  • Mediation offers a high rate of compliance with your agreement, since both parents worked together to create the Parenting Plan, with terms and conditions included.
  • By participating in mediation, you may improve communication with the other parent, and learn problem solving skills so you can handle future disagreements with your co-parent. (These are skills you can apply to all of your personal and professional relationships.)
  • The most important outcome? Happy, well-adjusted children.

    If you would like to know more about Mediation and/or Parenting Plans, contact Concord Mediation Center at 402-345-1131.

Spotlight on Mediation

Spotlight on Mediation

Before your conflict escalates to violence or one party shouts to the other, “I’ll see you in court,” we want you to know There Is A Better Way.

Conflict is a normal part of life.

  • It can occur when a little leaguer’s parents want the coach to play their child more often.
  • It can be present when one household is irritated with the music level of their neighbors.
  • Words of anger are likely to be uttered when divorcing parents cannot agree about visitation for their child.
  • A dispute can erupt when co-workers disagree about which one gets the credit for a successful project.
  • A struggle can expand into headline news, when rival religious factions use force and destroy whole communities.

We recognize that challenges are going to take place in your personal and professional life, but we encourage you to learn more about peaceful resolution alternatives before you find yourself in the middle of a heated exchange.

Mediation Week (October 18-24)
and Conflict Resolution Day (Thursday, October 22)
provide us with the opportunity to let you know
there is a better way to address disputes.

Mediation is a voluntary, confidential, informal yet structured process where neutral, trained mediators work with two or more persons to reach a solution to their conflict. This process fosters better communication and improves relationships.


  • Is an extension of the negotiation process.
  • Is future-oriented and does not place blame or find guilt.
  • May not resolve all of the issues in a conflict, though it does attempt to make the issues more manageable as to avoid destructive alternatives.

In a safe and structured setting, our highly trained neutral mediators and facilitators assist the disputing parties in defining their issues, permitting each person to explain his/her perspective while trying to understand the other person’s point of view and brainstorming possible actions and solutions to which both parties can agree.

Conflict is to be expected. However, how we choose to deal with it can make a big difference. It’s all about making the world a more peaceful place, for families, businesses and communities.

Conflict is a normal part of life. Be proactive – Learn more about peaceful conflict resolution alternatives before you find yourself in the middle of a heated exchange.

To learn more about the tools and skills necessary to deal with problems, we invite you to call us at 402-345-1131.

Special Education Mediation

Special Education Mediation

It’s back-to-school time, and both parents and schools want children to be successful. Successful outcomes are more likely to occur for students with special needs when parents and schools work as partners in providing an education for children. However, even in the best of circumstances, partners can face disagreements.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) entitles children with disabilities to a free, appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment. Parents and school officials may disagree on what special education services and placement a child should receive under this right.

For example, if you work for the school district, you may see that the parent doesn’t fully understand why the special education team is recommending a particular placement.

As a parent, you may be concerned that your child needs one-on-one assistance throughout the school day, including restroom visits, not just in the classroom.

Both parties may see their own point of view, but would benefit from having a trained neutral third party who could bring everyone to the table to discuss the issues. This process is called mediation.

Mediation is an alternative option for resolving conflicts between parents and schools. This option may be sought because both parties are committed to mending damaged relationships.

At Concord Mediation Center, the process of Special Education Mediation can help effectively manage conflict and avoid aggravating adversarial parent-school relationships.

The mediator’s role is to facilitate discussion and help parties reach an agreement — not to recommend solutions or take sides. Our trained mediators pay attention to the comfort level of the participants and ensure that each person at the table is heard. Mediators focus the discussion by summarizing key points, identifying the issues and facilitating the process to move the discussion from voicing the concerns to evaluating possible outcomes. Their job is to direct the conversation, encouraging participants to be creative in seeking solutions that are beneficial to both parties.

The Nebraska Department of Education has contracted with Concord Mediation Center to provide Special Education Mediation services at no cost to the parties.

For more information, please call us at 402-345-1131.

Special Education Mediation

2016 Pathways Award

2016 Pathways Award

Concord Mediation Center’s annual ‘Pathways Award’

Stephen Center Founders, State Probation Leader Honored

Concord Mediation Center held its annual “Pathways Award” Luncheon on Friday, June 24, at Field Club of Omaha. The 2016 Pathways Award Luncheon honored Sharon and Dick McNeil, founders of the Stephen Center and Ellen Fabian Brokofsky, Nebraska State Probation Administrator.

Pictured are, left to right: Tom Warren, Concord Mediation Center Board Member and Executive Director, Urban League of Nebraska; Cindy Tierney, Executive Director, Concord Mediation Center; Pat McNeil, representing his parents the late Sharon and the late Dick McNeil, founders of The Stephen Center and 2016 Pathways Award recipients; Cindy Ellis, M.D., Concord Mediation Center Board Member and Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry, University of Nebraska Medical Center; Ron Volkmer, Concord Mediation Center Board Treasurer and retired Professor of Law, Creighton University School of Law; Ellen Fabian Brokofsky, Nebraska State Probation Administrator, 2016 Ron Volkmer Practitioner Award recipient; and Tom Richards, Concord Mediation Center Board Member and Manager-Governmental and Community Relations, OPPD. (All photos courtesy of Abe Jackson.)

The McNeils demonstrate the qualities of the Pathways Award. Honoring those who have courageously opened their minds and hearts to processes of conflict resolution involving healing, forgiveness, empathy, open communication and/or the ability to bring disparate communities together for the betterment of all. The McNeils were upset at how the area’s homeless were treated, and in the winter of 1983 were compelled to act when they learned of an unidentified man who burned to death trying to stay warm in a dumpster. Today, the Stephen Center provides emergency shelter, transitional living and a substance abuse treatment program, serving tens of thousands of men, women and children each year.

