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And a Little Child Shall Lead Them – Peacemakers 2018

On 12 July 2018, our Training and Development Advisor, Professor Joel Lee, published a blog post on the Kluwer Mediation Blog entitled “And A Little Child Shall Lead Them – Peacemakers Conference 2018”. His blog post is reproduced in full below.

I have in previous entries (July 2012 and July 2013) written about a peer mediation initiative called the Peacemakers Conference. The purpose of the Peacemakers Conference is to teach 13-16 year olds how to resolve conflicts amicably in a workshop cum competition format. This year’s Peacemakers Conference was held from 20 to 22 June 2018.

As in previous years, we asked students from different schools to work together to create a visual metaphor for mediation. This started in 2015 and has become a regular feature in the Peacemakers Conference. Metaphors from previous years be found in the entries for November 2015August 2016 and July 2017.

This year, the students came up with 8 (plus 1) visual metaphors which I would like to share with readers in this entry. For each of these, an image of the students presenting the metaphor is shared along with a description of the metaphor.

I would like to acknowledge the efforts of Ms. Charmaine Yap, Ms. Samantha Lek, Mr. Sean Lim and the Peacemakers Facilitation team for capturing the description and images of each of the metaphors that appear below.



GROUP 1: Mediation is Magic

Mediation is Magic

Mediation is magic, and the Patronus deer that is summoned when Harry Potter casts the Expecto Patronum spell was chosen to represent the idea of magic. The spell is a charm that drives away life-sucking beasts, but is famously difficult to cast. This is like mediation – the difficult nature of practising mediation, mediating conflict, and solving conflicts and problems. When Harry Potter casts this spell, he has to recall a happy memory. However, he had to try this a lot of times, and only succeeded when he tried very hard. Similarly, if mediators do not mediate properly, the mediation will not work well, and might even make the situation worse.

Magic is also universal among everyone. From the old to the young, everyone appreciates magic. This is similar to peacemaking and mediation – everyone there is there to appreciate and understand it.

Mediation is also magical because by merely asking questions, people can be guided together. Just as there are endless types of spells, there are endless types of solutions in mediation. It is up to the mediator to ask parties questions to guide them along.

The Patronus is a beautiful animal. Harry Potter’s Patronus is a stag. Similar to mediation, it is the unpredictable and beautiful result of parties working on a framework to resolve the problem together.


GROUP 2: Mediation is the Lighthouse that guides relationSHIPS

Mediation is a Lighthouse

The lighthouse is a guide in the dark. The lighthouse symbolises the mediator, and the ships symbolise the parties. The lighthouse guides ships to land without piloting them. Similarly, the mediator guides parties to a solution without giving it to them. The darkness of the night sky symbolises how parties are unable to see each other’s perspectives, but the light from the lighthouse helps them to see each other and their common destination.


GROUP 3: Mediation is like a Camera Tripod

Mediation is like a Camera Tripod

The tripod’s three stands represent the mediator and two parties. All three support one another for the foundation of the picture, and have to support one another in order for the camera to work. They also maintain level ground for the camera. If any one of these elements are missing, the picture will not be beautiful.

The camera has to be on a level plane in order to work. This represents the mediator’s neutrality. The camera cannot stand without the mediator or one of the parties missing, and will fall. This shows how crucial each party is to the mediation.

The height of the tripod can be adjusted. This represents the flexibility of altering perspectives throughout the mediation session.

Just like how pictures in the camera can be deleted, conflict can be deleted at mediation. All the pictures taken are stored on the memory card, and are gone from the camera when the memory card is removed. This represents confidentiality at mediation.

Everyone can exercise their autonomy to participate by being in the picture. Similarly, anyone can participate in mediation and benefit from the process.

The camera’s zoom out feature allows the mediator to move away from the narrow tunnel vision and look at the big picture, while the focus feature allows parties to focus on what others are saying and listen attentively to one another.


GROUP 4: Mediation is a Missing Puzzle Piece

– “I have a puzzle but the two pieces won’t fit.”
– “Should I cut it up?”
– “But the puzzle won’t look nice?”
– “I found another piece.”
– “Oh wow it fits perfectly!”

