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

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

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 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 with Jim Melamed in the mid-1990s. greatly increased the public understanding of dispute resolution alternatives – by offering 1800+ articles and by reaching over a million visitors per year. is now the world’s most visited conflict resolution web site. 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’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.


Colin Rule

Colin Rule is CEO of Resourceful Internet Solutions, Inc. ("RIS"), home of,,, and a number of additional leading online dispute resolution initiatives.  From 2017 to 2020, Colin was Vice President for Online Dispute Resolution at Tyler Technologies. Tyler acquired, an ODR provider that Colin co-founded,… MORE >

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