Resolution Systems Institute (RSI) was formed (as Center for Analysis of Alternative Dispute Resolution Systems - CAADRS) in 1995 to address the need for an organization in Illinois that could gather and disseminate reliable information about court alternative dispute resolution (ADR), conduct analyses of court ADR program models, and build networks among interested individuals and organizations. With relatively few court ADR programs functioning in Illinois, RSI then also began to assist courts in establishing programs and determining how to monitor and evaluate them.

The individuals who formed RSI saw the need for the organization as they helped to establish the first major civil mediation program in the state in the early 1990s. Their assistance to those programs included mediator training, and program evaluation and monitoring – all hallmarks of the future organization. They learned from that experience that courts required better information and an easy way to access it, as well as an organization to share expertise and guidance in developing effective, efficient court ADR programs.

These leaders also developed the outside-the-box, results-oriented philosophies that would steer the organization. As an example of this unconventional thinking, RSI was not organized as a separate 501(c)(3) organization, but was affiliated with the Center for Conflict Resolution, Chicago’s long-standing non-profit mediation organization. This provided economies for both entities and opportunities to leverage the skills and networks of each while RSI matured into an independent non-profit.

Historically, as state courts around Illinois decided to establish ADR programs, they sought out RSI’s expert support and guidance. With the need for program development and improvement growing, RSI expanded to include the federal court in Illinois. Courts needed high-quality assistance but generally were not positioned to allocate funds for these efforts, so the demand for RSI’s services grew. That demand broadened not just in terms of the jurisdictions, but also the types of cases involved in ADR processes and the backgrounds of the parties. RSI found itself assisting with the ever-widening array of family programs and creating a statewide program to develop programs focused on serving the needs of poor and low-income disputants.

As the hands-on programs of monitoring & evaluation and technical assistance continued to develop in Illinois, RSI’s reputation for reliable information spread nationally through CourtADR.org, RSI’s online resource center. The creation of CourtADR.org prompted RSI to take another giant step – this time from serving just Illinois to serving courts across the country.

In 2013, thanks to a grant from the Office of the Illinois Attorney General, RSI had the opportunity to “practice what we preach.” We took on responsibility for developing and administering three foreclosure mediation programs in the northern part of the state; conducting mediator training for our programs and those of program partners in the central and southern parts of Illinois; creating and providing an online case management and monitoring system for programs under the grant; and conducting statewide evaluations of all programs under the grant.

With each growth step, RSI has taken on greater responsibility for providing reliable information and expert assistance so that court ADR programs can function with the highest quality and in the most consistent manner. The future has yet to be written, but challenges are likely and RSI plans to meet them and continue to do so with the quality and reliability that have made it the most respected organization in court ADR.