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John Helie: A Pioneering Leader in the Field of Dispute Resolution

by Colin Rule
November 2005

John Helie was the 2005 recipient of the ACR Mary Parker Follet Award.

Colin Rule
John Helie is a great guy, a wonderful friend, and a caring member of the Berkeley community. However, many do not understand the extent of his contribution to the field of dispute resolution. He is a skilled and experienced mediator, a close and valued colleague to many if not most of the leaders in the ADR field, and he is one of the fathers of the new field of Online Dispute Resolution.

John was on the Founding Task Force that created the Berkeley Dispute Resolution Service (BDRS) in 1988, and he served as Board President from 1994-1998. He’s remained closely connected to the community dispute resolution center since its launch, and today works in a court connected dispute resolution program in the Bay area. John also was President of the Society of Dispute Resolution’s (SPIDR) Northern California Chapter from 2000-2003, and he presided over the complex merger with the Northern California Mediation Association (NCMA) that lead to the creating of the Association for Dispute Resolution of Northern California (ADRNC).

John has also been intimately involved with the field on a national level for decades, first through SPIDR and more recently the Association for Conflict Resolution. (ACR). John also spearheaded the creation of the first Online Section, which I was lucky enough to co-chair for two years after he was finished co-chairing it. I’m sure he’s served in many other ways and on many other task forces I don’t even know about.

In 1988 John founded ConflictNet, which was the first online resource for the dispute resolution field. Well before the popularization of the Internet, ConflictNet began the work of facilitating dialogue online and sharing information to provide alternatives to litigation. As a network of the Institute for Global Communications (IGC) and its International affiliate The Association for Progressive Communications (APC), ConflictNet became an online community and a testing-ground for ideas and proposals across the range of disciplines within the conflict resolution field. To this day many of the leaders of the dispute resolution field have emails that end in igc.org because John set them up with their first email account back in those early days. Each one is a testament to the role John played in wiring the field.

John built upon the enormous impact of ConflictNet when he Co-founded Mediate.com with Jim Melamed in the mid-1990s. Mediate.com greatly increased the public understanding of dispute resolution alternatives - by offering 1800+ articles and by reaching over a million visitors per year. Mediate.com is now the world's most visited conflict resolution web site. Mediate.com also provides an active forum, and newsletter to stimulate idea-sharing among conflict resolution practitioners, trainers and academics. Many practitioners have received case referrals from Mediate.com’s Locate a Mediator database.

John also is a pioneer in public dispute resolution. In 1994 he worked with the former Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS) on a Re-Inventing Government project that provided network access to information and dialogue about dispute resolution. As a result of this work John was invited to co-facilitate RuleNet, an Internet based system for Regulatory Negotiation. RuleNet was designed by John and built by the Lawrence Livermore Labs for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. It’s difficult to overstate the impact of this path breaking project.

John’s work seeded the creation of huge government programs focused on electronic rulemaking which the federal government has spent millions on over the last five years. John’s project was the first to apply collaborative technology to public dispute resolution. It would be years before anyone else would come around to understanding the significance of that innovation – and John’s platform still has not been surpassed in terms of its sophistication.

John was the first Fellow at the University of Massachusetts Amherst Center for Information Technology and Dispute Resolution. CITDR would not exist if not for John’s intervention, as John recommended to Hewlett that the Center be funded. Because of his prominence in the field Hewlett decided to go ahead with the grant. Over the last 7-8 years CITDR has become the home of global online dispute resolution, hosting the International Competition in Online Dispute Resolution, ADR Cyberweek, the UN Working Group on ODR, ODR Info, and many other innovative and essential components of the ODR field.

Ask any leader in the dispute resolution field what they think of John and they’ll tell you that John is open, friendly, collaborative, gregarious, funny, and a pleasure to work with and be around. He represents almost everything that is wonderful about the dispute resolution field: open heartedness, generosity, empathy, and intelligence.

Biography


Colin Rule has worked at the intersection of technology and conflict resolution for the last two decades. He is CEO of Modria.com, an online dispute resolution service provider in Silicon Valley, and a non-resident Fellow at the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School. From 2003 to 2011, he served as eBay and PayPal's first director of Online Dispute Resolution, designing and implementing systems that now resolve more than 60 million disputes each year. Mr. Rule is the author of Online Dispute Resolution for Business, published by Jossey-Bass in September 2002. He has presented and trained around the world for organizations including the U.S. Department of State, UNCITRAL, the International Chamber of Commerce, and the CPR Institute for Dispute Resolution, as well as teaching at UMass-Amherst, Stanford, Southern Methodist University, and Hastings College of the Law. He has written and been interviewed extensively about the Internet since 1999, with columns and articles appearing in ACResolution, Consensus, Dispute Resolution Magazine, and Peace Review. He holds a master's degree from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government in conflict resolution and technology, a B.A. in peace studies from Haverford College, and he served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Eritrea from 1995-1997.



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