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History of ADR and Conflict Resolution

History of ADR and Conflict Resolution

Author: marlene johnson

At the end of this tutorial, the learner will have a general understanding of the history of conflict resolution as a field of study and practice

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ADR stands for Alternative Dispute Resolution. But what does that term really mean? Well, I'm Marlene, and in this tutorial I'd like to explore that with you. I'd like to look at the history of ADR programs and conflict resolution. So let's start by defining alternative dispute resolution.

It is a term often cited used interchangeable with conflict resolution but more often associated with processes used in lieu of a court process. So all cultures have really had some form of ADR as part of their judicial system. I know in this country Native American cultures have used something called peacekeeping circles, which is a way of bringing a group together in a circle, allowing each person within that circle to both speak and be heard.

Quite often, they'd use something called a talking piece, and the person who was speaking would have that talking piece. Now, within the United States, ADR has really grown a lot. It's become very popular for people as a way to solve and resolve conflict. For one thing, it's a lot less costly, and it can be faster than going through the court systems.

There are a lot of factors behind the growth of ADR. One is this fact that it is less costly and more efficient. But also we can go back to the Civil Rights Movement to see a spike in the growth of ADR process coming from there. During this time, there were a lot of laws passed protecting individual rights.

There was also a lot less tolerance for discrimination and injustice. And so we saw a lot more court cases filed. I think the same can be said as time went on with the women's movement and the environmental movement, a lot more court cases, a lot more need for ADR processes.

Now, ADR processes also improve community relationships. Thus we've seen a growth in community mediation. So let's take a moment and define community mediation. Community mediation are mediation services provided by community-based organizations. Usually they are not-for-profits.

Now, I know here in the Twin Cities we have three such organizations. We have the Conflict Resolution Center in Minneapolis, the Conflict Mediation Services in New Hope, and we have Dispute Resolution Center in Saint Paul. Now, mediation services have become quite popular within court systems because they, as I had said previously, can relieve the court from cases when they have too many cases that they have to process.

I know that the community-based mediation programs here in the Twin Cities work within the courts specifically in Hennepin County within Harassment Court and Housing Court. And I know within Housing Court there's something called pre-filing where landlords can actually file and set up a mediation to settle a dispute before they actually file in court.

So these are some ways that the courts had worked together with community mediation programs to help them with their load of cases. We also find that a number of people prefer divorce mediation rather than going through courts. Once again, this is less costly, and it may be more efficient. There's also something called victim offender reconciliation programs.

These are programs where you bring a victim and an offender together to address the wrong that was done. I know that community mediation programs have gotten involved with this sort of restorative justice. Within Minneapolis, there is a program whereby juveniles, first-time offenders, can go through a mediation program with a community-based mediation program here in the Twin Cities.

If they successfully complete that program, then their record will be expunged. The offense, if it's a first time, will be taken off their record. So police look to the community mediation programs as places to refer disputes such as neighborhoods disputes, neighbor-on-neighbor disputes, things that they could refer to mediation to be settled so that they can focus on crime.

So that's a little bit about community mediation. Community mediation can work within communities and can also help alleviate the courts. So in summary, ADR has grown a lot within the United States as a popular alternative to the courts. All cultures have some form of ADR.

And the popularity and the growth of ADR has even led to academic programs all the way up to the PhD level where people are focusing on alternative dispute resolution techniques. So I'm Marlene, and thank you for being part of this tutorial. I look forward to seeing you next time.

Terms to Know

Alternative Dispute Resolution, a term often used interchangeably with conflict resolution, but more often associated with processes used in lieu of a court process.

Community Mediation

Mediation services provided by community-based organizations (usually not-for-profits).