No Sheriff in Town: Governance for the ODR Field

Negotiation Journal, Vol. 32(4), 2016

47 Pages Posted: 30 Sep 2016

See all articles by Noam Ebner

Noam Ebner

Creighton University Heider College of Business

John Zeleznikow

Victoria University - Victoria University of Technology

Date Written: 2016


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 ODR field 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.

Keywords: ODR, Online, Online Dispute Resolution, Conflict, Dispute, ADR, Alternative Dispute Resolution, Mediation, Negotiation, IT, Arbitration, Governance, Ethics, Training, Accreditation

Suggested Citation

Ebner, Noam and Zeleznikow, John, No Sheriff in Town: Governance for the ODR Field (2016). Negotiation Journal, Vol. 32(4), 2016, Available at SSRN: or

Noam Ebner (Contact Author)

Creighton University Heider College of Business ( email )

2500 California Plaza
Omaha, NE 68178
United States

John Zeleznikow

Victoria University - Victoria University of Technology ( email )

P.O. Box 14428
Melbourne, Victoria 8001

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