No Sheriff in Town: Governance for the ODR Field

by Beth Graham

October 2016

Disputing Blog by Karl Bayer, Victoria VanBuren, and Holly Hayes

Beth Graham

Noam Ebner, Professor of Negotiation and Conflict Resolution and Online Program Chair for the Werner Institute at Creighton University School of Law, and Professor John Zeleznikow of Victoria University have published “No Sheriff in Town: Governance for the ODR Field,” Negotiation Journal, Vol. 32(4), 2016.  In their journal article, Professors Ebner and Zeleznikow pose questions regarding how best to govern the field of online alternative dispute resolution.

Here is the abstract:

Online Dispute Resolution (ODR), the practice of resolving disputes via the Internet or digital applications, has been developing since the mid-1990s. As the field has grown and gained traction, it has increasingly received attention from professional associations and industry leaders in the world of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) More recently, it has begun to receive recognition from sources outside of this field – in both the public and private sectors.

As the field develops and individual initiatives become widely adopted, the attention it receives from external sources will undoubtedly focus on questions of quality, ethics, practitioner training, service provider qualifications, and monitoring. These questions – already beginning to be heard from within the field – derive, in essence, from one shared overall question, that of appropriate governance for the ODR field.

In this paper, we will explain what we mean when we discuss a field’s governance and make the case that the field itself should investigate issues of its own governance. We explore and explain the current “low-to-no” state of governance in ODR – and the developments that are likely should the field fail to actively address this issue. We discuss the costs of no governance, and the potential costs and disadvantages of employing a higher-governance model. We ask whether ODR can, indeed, be governed at all, and illustrate why – addressing ODR governance is a very complex venture, in terms of the web of factors to be addressed – no matter how beneficial internal governance may be.

We do not, in this article, intend to decide any of these questions – but rather to pose them to the ODRfield and to the wider fields of ADR and conflict management. We point out why the ODR field is at a developmental point that is highly suitable for discussing and deciding these questions – and why these decisions might have far-reaching implications for a wide range of conflict-related fields.

This and other scholarly works written by Professors Ebner and Zeleznikow are available for download from theSocial Science Research Network.

Beth Graham received a J.D. from the University of Nebraska College of Law in 2004 and a M.A. in Information Science and Learning Technologies from the University of Missouri in 2006. She also holds a B.S. in Public Administration from the University of Nebraska-Omaha. She is licensed to practice law in Texas and the District of Columbia.



Additional articles by Beth Graham
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