Harborco: Role-Play Simulation

Claim your free copy from the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School.

Get Practical Experience with this Multi-Issue Role-Play Simulation Exercise

Harborco is a consortium of development, industrial, and shipping concerns that are eager to proceed with the building of a new port, but face hurdles and potential opposition as they advance through the licensing process. The Federal Licensing Agency would like to see them work with other stakeholders to develop a project that is acceptable to all, or at least most parties. The project proponents must employ their negotiation skills to craft proposals that win the support of others in order to proceed.

Stakeholders brought to the table to negotiate include representatives from:

  • Other ports in the region
  • The Environmental League
  • A coalition of environmental interest groups
  • The Local Federation of Labor Unions
  • The governor of the state
  • The Federal Department of Coastal Resources

Issues on the table include the types of industries that will be permitted, environmental mitigation required, the role of organized labor, the degree of federal financial assistance, and the question of compensation to other ports in the region for their economic losses.

Learning Through Role-Plays

Free Teaching Guide: Preview one of the Clearinghouse’s most popular simulations.

Harborco is a multi-party, multi-issue role-play simulation exercise that helps students learn:

  • Coalition building, maintenance, and disruption
  • When to bluff or when to stay silent versus revealing information and concerns
  • Utility analysis and the objectivity of criteria
  • Pareto-optimality and the maximization of collective and individual gains
  • The advantages and consequences of caucusing
  • How to create value in negotiations
  • Negotiation tactics in the face of opposition
  • The benefits of neutral facilitators

Effective business negotiation means getting a mutually beneficial outcome while earning the respect of both your team and your adversaries.

Harborco is one of the Clearinghouse’s most popular role-play simulations. It vividly conveys the challenges of multi-party, multi-issue negotiations, while introducing the ways in which stakeholders can negotiate effectively despite the complexity of the situations they face.

Harborco will teach:

  • How stakeholders can build ‘winning’ coalitions to advance their proposals and ‘blocking’ coalitions to stop those advances.
  • How to caucus in small groups to build and maintain coalitions. Caucuses typically allow some parties to share certain information or commitments while excluding others. Some parties may also play a more active role in negotiations while others may engage less often for strategic reasons.
  • How multi-issue negotiations allow trading across issues so that each party can live with giving up some value on the issues it cares less about in exchange for getting more on issues of central importance.

While particularly powerful as a tool to practice multi-party negotiation, Harborco also provides valuable lessons about many core negotiation concepts, including BATNA, joint gains, and competition-versus-cooperation.

Harborco also provides valuable lessons in many of the core negotiation concepts, including BATNA, joint gains, and competition-versus-cooperation.

Put our role-play simulations to work for you.

More than 200 role-play simulations in several different languages are available through the Program on Negotiation Clearinghouse, including Harborco.

Educators, government officials, business executives, and non-profit leaders have all found that the role-play simulations available through the Program on Negotiation Clearinghouse provide an excellent way to teach negotiation strategies and tactics. Simulations can introduce multi-stakeholder groups to the dynamics of working together, and help them to appreciate and practice effective collaboration for mutual gains.

Professor Lawrence Susskind, the vice-chair of Pedagogy for the Program on Negotiation, states:

Harborco is a great exercise because it demonstrates the complexity involved when you bring various parties with different interests together to negotiate a large-scale public infrastructure project. Some want the project to succeed more than others and need to find ways to convert enough would-be opponents into proponents by sufficiently satisfying their interests and relieving their concerns.

Hugely popular, role-play simulations are hypothetical simulations that mimic real-world negotiation scenarios. Challenging and interactive, role-play simulations allow participants to step into the action by assuming key roles. By assessing the specific circumstances and deliberating with other players, each participant learns to make decisions and solve problems collaboratively.

Role-play simulation exercises are extremely powerful teaching tools because they:

Put participants in hypothetical situations not that different than their own so that they can relate to the themes, yet have the space to take risks without compromising their real-world interests.

Challenge participants to deliberate and make decisions in new and different ways, and introduce new tools for analysis and planning.

Foster individual and collective learning that can be transferred to real-world situations.

Exercises are typically followed by debriefings in which participants and facilitators reflect on what happened, what they learned, and how these lessons relate to or diverge from their real-life experiences.

The 67-Page Teaching Guide for Harborco includes:

General instructions for all parties

Confidential instructions for each of the six roles

A teaching note that:

  • Explains how to set up the game
  • Provides recommended readings and review questions
  • Provides suggestions on how to effectively debrief the key themes

10 Responses to “Harborco: Role-Play Simulation”

  • Dinesh D.

    I always read your details on negotiations.
    They all are very informative and teaches practical knowledge
    thanks with lots of regards
    Dinesh Ahluwalia

  • Pon U.

    Thank you so much for sharing your valuable insights through this material. Howevr, the downloadable version only contains 14 pages, not the 67 pages mentioned above. Can you please help me with this?

    • Gail O.

      I have forwarded your request to the Teaching Negotiation Resource Center here at the Program on Negotiation and they will get back to you.

  • I really would like to get the answer, too. Thanks!

    “This looks interesting, but the downloadable version only contains 14 pages, not the 67 mentioned above. There are no instructions for the students.”

  • This looks interesting, but the downloadable version only contains 14 pages, not the 67 mentioned above. There are no instructions for the students.

    • Gail O.

      I have directed your request to someone who works for the Teaching Negotiation Resource Center and they will get back to you.


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