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Online Dispute Resolution: Finding Calm in the Midst of a Storm

Author: Kairistie Walker, Q.Med

Whether meeting face to face cannot happen due to geography, cost, streamlining an overloaded system, or a pandemic, whatever the reason, there is an optimal solution in Online Dispute Resolution (ODR).

For years, organisations from around the World have been gradually tapping into technology’s proficiencies in support of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). According to Grahma Ross, it was in 2012, when the introduction of the World’s first legislation specific to ODR took place, after a decade of annual international forums analyzing how global justice systems were being shaped by online technology [1]. Many nations have found their core ADR systems enhanced from high-tech support, systems like Australia’s Federal Court, which includes an e-Court system allowing parties to testify via video-conference [2]. Others, more cautious in taking the leap, have been dipping their toes in and finding encouraging results. Provincially, for instance, British Columbia opened up their Civil Resolution Tribunal case management system to online portals to assist access to justice [3].

Other areas receiving the vast benefits of ADR have also experienced the advantages of technological inclusion, areas like customer service. Organisations like the European Union and companies like Amazon and E-Bay have aided consumer disputes through ODR with positive advantages, such as improved trust and loyalty among its users [4]. This, among other reasons, is why Fresh Start is excited about bringing more awareness to our online services. ODR has been part of our toolkit for a while, particularly in cases where geography has made it a necessity.

The vast benefits of utilizing ODR techniques, methods, and practitioners ensure the continual preservation of confidentiality, and practices in accordance with our professions’ oath and ethical obligations. As said, ODR is not only used to assist when there are geographical constraints, it is an empowering instrument for those participating, whether practitioners are working with an individual, helping relationships, workplaces, or facilitating societal progress and constructive change; it is always one step at a time. It is in these matters, and more, that ODR increases access to mental health support and access to justice. Thus, including areas where therapy, for example, aides families wanting to work to continue together in a healthy manner, or for those requiring ADR succoring in separation and divorce. Fresh Start’s processes augment inclusivity and access, paying special attention to fairness, respect, dignity, and compassion, thus, saving individuals time, money, and heartache.

The goal is to help with a highly trained team, particularly during such trying times as these. Those feeling isolated, marginalized, or silenced will be heard and helped to thrive. ODR enables us to ensure all voices are heard, which is why we are actively reaching out to our fellow Canadians, to let them know they are not alone. Our ODR processes are designed to respond effectively to the realities of today, focusing particular attention to the principles of accessibility, fairness, as well as confidentiality, and transparency in a manner that increases trust, peace, hope and well-being. Further more, Fresh Start takes the additional strategic steps to ensure an individual, and the relationship, find a healthy, sustainable future specific to their needs.

ODR facilitates Fresh Start’s expertise, opening up access for many more individuals and organisations, it is a flexible and creative tool that allows parties to participate in the process that can be moulded to suit their unique needs, encouraging consensual rather than adversarial approaches. It is an appropriate option for today’s reality of social distancing and isolation, as well as those wanting to maintain their privacy and control over what happens in their situation. This is also for those looking for help with managing their daily life, healthy communication skills, health and well-being, and so much more.

It is important to focus on one’s future, an undeniable benefit of ODR, especially during such times as these where the day to day swells can feel overwhelming. The reasons for ADR specialists being such a missing link in aiding individuals, families, communities, and businesses, is something that Fresh Start is working to change. With the list of risks and vulnerabilities that begins with illness, unemployment, bankruptcy, layoffs, profit losses, and… continuing on like one of Santa’s lists of all the good little children, certainly one must agree that now is the time to bring in professional strategists fluent in online processes.

Whatever the need is, experts in ODR have trained for times of crisis, as well as how to stave off those storms beginning to build. Remember, not only is there hope, the pressure may be brought backdown for one to feel more in command, no matter what is going on in the World around

[1] Ross G. (2013). Online Dispute Resolution, Infolaw Newsletter.

[2] Department of Justice (2012). Online Dispute Resoution, Dispute Resolution Series. Canada, Dispute Resolution Reference Guide.

[3] Department of Justice (2012). Online Dispute Resoution, Dispute Resolution Series. Canada, Dispute Resolution Reference Guide.

[4] DeMars J. (2015). ODR fAn International Business Approach to Solving Consumer Complaints. Adamson C. (Ed). Designing Systems for Effective Dispute Settlement: A US Practitioner Perspective.

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