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Best minds on ODR

Team YS
8th Feb 2011
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Encounters by Venkatesh Krishnamoorthy

ODR 2011, quiet and happening place for two days now, in my view, has the best minds on ODR in assembly under one roof. Having been exposed to the field barely a month ago, the field and its breadth and depth continues to amaze me. When I met Chittu Nagarajan some time ago in connection with this conference, I had little idea of what was in store. I thought eBay will try to sing tribute to its best practices of ODR. I thought Prof. Ethan Katsh will tell the audience about the eBay experiment of 1999. I was surprised when the article I took as reference (that seemed fresh to me) was written ten years ago.

All these myths have been comprehensively beaten to oblivion. There was no single presentation on eBay or PayPal. Prof. Katsh is talking about government and ODR and it seems the field has traversed a million miles. Its wider span of domains and keen look on certain issues proves that ODR has become a mature field in itself, with intense research and corporate activity around it. eBay continues to showcase the triumph of ODR and has mechanisms in place to reconcile online disputes, thanks largely to the initiatives of Colin Rice, an engaging speaker, friendly human being, and well-informed director (of eBay and PayPal). Talking to Colin is a pleasure. Facts roll out of his mouth and perspectives and ideas from his brain. This is in stark contrast to Prof. Katsh, who refuses and objects to being called Father of ODR. He says many Internet-based initiatives could not be attributed to one single individual. Many people are working on them. His talk seems practical and grounded.

It was a double whammy for me today to talk to both Prof. Katsh and Colin Rule at the same time, speaking on a range of issues. Prof. Katsh was generous with his time, answering questions with finesse while Colin was at his articulate best, with examples and anecdotes. The meeting was memorable. What more can you ask for? Two best minds on ODR across your table.

Sanjana Hattotuwa stole the show yesterday. His oration and his human touch did leave an indelible impression. This Sri Lankan researcher was too much in demand, with people vying to meet him. He has given voice to the suppressed and guts is too simple a word to describe his sensitivity-laced action. Human suffering is untold in war. But his ordeal was compounded by threats to his life, his constant tab on avoiding outrageous remarks, and he did finally succeed. His blog has become a case study and his efforts have earned him a TED Fellow 2011 nomination. He is speaking at TED, Long Beach, California, the ultimate TED platform.

Mr. Johnston S. Barkat, Assistant Secretary-General, United Nations, Ombudsman and Mediation Services, was present through the sessions, carefully observing the deliberations. He was mixing with the participants and open to one-on-one discussions.

Irene Sigismondi, Pablo Cortez, Orna Rabinovich, Leah Wing, Zbynek Loebl, Lou Del Duca, John Andrew Singer were in full attendance in all the sessions. Maybe they were enriched with the deliberations as they themselves enriched the participants with their insightful presentations. Colin Rice, Chittu Nagarajan, and Sanjana took turns to introduce the speakers and to be moderators of Q&A. Sanjana prompted speakers with his "Two more minutes" slip that reminded them to finish faster.

Chittu Nagarajan has reasons to feel elated. The conference has thrown a lot of insights and its agenda is well thought out. The presence of eminent practitioners of ODR and their active engagement add value to the deliberations. As the conference closes tomorrow, we have traveled a long away -- at least me about what ODR is, what is possible in ODR, and its future promise.

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