Prioritizing Practice in Ombudsman and ADR Programs

Date01 July 2014
Published date01 July 2014
DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1002/crq.21098
C R Q, vol. 31, no. 4, Summer 2014 463
Published 2014.  is article is a U.S. Government work and is in the public domain in the USA.
Published online in Wiley Online Library (wileyonlinelibrary.com) • DOI: 10.1002/crq.21098
Prioritizing Practice in Ombudsman
and ADR Programs
David E. Michael
is article examines ways in which the Offi ce of the Ombudsman/
Center for Cooperative Resolution (OO/CCR) at the National
Institutes of Health pursues activities that comprise an orientation
toward practice and supports development of an “activist” ombudsman
orientation.  e article opens by describing challenges that alternative
dispute resolution (ADR) organizations face, contrasts them with
the experience of OO/CCR, details elements of a practice orienta-
tion as experienced at OO/CCR, and suggests ways in which ADR
and ombudsman organizations may address their own challenges and
pursue a practice orientation.
Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) organizations in the United States
now occupy a signifi cant space within the dispute resolution landscape
in our communities. At the same time, it is intriguing that many public
sector ADR organizations often face signifi cant challenges: distinct cultures
that put the ADR program in confl ict with the values of its host organiza-
tion, increasing administrative demands and activities that can often crowd
out emphasis on ADR practice, and the overreliance on and misapplication
of metrics to measure ADR program performance, for example.  ese and
other challenges can limit ADR organizations’ ability to promote meaningful
dispute resolution practice. In my own experience with ADR programs over
the past two decades, I have observed that court, community, and federal
sector ADR programs often struggle with some variant of these challenges.
Equally intriguing to me is that the Offi ce of the Ombudsman/Center for
Cooperative Resolution (OO/CCR) at the National Institutes of Health
has few of the challenges I have observed elsewhere (O’Brien, McManus,
Cutrona, and Boertzel 2000; Raines, Pokhrel, and Poitras 2013). OO/CCR

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