New Year Letter from CPR President & CEO Allen Waxman
To the CPR Community: Happy 2023. I hope this note finds you well.
I have been thinking a lot about conflict and resentment recently. Before the holidays, I attended a convening of dispute professionals over Zoom to discuss the recent controversies concerning Ye/Kanye West and Kyrie Irving. The meeting was called to allow for an open airing of perspectives and pain, and facilitators were present. Various viewpoints were shared, and on one level, it was instructive just to listen to differing perspectives.
On another level, however, and as a Jew, I must say that I found some of the justifications offered for the actions and statements of Ye and Kyrie only furthered my own pain. But what struck me most about the meeting was its underlying focus on comparative suffering and whether one group of oppressed people has had it worse than another group. As the leader of an organization dedicated to resolution, this focus did not strike me as very productive. I asked myself, “Why aren’t we focusing on what we can do to make things better?”
Then, I read a beautifully written piece in our journal Alternatives by Mnotho Ngcobo, a Lecturer of Law at O.P. Jindal Global University in Sonipat, Haryana, India, and former CPR intern. The piece is entitled "Why Dispute Resolution Practitioners Should Embrace Difficult Conversations," and I recommend it to all of you. Mnotho offers that there is benefit to conflict if it leads to conversation, even if, and maybe especially if, they are difficult ones. He goes on to suggest that the objective of such conversations is not in finding solutions (and certainly not in reaching agreement) but in trying to understand other perspectives and integrating those understandings into our own approaches. Mnotho reminds, “The good and most important thing about difficult conversations is that we are not required to agree with another person’s opinion, we simply must acknowledge how they see things and how they feel. The truth is everyone wants to be acknowledged and acknowledgment doesn’t mean agreement.”
So, stepping back from my own pain, perhaps what I perceived as unproductive resentment over who has had it worse is really a call for more acknowledgement of the pain that has been and is still being suffered. After all, there is no zero-sum on acknowledgment. We can share it broadly, and hope that others will do the same for us. And acknowledgement might provide the step toward the resolution that I, and no doubt, many of you, seek. I welcome your thoughts and to be part of the conversation. Drop me a line at email@example.com.
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With these thoughts in mind, I am excited to begin a new year at CPR as we expand our capacity to drive toward helping others manage conflict so they might better pursue their chosen purpose. We are launching two new platforms to better support all of our constituents. First, we are initiating a new membership association platform for the CPR Institute, which will enhance the experience of our members in being connected to us. At the same time, you will also find new and easier-to-access websites for the CPR Institute and for CPR Dispute Resolution (both can be accessed from each other). The other platform we are launching is a new case management platform for CPR Dispute Resolution. This platform should provide more options for case management, more security, and more efficiency to CPR parties, neutrals and to us. We are excited by these new resources and hope you will be too.
As we take stock of the past year, I share with you the following highlights:
• 37 committee, regional, national, and international events and trainings reached nearly 1,800 people; these programs featured thought-leadership on best practices and innovative tools to improve dispute management.
• Transformative work by Task Forces on important issues for dispute management including preparing a guide on mitigating risk in life science licensing transactions, new procedures for Dispute Management Boards, refining model clauses for dispute prevention mechanisms to be embedded in parties’ arrangements, and updating the procedures for mediation practice.
• In 2022, the CPR Panel of Distinguished Neutrals was 637 strong, and 28% identified as women and 23% identified as people of color. In addition, in almost every one of its matters, CPR met its pledge to the Ray Corollary Initiative (RCI). The RCI calls for all slates of neutrals nominated for arbitration and mediation to be at least 30% diverse to increase the chances of a diverse selection. Indeed, CPR refined the Diversity Commitment it established previously to now ask that each corporate and law firm signatory also meet the RCI metric.
The year ahead promises to be just as dynamic, especially with the engagement of all of you. Your participation drives our organization. Thank you.
I also have some bittersweet news to pass along. This Annual Meeting will mark the retirement of Ellen Parker from CPR as of March 31st. Ellen has been in-house with us for over three years following her retirement from KPMG. She has been instrumental in overseeing the staff and activities of the CPR Institute while also placing her stamp on our signature event each year, the Annual Meeting. Indeed, she wants to remain with CPR until the New Orleans meeting is concluded so that she can once again engage with the community in-person and facilitate the learnings and connections the Annual Meeting always breeds. Ellen is excited by her second retirement, and we will miss Ellen very much.
At the same time, I am delighted to report that Helena Tavares Erickson, who has been with CPR 19 years, is transitioning from her role at CPR Dispute Resolution to undertake the leadership of the CPR Institute. Helena is familiar with every aspect of CPR and with our community and will bring continuity and a commitment to our mission and to the role. She is an accomplished dispute management professional, and we look forward to the leadership and expertise she will bring to the Institute.
Mia Levi, who has been with CPR for over two years, will now assume the leadership of CPR Dispute Resolution. In her time with CPR, Mia has demonstrated her expertise in our services, her knack for innovation, and her commitment to our neutrals. We look forward to her assuming this role and to the growth for CPR Dispute Resolution we will accomplish together.
Like for many of you, it is a time of change and opportunity at CPR. We look forward to sharing together the journey toward less conflict and more purpose.
With warmest regards,
President & CEO