Alternative dispute resolution, or ADR, is an umbrella term used to describe a variety of methods for resolving disputes outside of traditional methods such as litigation. Sometimes the "A" in ADR is defined as "appropriate" rather than "alternative" as a way of indicating that ADR relates to finding the most fitting way to resolve disputes. Sometimes there is no "A" used and simply the phrase "dispute resolution" is used, as a way to indicate that all approaches to dispute resolution are potentially considered. Whichever way the acronym is spelled out - alternative, appropriate, or just dispute resolution - the concept of ADR is based on expanding the tools available for resolving disputes.
For many proponents of ADR, ADR is not just a form of dispute resolution; it is also a philosophy. Many value a larger goal behind ADR. For example, some see the use of ADR as part of a larger effort to bring peace to the world or heal a damaged community. Others see ADR as a way of leveling the playing field between parties in dispute. Additionally, other proponents of ADR value the potential economies of ADR processes for courts, parties and society. Certainly, not all participants in ADR, or even those who develop ADR programs, would subscribe to these philosophies. However, in general, supporters of ADR prize this form of dispute resolution because they believe ADR can have impacts that go beyond what a court order can accomplish.