Judges, mediators, facilitators, and innovators know how difficult it is to bring people in conflict together. Competing interests, interpersonal hostility, or indifference about the problem create barriers to communication that practitioners and the parties themselves struggle to overcome. This can result in an emotionally taxing stalemate, where neither party is willing to reach out.
Opening a channel for communication is an essential element of conflict resolution because it allows parties to interact and share information in a collaborative way. This channel may be a meeting place or an online platform. What is important is that there is a safe container where both parties are present and willing to engage with one another. Without communication and collaboration, basic human needs to discuss and process what happened, find solutions, and prevent it from happening again cannot be met.
This can be in-person, online, or even via a surrogate when a meeting between the parties is not appropriate. What matter is that it makes possible centralised information processing and communication about the conflict.
Communication and coordination may break down in the course of conflict. As a result, parties may resort to competitive (non-cooperative) strategies for addressing conflict, such as fighting, denying, or avoiding. Avoiding the conflict altogether is most attractive to parties who expect big losses from cooperation. As previously mentioned, avoiding may also be appropriate in some cases.
In order for parties to be incentivised to come together, the net benefits of meeting must outweigh the net benefits of non-cooperative strategies, such as fighting or avoiding the conflict. This means that the costs associated with meeting must not be high.
Finding a solution for a justice problem involves at least two parties. While most people will listen to a police officer or a local judge, getting parties to recognize the authority of a less conventional neutral is not easy. One party may choose to ignore the mediator that contacts them. A lawyer might challenge the legitimacy of an online platform to resolve conflict. Mediators and innovators may struggle to identify parties who are willing to cooperate and accept third party advice.