More Changes in States
Two Leading State Public Policy DR Programs
Relocate to Universities

In Oregon

The 2003 Legislature eliminated Oregon's Dispute Resolution Commission (ODRC), launched 15 years earlier with funds from the legislature and a grant from the National Institute for Dispute Resolution (NIDR).

Elaine Hallmark, Interim Director of the new Oregon Consensus Program, said reaction to lawmakers' plan to zero out ODRC was swift among the mediation community and others who used the Commission's programs and services. Their efforts, she said, helped convince the state to retain ODRC's two major programs: the community DR centers, and the public policy DR program.

The legislature agreed to move the community DR program to the University of Oregon Law School, and the public policy DR program to the Hatfield School of Government at PSU. The legislature granted each program $125,000 over two years for administrative start-up in recreating the programs.

Hallmark, who also served as ODRC's first Chair, agreed to help PSU rebuild the program and integrate it with the vibrant cluster of institutes and centers currently operating within the Hatfield School.

To build the new infrastructure and pave the way for staffing, Hallmark is working to secure grants, interagency agreements, and other start-up initiatives. A draft strategic plan is nearly complete, and the Governor's Office recently requested the program's assistance with two high profile projects—one to facilitate strategy development for the Governor's Global Warming Advisory Group, and another aimed at policy development for aggregate mining on Oregon farmland.

"The major advantage in being in a University setting is the ability to establish a reputation as a neutral convening site," Hallmark says. "People have a positive image of the Hatfield School and its name is well known, so we really can begin to play a high profile role."

In the meantime, Hallmark says, the program is studying lessons and models from other university PPDR programs around the country, "and working hard to provide a new center here in Oregon that supports the work and challenges facing our state."

In Massachusetts

As of July 1, the Massachusetts Office of Dispute Resolution (MODR) began transferring its operations to the Department of Dispute Resolution in the College of Public and Community Service at the University of Massachusetts-Boston.

According to Susan Jeghelian, MODR Executive Director, the program will continue fulfilling its statutory mission to facilitate the use of DR and consensus building among public agencies.

"This UMB partnership offers exciting new opportunities for MODR to expand and enhance its capacity to provide services to the Commonwealth and re-grow the agency," Jeghelian said in a news release announcing the move. "It also enlarges the DR educational and research resources for UMB faculty and students."

In the past two years, MODR's legislative appropriation was cut by 80 percent, forcing significant reductions in staff and some services. During that time, MODR continued to operate on a shoestring, providing scaled back services in its environmental, affordable housing, and agriculture programs. It also maintained its technical support and consultation services to executive branch agencies and the Trial Court, and began to expand services to cities and towns across the state.

A collaborative Vision Statement written by Jeghelian and David Matz, Graduate Program Director at UMB's Department of Dispute Resolution, describes the new partnership as an opportunity to "enhance the ability of UMB and MODR to receive contracts, grants and private foundation funding through collaborations with the University's Programs on Dispute Resolution, McCormack Graduate School of Policy Studies, Environmental Sciences Programs, and its various institutes."

Jeghelian said MODR will continue to lead implementation of Executive Order 416—Integrating DR into State Government—and will retain its current and upcoming contracts to provide service to public agencies. It also will continue as a primarily self-funded entity through fees for services and grants, and will seek legislative help to cover operating costs.

According to the Vision Statement, MODR will provide research opportunities for faculty, and practical training and internships for students on multi-party public policy disputes and the use of collaborative approaches in the public sector.

"This will be most readily accomplished through the integration of MODR with the UMB Graduate Programs in Dispute Resolution (Masters and Certificate); there are also many other University programs…for which a connection with MODR would be beneficial," the Vision Statement says.