During the 1980s Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) has come of age. Much experimentation with consensual decisional processes has been conducted in the context of federal administrative agency proceedings. The Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS) has stamped its imprimatur on the concept of ADR, the Environmental Protection Agency has negotiated successfully several rulemakings, and a plethora of additional agencies have implemented, are experimenting with, or are contemplating the application of, consensual decisional processes. The efficacy of ADR remains controversial and debate continues over how best to implement consensual procedures, while much agency experimentation has proceeded slowly by trial and error pursuant to certain suggested conditions. These considerations make it important not only to analyze current exploratory efforts but also to evaluate precursors of mechanisms currently undergoing experimentation. One of the most significant of these forerunners with which the Consumer Product Safety Commission {CPSC) experimented in the 1970s was the offeror process, an innovative administrative procedure in which extra-agency entities developed proposed consumer product safety standards. Now that dispute resolution approaches similar to the offeror process are being applied widely, it is important to explore the offeror process to ascertain how experience with it informs present experimentation.

The first part of this paper discusses the origins and development of the offeror procedure, especially its institution and implementation at the CPSC. The next section analyzes the quality and effect on decisional processes of funded citizen participation in the seven offeror proceedings conducted by that agency. The third segment draws conclusions about the reimbursed involvement and about the offeror process from the Commission's experience. The last portion affords suggestions for future experimentation with participant compensation and with successors of the off error mechanism.

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