City planning and public administration are two fields that have changed dramatically over the past several decades. Instead of offering a master plan that proffers a future image of the city, city managers are much more focused on solving everyday problems — like proving adequate affordable housing and public schools, ensuring public transport and road infrastructure, ensuring clean water at manageable prices, sustaining small businesses, providing support for the arts and public open space, and helping to correct long-standing social inequities. To be effective, city governments have to be able to engage stakeholders directly in decision-making, maintain transparency and accountability, and mediate among competing interest groups. Negotiation skills are central to the practice of city planning, public administration and public sector management.
Construction in Bunyonville captures the tension that often arises when private real estate developers want to build new housing without taking account of the interests of nearby residents. City regulators, as well as financial institutions get involved as well. Development Dispute at Menehuene Bay is a development dispute in which environmental concerns need to be reconciled with economic growth objectives. In this case, the rights of indigenous people (i.e. Native Hawaiians) must also be taken into account. East Falls Brownfields involves the proposed clean-up of contaminated land. While it might seem that getting private investors to take on the cost of clean-up a long-neglected site is an advantageous option, in this case the developers long-term objectives don’t match the priorities of local residents. Also, the scientific definition of “clean” is very much up for grabs. The Franklin Family Foundation exercise mirrors a concern in many cities — how to correct racial inequalities in academic performance in public schools. In this instance, funds are available to make improvements, but parents, teachers and school administrators disagree among themselves on how foundation funds should be allocated. If they can’t reach agreement, there will be no money for any improvements. Homelessness in Niceville is another example of foundation funds being available to help with the terrible problem of homelessness in the city. Advocates of the homeless, business leaders, and residents disagree on how newly available monies should be spent. They have different theories of the causes of homelessness that they must reconcile. In Save Fairport, many different parties, including the state government, have strong views on how to enhance the city’s cybersecurity. All seven of these simulations teach multi-party negotiation and dispute resolution skills for public sector managers.
Construction in Bunyonville, by Bruce Patton, is a six-person, two-hour, multi-issue mediation between two construction company representatives and two neighborhood residents over a construction project’s safety and noise issues; mediated by two representatives of the bank financing the construction. Major lessons include preparation, BATNA, meeting design, and relationships.
Development Dispute at Mehehune Bay, by Lawrence Susskind, Thomas Dinell, and Vicki Shook, is a six-party, three-hour, multi-issue, facilitated negotiation of a dispute over environmental issues, native rights, and commercial development interests in Hawaii. Major lessons include mediation of land disputes, process management, and generating new options.
East Falls Brownfields, by Hannah Payne, Genea Foster, and Lawrence Susskind, is a seven-party, three-hour, role-play simulation involving a diverse set of stakeholders who must consider the short-term and long-term public health impacts of climate change while assessing the pros and cons of specific (and conflicting) risk management strategies. Mapleton, a city of 100,000, has just completed a Climate Vulnerability Assessment. The assessment shows that extreme heat and possible flooding associated with climate change pose substantial threats to the city. City officials asked an Advisory Group to suggest ways of preparing for possible emergencies and preventing injury and loss of life. The Advisory Group will have to wrestle with different risk management strategies and come to agreement if they want to have an impact.
Franklin Family Foundation and Westbrook Regional School District, by Catherine Preston and Lawrence Susskind, is a twelve-person, three-hour, two-round negotiation between six foundation board members and six school board and community leaders over efforts to address racial disparities in academic performance. A recent report has stated that minority groups in the Westbrook Regional School District show a significant disparity in academic performance with regards to their white peers. In response, the Executive Director of the Franklin Family Foundation (a local charitable foundation) and the Superintendent of the District have developed a tutorial program for high school minorities, to be funded be the Foundation. Reaction from the community and the School Board has been mixed. The Foundation Board of Directors and members of the community, headed by members of the school board, are meeting to discuss what should be done to proceed in improving the program. The two groups will first meet separately to determine their collective goals and objectives, and then will meet together to negotiate on the program.
Homelessness in Niceville, by Winn Constantini, Emmett McKinney, Yasmin Zaerpoor, and Lawrence Susskind, is a six party, multi-issue negotiation involving environmental, political, economic and social interest groups, in a shrinking American city, where the water infrastructure is in desperate need of repair. This role-play simulation illustrates the ethical, financial and logistical challenges involved in trying to balance the need to maintain economically viable water services with the need to ensure that even the most vulnerable urban populations have access to clean water. It is intended for use by students, residents, community advocates, and teachers to draw attention to the ethical dilemmas surrounding water provision in many cities in the United States.
Save Fairport, by Mieke van der Wansem, Tracy Dyke and Lawrence Susskind, is a thirteen-person, five-hour, multi-issue, two-round, partially scoreable negotiation among government, industry, environmental, and farming stakeholders to develop a land-use plan, and among additional government stakeholders over plan approval. Major lessons include mutual gains, problem-solving dialogue, and strategic partnerships.
Susskind and Cruikshank, Breaking the Impasse: Consensual Approaches to Resolving Public Disputes, Basic Books, 1986.
Deepak Malhotra, Negotiating the Impossible: How to Break Deadlocks and Resolve Ugly Conflicts, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2016.