In 1995, when RSI was established, the world of court ADR and the availability of information looked radically different than they do now. While court ADR was becoming established in some court settings (e.g., divorce) and some jurisdictions (e.g., Florida), in many other jurisdictions it was just getting off the ground. Similarly, while public use of the internet was expanding that year with the launch of services such as AOL, Amazon, and eBay, it would still be a few years before anyone could “google” anything.
It was in this context that the founders of RSI laid the foundation of the organization. They believed, as we continue to believe today, that sharing information among those working in court ADR can improve the quality of court ADR services. So they formed an organization whose core service was to collect and disseminate reliable information about court ADR.
In those early years, the RSI Resource Center resided on bookshelves and in file folders. RSI’s two staffers were knowledgeable about almost everything that was published about court ADR.
As court ADR grew, we grew the Resource Center. From a small collection of early research studies, more resources were added. We collected court rules, state statutes, law journals, magazines, newsletters, studies, evaluations and statewide reports on how court ADR was operating and increasing across the country. We had a special focus on our home state of Illinois, collecting any available statistics about the use of court ADR.
Soon there was too much information for staff to retain and recollect. We created a database and designed a system of fields so that we could retrieve specific types of resources, in particular jurisdictions, dealing with particular types of cases, and using various forms of court ADR. With use of the internet developing in society, we launched our first website in 1998. We posted our own research and evaluations and, because we had created the database, we put it online and made it free and searchable by the public.
In the intervening years, the Resource Center and website went through three major iterations, growing and changing as court ADR and technology evolved. As more and more information became available on the internet, we moved from trying to be a comprehensive collection of information on court ADR to applying a more curated approach. We now select items to add to the Resource Center from among new resources as they become available. We also develop our own content, which we write specifically for the site, as well as post our own research and evaluations. As we have deepened RSI’s expertise, we now offer more of it online.
The Resource Center of Today
The RSI Resource Center of the late 2010s is a huge success. By starting two decades ago, RSI collected a robust trove of resources that are not available anywhere else.
The Resource Center is still based on a database, which is still searchable and free of charge. But today the Resource Center is so much more. RSI has developed our own original content, not available anywhere else, to share our expertise. Click on the following to explore aspects of the Resource Center:
- RSI's Guide to Court ADR Program Success
- Court ADR Basics
- Special Topics
- Model Surveys
- Model Tools for Mediator Peer Review
Over the years, we also have made great strides in our ability to disseminate the information we collect. Along with making information available on the site, we reach out to those working in court ADR and inform them as new information becomes available. Dissemination techniques we use include:
- Social media on Facebook and LinkedIn
- Court ADR Connection, our monthly e-newsletter
- Just Court ADR Blog
Another dissemination technique that has evolved over the years is our response to individual inquiries. With more information about court ADR available online, we receive fewer calls for information that cannot be found on our site or others. But we still answer requests for information, many of which include a request for guidance about best practices. After more than 20 years of work in court ADR, we are happy to share what we have learned.
With internet access nearly ubiquitous these days, it is easy to forget that there was a time when access to information was much more difficult. But just as Star Trek was summed up by the phrase “to boldly go where no one has gone before,” for RSI the phrase, “to collect and disseminate reliable information about court ADR,” still sums up the goal of our Resource Center. As court ADR and technology continue to evolve, RSI is committed to maintaining and making available the most useful, well-respected, and wide-ranging source of information about court ADR available anywhere.