Previous Pathways Award recipients include: Mike Kelly, Omaha World-Herald columnist; Fred Wilson, Von Maur shooting survivor and inspirational model of grace and forgiveness; and Heidi and Jeff Wilke, founders of The Heidi Wilke SANE/SART Survivor Program at Methodist Hospital.

Ellen Fabian Brokofsky received the Ron Volkmer Practitioner Award. With four decades of experience in juvenile and adult probation, she has been instrumental in the creation of innovative, community-based approaches for juveniles and adults engaged in the probation system, assisting them in becoming productive citizens. Brokofsky credits her team at the Administrative Office of Probation for their efforts to enhance safe communities by providing quality, ethical services in the face of economic challenges. The Ron Volkmer Practitioner Award, named for Creighton law professor and long-time Concord Mediation Center board member, honors practitioners who apply Concord Mediation Center’s mission to their professional or volunteer conflict resolution efforts.

Former award honorees are Creighton University Law Professor Ronald Volkmer, for whom the award is named; Concord Mediation Center’s Lori McKeon, Child Welfare Facilitation Coordinator; and Kerri Davis, Permanency Specialist for Nebraska Families Collaborative.

Fred Wilson, left, visits with Dr. Suzi Busby, during the annual Concord Mediation Center’s Pathways Award Luncheon on Friday, June 24, at Field Club of Omaha. Wilson, a Von Maur shooting survivor and inspirational model of grace and forgiveness, was the 2014 Pathways Award honoree. Dr. Busby is a counselor at Blackburn Alternative High School, within Omaha Public Schools. Concord Mediation Center has worked with teachers at Blackburn on topics such as conflict resolution skills and how to give and receive feedback.

Guests and staff gather at Concord Mediation Center’s annual Pathways Award Luncheon, held on Friday, June 24, at Field Club of Omaha. Pictured, from left to right, are: Jay Wilson, Director of Operations for Concord Mediation Center; Jim Dorsey, grandson of Pathways Award honorees Dick and Sharon McNeil; Lori McKeon, Child Welfare Facilitation Coordinator for Concord Mediation Center and recipient of the 2014 Ron Volkmer Practitioner Award; and Katie Welsh, affiliated mediator with Concord Mediation Center and attorney for the WCA.

Concord Mediation Center’s Executive Director Cindy Tierney enjoys the floral centerpieces featured at the annual Pathways Award Luncheon on Friday, June 24, at Field Club of Omaha. The centerpieces represent pathways each of us take in our lives, and the pathways Concord Mediation Center provides when we’re faced with conflict. The centerpieces were designed by Lisa Zulkoski, Floral Manager at Hy-Vee at 88th and West Center Road.

2015 Pathways Awards Honorees Inspired Record-Size Audience

2015 Pathways Awards Honorees Inspired Record-Size Audience

We were proud to recognize the honorees at our 2015 Pathways Award Luncheon on Friday, June 19. Nearly 140 in attendance were inspired by their words as they accepted their awards. The Wilkes talked about their personal challenges and tragic experiences, and how they chose to react positively to those situations. Kerri Davis was lauded for her work as an advocate for children, finding permanent homes for them through adoption.

Pictured are, left to right: Mike Kelly, 2013 Pathways Award Honoree; Fred Wilson, 2014 Pathways Award Honoree; 2015 Pathways Award Honorees Jeff and Heidi Wilke; Kerri Davis, 2015 Ron Volkmer Practitioner Award recipient; Lori McKeon, 2014 Ron Volkmer Practitioner Award recipient; and Ronald Volkmer, 2013 Ron Volkmer Practitioner Award recipient. (All photos courtesy of Sam Nigro, Big Picture Productions.)

Read more about the Wilkes in this Omaha World Herald article: Around and About: Couple receive center’s Pathways Award

Thank you to everyone who came to share the day with our honorees.

Enjoying the special day, are, left to right: 2015 Ron Volkmer Practitioner Award honoree Kerri Davis, Board Member Ron Volkmer, luncheon emcee Dave Zawilinski, Concord Mediation Center's Executive Director Cindy Tierney and 2014 Volkmer Practitioner Award recipient Lori McKeon.

And a special thank you to our event sponsors.

Maximizing Workplace Effectiveness

Maximizing Workplace Effectiveness

While conflict is a normal part of life, the challenge of conflict lies in how you choose to deal with it.

Attention business managers and supervisors, do you want to maximize workplace effectiveness?

Unresolved Conflict Is Costly

Managers and supervisors realize that disagreements between employees are to be expected.

The typical manager spends up to 40 percent of his or her time dealing with workplace conflicts. That’s one to two days of every work week. Washington Business Journal, 2005

However, if issues are not resolved, they can impact productivity, hinder morale and may even prompt some good employees to leave.

Approximately 3/4 of all difficulties in organizations stem from strained relationships between employees, not deficits in individual employee’s skills or motivation. “Managing Differences,” Barbara Kreisman, 2005

Why should businesses invest in our workshop?

The cost of losing and replacing an employee may be as high as 150 percent of the departing employee’s annual salary.

While conflict is a normal part of life, the challenge of conflict lies in how you choose to deal with it. Organizations that see disagreements as opportunities and resolve them effectively stand out because of their strong capacity for innovation and success!

Organizations adopting conflict resolution processes report 50 to 80 percent reductions in litigation costs. “Vanishing Trial,” Thomas Stipanovvich, 2004

The trained experts at Concord Mediation Center offer time- and cost-effective training programs designed to help you:

  • manage employee conflicts,
  • develop better communication,
  • improve the workplace environment, and
  • enhance productivity.

We are ready to deliver workshops designed to provide you the tools to help you add value to your workplace.

Contact us today for more information!