Settling Disputes Between Neighbours in the Lifeworld. An Evaluation of Experiments with Community Mediation in the Netherlands.
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Many neighbourhoods in the Netherlands have reached the stage of colliding subcultures, and interpersonal conflict. The young live next to the old, the rich next to the poor, single people next to families, the white next to the brown and the black, the established next to the outsiders. In some places, this social-cultural abundance leads to fear, uncertainty, and irritation. Not everybody is as understanding and tolerant of diverse lifestyles and thinking patterns as another person is. In places, this diversity leads to new behaviour patterns and institutions. Multi-ethnic community boards are starting to function as mediatory panels for settling disputes between neighbours and neighbourhood residents. In this article we claim that community mediation – a form of alternative dispute resolution designed to resolve interpersonal conflict in the neighbourhood – is both an attempt to rejuvenate the idea of community and a new way to settle differences and interpersonal conflicts between neighbours in the Netherlands. One might even argue that the neighbourhood is a level too high for social intervention and that instead one should focus on a lower level in the lifeworld: the house, the block, or at most, the street.