The 2012 CEDR Awards: a very short history

It’s just over two weeks until the biennial CEDR Awards takes place, and I am excited. As part of the Marketing and Communications team, I’ve seen first-hand how large a part of the team’s work the Awards have been over the past couple of months – and if I were on Mastermind, the awards would be my current special subject. Essentially, the CEDR Awards are great because:

  • they celebrate and recognise the contributions of people and organisations to the field of ADR;
  • they offer a fantastic way of engaging with wider communities, showing in practice how ADR methods can have a transformative effect in the short and longer terms; and
  • they’re a good excuse to dress up for an evening at a plush hotel!

While the current Awards are dear to my heart, past ceremonies are also on my mind. Looking back over the history of the Awards, it’s fascinating to see how the ceremony has changed over the years and what that says about the wider take-up of ADR.

The first CEDR Awards evening, held in the 1990s, seems to have had three magic ingredients: sleeves on evening dresses, elaborate hairstyling, and lots of interest from the legal profession. It seems that as recently as ten years ago, the CEDR Awards tended to be very “legal” because lawyers were the main group actively engaging with ADR on a large scale. Corporate organisations, individuals and the wider public tended to have a more limited awareness of processes like mediation. The Awards also had fewer categories: in 2000, for example, CEDR gave out just 3 prizes to “the professions”, “industry” and “public sector and government”.  Much of CEDR’s early work with the Awards was seemingly  intended to raise the profile of ADR, as much as congratulate early practitioners.

Fast forward to this year’s Awards, and the differences are clear. On November 29th CEDR will be awarding prizes in 6 categories, including ‘ADR and Civil Justice Innovation’, ‘Best Communication or Publication’, and the ‘Tony Curtis Award for Young Professionals’. We have also had many more entries this year than ever before, yielding 22 excellent finalists from truly diverse backgrounds and nationalities. The diversified categories reflect ADR’s expanding horizons, looking towards future innovations and practitioners as well as recognising excellence in ADR today.

It seems that the shift in who enters and attends the Awards reflects a change in how ADR is seen and understood. From being a more niche specialism, ADR increasingly attracts interest from corporations, academics and individuals as well as from legal firms and professionals: this is reflected by the variety of groups submitting entries to the Awards this year. People are not only more aware of ADR but are actively involved with the community and its future development. This is brilliant news – as far as we’re concerned, the more people engaging with ADR the better!

2012 will be my first CEDR Awards, and while I know it’ll be a great evening I’m not too sure of what else to expect. Judging by what I’ve seen, the Awards will be something like the spirit of ADR in practice: bringing together people separated by many factors, but who share a belief in the power of effective dispute resolution. I can’t wait.

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