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Lawrence Cooke Peace Innovator Award Recipient: Lisa Hicks Yackel
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Lisa Hicks Yackel served as Executive Director for the NYS Dispute Resolution Association from 1994 until her retirement in 2009. Prior to that she served as a Program Coordinator for a Community Dispute Resolution Center (CDRC) in upstate NY, and in varying capacities for the Center for Dispute Settlement in Rochester in the areas of youth mediation, victim/offender mediation and coordination of volunteer mediators for the Center. She is a trained mediator and arbitrator.

When Lisa accepted the Directorship of NYSDRA, it was an association struggling to survive on a meager budget, two contracts with State Agencies and a membership and board made up solely of CDRCs and Directors.

During her tenure, the Association’s budget grew substantially to provide support for addition of more staff, increased outreach, and expansion of contracts for its members. Believing that diversity allows for innovation and that strength comes in numbers, the membership was broadened to include private practitioner members, community mediators, and students of ADR in addition to the original CDRC members. The board was diversified to include those with varying levels of expertise to help move NYSDRA forward. Strategic planning allowed for the development of a statewide public relations plan to help increase public awareness of NYSDRA and its members and the field of dispute resolution.

Lisa began by spearheading the cultivation and development of additional innovative contract programs for NYSDRA members by looking at areas where mediation and other forms of dispute resolution could be successful, and she actively worked to promote them. Along with the existing Special Education Mediation Program and the Manufactured Housing Mediation Program, she worked with the Attorney General’s office to develop the Lemon Law Arbitration Program and with the NYS State Education Department to develop contracts for Vocational Education Services for Individuals with disabilities and Early Intervention Mediation.  She collaborated with the State ADR Office and other agricultural organizations in New York State to develop the Agricultural Mediation Program. Before retiring, she worked with the Board of Elections to provide arbitration services surrounding election disputes.

Keeping in mind the importance of legislative support, judicial support, and collaboration on a local level with agencies, businesses, and local governments, Lisa attempted to expand public knowledge of dispute resolution and the services provided by NYSDRA through its members. She worked with other ADR programs, associations, and state committees to expand the use of dispute resolution processes in areas such as Land Use through the Legislative Land Use Committee, Environmental Mediation with the DEC, promoting public policy mediation with The Forum on Conflict and Consensus and working with the Bar Association committees and Albany Law School.

Statewide training and conferences were developed in partnership with the State ADR Office to promote professional development for NYSDRA members and community mediators.

Another innovation was leading the continued expansion of public knowledge of dispute resolution through the development of NYSDRA’s website. The website has allowed the public to understand the different dispute resolution processes available to them, particularly through the contract programs that NYSDRA offers.

Lisa worked in conjunction with other ADR organizations to begin conversations about the development of standards of quality performance for mediators and arbitrators who provided services through the varying associations in NYS. Seeing that some legislative bills were promoting standards that used inaccurate terminology, it was felt that ADR organizations should take the lead in developing model standards for dispute resolution professionals.

She was also responsible for the development of NYSDRA’s Alternative Dispute Resolution Day. This activity promoted Dispute Resolution and the proper use of terminology in the legislative bill making process as well as stressing the importance of legislative support for bills affecting dispute resolution. This day has allowed NYSDRA and its members to keep abreast of legislative actions that will affect the field of dispute resolution.

Lisa’s innovation and leadership paved the way for a strong association that has weathered the recent economic downturn and has continued to build on some of the practices that were developed during her leadership. She has prepared NYSDRA to continue building its power as a strong association, providing education about what dispute resolution professionals do, promoting legislative and judicial support for the profession and, most importantly, collaborating and learning from one another so that we continue to improve and expand our services.

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New York State Dispute Resolution Association, Inc.
4 Pine West Plaza, Suite 411, Albany, NY 12205
P: (518) 687-2240  |  F: (518) 687-2245