Mediation is a Missing Puzzle Piece

Mediation is like a missing puzzle piece that connects two parties together that are imperfect. Having to cut a puzzle piece in order for them to fit is like parties sacrificing part of their interests in order to come to a compromise. Like a missing puzzle piece, mediation allows parties to reach a mutually acceptable solution that doesn’t require either to give up what is important to them. A beautiful picture is formed by the pieces fitting together, the way a solution is reached when parties and the mediator come together.


GROUP 5: Mediation is a Pair of Swans

Mediation is a Pair of Swans

Mediation is a pair of swans, because swans are gentle and peaceful. When both swans are put together, the shape their necks make is a diamond. Just like how a diamond is hard to obtain, mediation is hard to master. Both also play important roles in society. A diamond can be used as a tool to shape or carve other things, while mediation is a tool we use to sort out problems.

The spectacles on the swans show that viewing things through different lenses can help make things clearer, and help you see things from different perspectives. The bridge in the background is to commemorate the previous year’s winning metaphor.


GROUP 6: Mediation is a Compass

Mediation is a Compass

A maze has multiple entry points, each leading to the centre via a unique route. Similarly, parties enter mediation with a unique perspective. What they see, experience, and the obstacles they face can be very different from one another. When they reach the end point, there is conflict. Parties think they know each other’s stories since they are in the same space. They assume that they had experienced the same thing since they are in the same maze, but what they had gone through may be different. This is a form of tunnel vision – assuming what they experienced is the same. When that is not the case, it leads to conflict.

A compass needs a needle, cardinal directions, and its casing to work. Likewise, mediation cannot proceed if either party or the mediator is absent.

Confidentiality: The fact that the compass is enclosed in an opaque maze represents confidentiality since no one outside the maze can get an idea of what is happening in the maze.

Neutrality: Only when the compass is on a flat surface will it work well. Similarly, neutrality must be maintained by the mediator for the most effective outcome.

Autonomy: Parties choose whether they want to hold the compass or to be guided by it. The compass helps parties see different sides and perspectives to the issues by allowing them to learn about the stories of different parties. This avoids tunnel vision.

This is where mediation comes in. Mediation helps parties see different perspectives to the complicated issue by learning about the other parties’ stories. Because parties have different orientations, turning in the same direction might not necessarily set the other party on the same route. However, a compass will set parties on the same route (by guiding them North, South, East, or West), towards a solution that they can all agree on together.

Mediation is a compass because it can help parties see the complete picture, set common ground, and guide them through conflict.


GROUP 7: Mediation is a Tightrope

Mediation is a Tight Rope

A tightrope is very thin, and you have to be very focused to not lose balance. Maintaining balance is like maintaining neutrality. If you don’t maintain neutrality, you will fall. Similarly, the mediation process will not proceed well if the mediator is not neutral.

Although the tightrope is very thin, it still connects two points together. Similarly, mediation brings two parties (represented by the mountains) together. We (the students) have written everyone’s names on the tightrope in order to convey that everyone has undertaken the challenge of mediating between two parties.


GROUP 8: Mediation is a Needle

Mediation is like a Needle

There are different kinds of needles.

Threading Needle

A threading needle patches up holes in fabric, and binds different pieces of fabric together to make something beautiful. Likewise, the mediator enables parties to reach resolution. Just like how the needle guides the thread, the mediator guides parties. However, the needle can also cause hurt – it can pierce you and cause you to harm yourself. Similarly, mediation can also cause harm if it is used wrongly.

Syringe Needle

Mediation can help people recover from emotional wounds. A syringe draws out blood, like how mediation draws out conflict. A syringe needle must also be precise – specific mediation techniques need to be applied depending on the context.

Acupuncture Needle

Acupuncture needles are pin needles – they need to be inserted precisely and accurately, otherwise the patient will be in a lot of discomfort. Similarly, if the mediator says something that makes parties uncomfortable, then parties will be in a situation of discomfort. However, if the acupuncture is done well, blood will flow well into the areas that are stressed, relieving the patient of pain. This is similar to the relief mediation provides if it is done well.


