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July 06, 2022

Exploring Challenges to Company Adoption of Community-Designed Grievance Mechanisms

Community-based designs.

Community-based designs.

Image Credit: Deposit Photos,


On May 12, 2022, the ABA’s International Human Rights Committee convened a workshop to explore the issues involved in collaborative or community-led design of operation-level grievance mechanisms (OGMs) as tools for remediation when a company has caused or contributed to human rights harms. The objective was to gather and summarize the perspectives of practitioners who are called upon to advise on OGMs, to determine the issues that they see as important to tackle, with the aim of aiding uptake of rights holder-led or collaborative OGM design in the future.

Approximately thirty lawyers, mediators and other practitioners attended the workshop, including participants from academic institutions, civil society organizations and the private sector – representing a range of expertise. The workshop was held under Chatham House Rules, meaning participants were informed that the information gathered would be used in this report, but that their specific input would not be attributed to any individual. A hypothetical scenario and discussion questions were circulated to participants prior to the workshop, to allow time to reflect and prepare in advance. The hypothetical for discussion was:

A community has learned that a company has received funding for a project that is certain to have a negative impact on them. They have approached you to propose a plan for a grievance mechanism to address the harms if the project goes forward. You have not yet seen the plan.

Working from the short hypothetical, participants discussed numerous issues involved from the perspective of practitioners who would represent the rights holders in the community side of this scenario, or as practitioners who would typically represent the corporate side. Additionally, some participants shared their perspectives as mediators. 

The hypothetical was deliberately vague on other details, to leave it open to a range of possible interpretations and responses. This report captures the key issues that emerged from the discussions.


This report was prepared by Shauna Curphey, Steering Committee Member of the American Bar Association International Human Rights Committee and co-founder of Just Ground. It has not been approved by the House of Delegates or the Board of Governors of the American Bar Association and therefore should not be construed as representing the policy of the sponsoring committees or the American Bar Association as a whole. Further, nothing in this report should be considered as legal advice in a specific case. The author would like to thank the following individuals for their assistance in facilitating the workshop: Angela Benson, ABA Director of Membership; Emily Goldman and Pam Ly, ABA Access to Remedy Institute; Joy Hammer, ABA Center for Human Rights; and Jennifer Zerk, Jennifer Zerk Consulting and the OHCHR Accountability and Remedy Project.