The Early Years
In 1995, a group of leading judges, former judges, academics and practitioners identified a 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. They came together to form Resolution Systems Institute (originally known as the Center for Analysis of Alternative Dispute Resolution Systems, CAADRS). With relatively few court ADR programs functioning in Illinois, RSI also began to assist courts in establishing programs and determining how to monitor and evaluate them.
During our early years, RSI worked all across the state of Illinois, focusing mostly on helping courts develop major civil case mediation programs. The services we provided typically included program development, mediator training, and a system to monitor and evaluate the mediation program. Over the years, the types of cases we focus on has evolved. We now direct our energies to improving access to justice through mediation for those with limited access to the justice system.
One thing we learned from our early experiences was that courts needed easy access to reliable and complete information about ADR. In response, we established the Resource Center.
For many years, four services -- program development, training, research and resources -- formed the core of our offerings. With each passing year, we worked to improve our capability and to broaden our service area.
As state courts around Illinois decided to establish ADR programs, they sought out RSI’s expert support and guidance. When some of their counterparts in the federal courts sought us out, RSI expanded to include them. 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 jurisdictions, but the types of cases involved in ADR processes and the backgrounds of the parties. RSI began to assist with the ever-widening array of family programs and, in 2007, created a statewide program to develop programs focused on improving access to justice through mediation for poor and low-income disputants.
As we continued to develop our monitoring and evaluation programs and provide technical assistance in Illinois, RSI’s reputation for expertise in court ADR spread nationally. In 2008, we moved our resource center online, establishing CourtADR.org. This prompted RSI to take another giant step – transitioning from solely assisting courts in Illinois to serving courts across the country, as well. We also changed our name to Resolution Systems Institute.
Over the next five years, RSI solidified our ability to provide services in our three core areas of competency. We focused on designing dispute systems for courts, researching court ADR issues and evaluating court ADR programs, and continuing to collect and disseminate reliable resources about court ADR.
Practicing What We Preach
2013 was a big year for RSI. We had the opportunity to “practice what we preach” thanks to a three-year foreclosure mediation grant from the Office of the Illinois Attorney General by beginning to administer court mediation programs -- a significant new service offering -- and expanding our training capacity. The grant, which was later extended to five years, supported the following:
- Development and administration of three foreclosure mediation programs in the northern part of Illinois
- Development and presentation of mediator training for our programs and those of program partners in the central and southern parts of Illinois
- Creation and operation of an online case management and monitoring system for programs under the grant
- Evaluation of all AG-funded foreclosure mediation programs throughout the state.
In 2016, RSI continued to expand our mediation services for those with limited access to justice. Judges who had worked with our foreclosure mediation program in Kane County, Illinois, asked if we could develop a new mediation program to serve families when children are removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect. We took all the lessons we had learned over more than two decades, partnered and developed the Kane County Child Protection Mediation Program. This program conducts mediations among parents, foster parents, lawyers and social workers, helping to overcome barriers to permanent homes for children in foster care. We designed the program, trained the mediators, and are administering and monitoring the program.
In 2017, we launched a new website. We completely renovated the online resource center, allowing for improved access to resources. We wrote all new content, sharing RSI's court ADR expertise through expanded vehicles. And we redesigned the site, providing a cleaner, sharper path to the information needed about court ADR and about RSI.
Looking to the Future
With each growth step, we believe RSI moves closer to accomplishing our mission of improving access to justice through court ADR. We provide reliable information and expert assistance so that court ADR programs can function at the highest level of quality and in the most effective manner. The future has yet to be written, but challenges are likely. RSI plans to meet them and to continue to do so with the quality and reliability that have made us the most respected voice in court ADR.