SPECIAL MENTION: Mediation is a Toilet

Mediation is like a Toilet

The three principles of mediation are: (i) autonomy, (ii) neutrality, and (iii) confidentiality.

  • Autonomy: Just like mediation, you can choose when, where, or how you use the toilet. You can use it in the day or night, and decide how long you want to use it for. You can even use what type of toilet you want to use – the squatting type, sitting type, or even a potty.
  • Neutrality: Long or short, big or small, the toilet will not judge.
  • Confidentiality: Whatever is made in the toilet, stays in the toilet. After the work is done and you use the flush, all evidence is destroyed.

The cubicle is like a mediation centre. You can go whenever you like, and leave only when you are satisfied.

The 4 stages of the mediation process is similar to going to the toilet.

  • Opening: You are apprehensive because you don’t know what you will find in a toilet. But when you are really urgent, you go in anyway.
  • Information Gathering: This is when you release the poop. Sometimes there is so much that you don’t know where to begin. But once you get comfortable, everything starts pouring out. Some get constipation, while others get diarrhoea. Everyone goes through pain, and it takes time and effort, but things will come through sooner or later. After that, you can step out and take a breath of fresh air.
  • Problem Solving: The flushing comes after you have been satisfied. It is only when you get everything out, that you are ready to start afresh.
  • Closing: Now you can step out of the smelly cubicle and start afresh, since you have gotten everything out of the way.

“Pissmakers – Helping you get your shit together”

That brings us to the end of another installment of visual metaphors for mediation! I hope readers found some of these as inspiring as we did!


For more pictures and videos of the Peacemakers Conference 2018, please visit the Peacemakers Facebook Page.

As Singapore’s leading peer mediation experts, Peacemakers has an extensive track record of managing and delivering conflict resolution training for youth at both local and international levels. If you would like to train your youth to better manage conflict, let us know how we can help via email at


And A Little Child Shall Lead Them – Peacemakers Conference 2017

On 12 July 2017, our Training and Development Advisor, Associate Professor Joel Lee, published a blog post on the Kluwer Mediation Blog entitled “And A Little Child Shall Lead Them – Peacemakers Conference 2017”. His blog post is reproduced in full below.

I have in previous entries (July 2012, July 2013, November 2015 and August 2016) written about a peer mediation initiative called the Peacemakers Conference. The purpose of the Peacemakers Conference is to teach 13-16 year olds how to resolve conflicts amicably in a workshop cum competition format. This year’s Peacemakers Conference was held from 19 to 21 June 2017.

As in previous years, we asked students from different schools to work together to create a visual metaphor for mediation. This started in 2015 and has become a regular feature in the Peacemakers Conference.

This year, the students came up with 8 visual metaphors which I would like to share with readers in this entry. For each of these, an image of the metaphor is shared along with a description of the metaphor. Readers can also watch these students present their metaphors at the Peacemakers Facebook page.

I would like to acknowledge the efforts of Ms. Jennifer LIM Wei Zhen for capturing the description of each of the metaphors that appear below.

1. Mediation is like a lighthouse

Mediation is like a lighthouse, that provides illumination in the dark night. It guides ships safely to shore by providing light that penetrates the dark. Similarly, mediation guides conflicting parties to an agreement. It provides the signal of hope to their final destination: the shore that promises safety.

Mediation guides parties in conflict to get over their sea of difference and anger, to reach the place of safety: the shore where family is: bringing conflicted parties home with the bright light of mediation – because they care and hope is rekindled.

2. Mediation is like solving a puzzle

Mediation is like solving a puzzle as to solve the conflict, you need a big picture, just like referring to the picture on the box of a puzzle to solve it. Mediators need to gather and piece the different puzzles to solve the problem. Mediators find the piece that fits into the puzzle, and satisfies both parties’ needs.

Although each puzzle piece is different, they are brought together in trying to solve the puzzle. This parallels how in mediation, parties have different mindsets, but the mediator brings them together to resolve the situation.

Every puzzle piece is important, just as how all 4 steps in the process of mediation are important: without each of them, the mediation would be a failure.

