Out there in cyberspace, Online Dispute Resolution is being developed and practiced by people who have never attended Cyberweek, participated in the International Forum on ODR, or even heard of the term ODR. Their development of the tools and practices of ODR is at least as important as the development work being conducted by the dispute resolution world. ODRBlog is going to hunt these platforms and practitioners down and introduce them to the ODR community.
Preparing for, and participating in, Cyberweek this past October (and recuperating from it reflectively afterwards), I was struck by how ODR is constantly expanding. This seems to be a seasonal thing, as I get this feeling every Cyberweek. New people are always involved, new platforms and new thinking.
However, those of us who experienced the slow and furious pace of ADR growth know that there is a huge difference between a field’s expansion, a field’s acceptance, and a field’s mainstreaming.
To a large extent, the only one of these three that ODR professionals and academics can directly affect in a powerful manner is the field’s expansion: We can build better platforms (well, not me, but you get my meaning), design better processes, think of new areas for implementation, and more.
To a lesser degree, we can affect the field’s acceptance by the public. We can do this by means of advertisement, lobbying, academic publishing and public relations, or through one-by-one proselytizing (anybody involved in ODR, much like anyone involved in ADR, has done their share of that. We should set up a blog site dedicated to those stories!). However, the larger part of this effort is not something that can be affected from inside the ODR field. Widespread acceptance of ODR, to say nothing of the mainstreaming of ODR into the way people, governments and business conduct their interactions, will require patience, and will depend on external support - the knowing or unknowing contributions of entities unconnected to the dispute resolution field or the ODR movement.
Patience, because time is working in ODR’s favor. The world is moving online, where ODR is waiting for it. People will increasingly use ODR offered by ODR professionals, as the components of ODR become commonplace practices in non-ODR contexts.
I think this is obvious, and perhaps familiar to all of us from our own experiences. Some examples might be:
People who have engaged in one (or all!) of these, will probably find the idea of settling disputes online neither silly nor daunting, and perhaps not even revolutionary at all! Indeed - these have all become pretty widespread phenomena, and I think that ODR has benefitted from them. When I introduce the concept of ODR to people nowadays, I hear fewer responses questioning my sanity and good judgment than I did a few years ago. What might be the next step along the user-familiarity road?
This is where the ‘external support’ I mentioned above comes into play. I think that if ODR-like processes become commonly offered, or embedded, in different industry settings, by non-ODR –labeled professionals, companies and government entities, ODR acceptance and mainstreaming will be greatly advanced.
This is why I’m always on the lookout for instances of ODR type processes, services, or platforms being developed in industry or governmental contexts, by people who may have never even heard of ODR. Early-on examples of this might be an e-HRM outsourcing firm considering offering its clients to handle their salary negotiations through a negotiation support system they’ve developed (one such project I know about never got off the ground, so I can’t provide you with a link). Another might be a sourcing company offering its clients use of a platform through which they can not only locate multiple suppliers, but also make contact and negotiate with them.
My guess? There is a lot more ODR going on out there than we know of. The Internet, remarked Noam knowingly, is a big place. As Homer S. once said, they even have it on computers nowadays. It’s amazing how much is going on out there, and there is no way to keep track of it - even when you spend something like 16 hours a day online (although when my wife asks me, I insist it couldn’t possibly be more than 2-3, tops). Given that I’m interested in learning about things going on outside of the dispute resolution field’s semi-defined reservation, staying on top of things is a double challenge.
Which is where we can get the whole interactive part of the Internet going: I’m asking for your help, in identifying new instances of non-ODR ODR. I’m guessing that some of these processes and platforms will be labeled with such names and terms as CRM, customer relations, multi-vendor purchasing, and a whole slew of specific industry jargon. When we reveal the core service or process involved, however, they will be easily recognizable by anybody familiar with ODR. The challenge is identifying them while they still bear their original labels. Please chime in below or write me (NoamEbner@Creighton.edu), suggesting sites, platforms or services you know about, that fit the following criteria:
Help me out? Send me sites which you think fit (more or less) these criteria, and I will chase them down and intro them to the ADR and ODR community (with credit given, where desired!). Thanks!