Loughborough University
Leicestershire, UK
LE11 3TU
+44 (0)1509 263171
Loughborough University

Enterprise Awards 2013

Social Impact

Two people having a disagreement

Changing communication skills training with CARM

Loughborough academic
Professor Elizabeth Stokoe Department of Social Sciences

In 2005, social psychologist Professor Elizabeth Stokoe embarked on a three-year Economic and Social Research Council-funded study of neighbour disputes. With Professor Derek Edwards, she examined how disputes are handled across organisations including community mediation services and the police.

For one part of the study, Elizabeth analysed hundreds of recorded initial telephone inquiries between members of the public and mediation services. She found that many mediators, at key moments in their interaction with callers, failed to ‘convert’ them into clients of their service. But she also identified strategies that worked and moved the mediation process forward.

Elizabeth took examples of both good and bad practice to develop a new type of communication skills training: the Conversation Analytic Role-play Method. CARM uses the recordings of actual, live encounters between professionals and clients as the basis for training, in contrast to the more typical ‘hypothetical’ role-play approaches.

CARM enables participants to live through encounters without knowing what is coming next, and ‘role-play’ what they might do in that situation. Participants identify best practice on the basis of what people actually do and say. CARM has been extremely well received by the mediation industry and is rapidly spreading into other areas in the UK and overseas, including police investigative interviewing, student-loan counselling, performance appraisal and medical communication.

View CARM research article


  • Since 2008, and with further ESRC support, 100+ CARM workshops have been delivered to 1000+ participants across 50+ services in the UK / Ireland and USA, including the National Crime Academy in Hendon and the US Superior Court in Washington, DC
  • CARM is accredited for Continuing Professional Development by the College of Mediators
  • CARM is an ESRC impact case study
  • Elizabeth Stokoe was awarded a British Psychological Society mid-career award (September, 2011) – her work will be the subject of BBC Radio 4’s ‘The Life Scientific’ in summer 2013

Praise for CARM:

CARM ... was, quite simply, one of the most fascinating workshops I have attended in 11 years of going to conflict resolution conferences and events. I think one of the reasons I found it so interesting is because it challenges in a very fundamental way much of the received wisdom on how we train mediators to communicate with their clients.

Brendan Donaghy
Northern Ireland Housing Executive, and Editor, Mediation Digest

CARM has had a big impact on mediation in UK and Ireland already, not only through workshops but also through putting people together and creating networks. Liz has helped to fill a vacuum.

ESRC Impact Case Study

In the context of the need for researchers to make their findings more relevant for lay practitioners, Elizabeth Stokoe’s development of CARM – the Conversation Analysis Role-Play Method – is perhaps the most significant of these developments.

Professor Michael Emmison
School of Social Science, The University of Queensland

The fact that it was ‘real’, as opposed to role-play was a relief. It was so much better (and more interesting and motivating) to deal with reality as opposed to made-up scenarios/acting which obviously can’t replicate the range of emotional responses/dilemmas that everyone (clients/mediators) experience.

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