The process of solving a puzzle highlights the traits a mediator should have: patience and perseverance. Like solving a puzzle, mediation may take hours or days to finish. Mediation takes quite long as parties cannot easily understand each other or find it difficult to come to a common ground. If a mediator rushes to conclude a mediation, the outcome might not be what the parties actually want. It requires persevering through a lot of trial and error. If the mediator gives up, the parties have no one left to help them resolve their conflict: the mediator is like a light for the parties.

3. Mediation is medication for a war yet fought

Mediation is like medication as it mends the wound in the parties’ hearts, and allows them to better understand each other.


  • The bottle of medication contains pills that are initially shaped as bullets. This parallels how initially, we only see the surface or the position of the parties. The words the parties say to each other in furthering their position may come out as sharp or hurtful – like bullets.
  • After mediation, the parties understand each other better, so the bullets become heart-shaped: meaning the conflict can be resolved amicably.

A War yet fought:

  • This is represented by the broken gun: which symbolizes attacks that are broken and conflicts that are being resolved.
  • This parallels how many problems can be solved with mediation before they escalate into a “war” (such as a court case).

4. Mediation is like raging towards the dying light while fixing a broken vase in a universe of hope

This metaphor can be broken down into 3 parts.

  • “Mediation is like raging towards the dying light”: this is depicted by the person in bed at the top of the picture. He is about to die, and is fighting against his own fate. Raging means to fight, and this quote means to fight against the dying light. Similarly, mediation is going against their internal conflict, going against the fate of the broken relationship, and hoping against hope, to get something out of it, to patch things up within themselves.
  • “While fixing a broken vase”: the vase represents the communication and understanding between the 2 parties. While mediation fixes the broken vase, the vase will never look the same. Nonetheless, something new is still rebuilt. Even if the relationship is not as perfect as before, mediation still helps the two parties understand each other.
  • “In a universe of hope”: the whole universe is something we have never seen before, but we know exists. Mediation helps people find that hope that people want, even if we can’t see it yet.

The process of mediation is as difficult as raging, but it allows understanding between parties by facilitating communication between them.

5. Mediation is like the Power of Attraction

The mediator is like a magnet, and the puzzle pieces are the elements of mediation. The mediator will ask the right questions to let the parties share their interests. The mediator will use their power to attract the right pieces for the parties to form a picture and common understanding of each other, to facilitate resolving the matter.

6. Mediation is like a Bridge

Mediation is like a bridge between two cliffs that are initially apart. Not being able to resolve a conflict hurts like a volcano and tsunami (depicted at the bottom of each cliff). This creates the sea of grief, emotions, and sorrow in between them.

Mediation lay and rebuilds a foundation between the parties with the strong sturdy bridge. It is not biased, but a platform to lead to each other, at their own pace to find their own hope and universe. It allows the parties to get out from the thunderstorm they are under and share the beautiful scene of the rainbow after the storm together, and create new beautiful memories. It’s no longer about victory or defeat, but creating a future together for both parties to enjoy.

Just as how mediation is a voluntary process, this bridge only works if both parties are willing to take a step forward, to take down their walls and build the bridge. Mediation is a bridge where parties stop talking about each other, but talk to each other. The parties are also contained in a bubble, in their own universe. This represents the confidentiality of mediation: no one knows about them – this bridge and universe is only for them, and significant to them only.

7. Mediation is like a Hammer

Like a hammer, mediation has the capacity to destroy or build structures (relationships). Nails can cause wounds, but they can also hold things in place. Thus, the nails are labelled “love”, “friendship”, “family”, “trust”. As the students wittily added: “Nails also mean if you did it [mediation] well, you NAILED it!” (sic).

8. Mediation Unlocks Hearts

Mediation unlocks hearts because when parties go through the mediation, they let down their ego and open up to each other. A hand is depicted as being wrapped around the padlock, as it is the mediator’s hand and touch that helps unlock the hearts. Although what is depicted is a single heart shape, this is because biologically speaking, the shape of a real human heart technically only comprises half a heart-shape. Thus, what is depicted is a single heart made of two human biological hearts: joined as one through mediation.

That brings us to the end of another installment of visual metaphors for mediation! I hope readers found some of these as inspiring as we did!


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