Research at PON

At the Program on Negotiation (PON) at Harvard Law School, we believe that effective negotiation requires a lifelong commitment to learning. Since our founding in 1980, faculty research has played an integral role in promoting negotiation as a field of interdisciplinary academic study and real-world application. Our research team draws faculty from many traditional disciplines, including law, business, psychology, public policy and planning, and international relations.

Each research project is led by PON faculty who hail from one of three consortium universities—Harvard, MIT, and Tufts. These individuals represent some of the world’s leading scholars in negotiation theory and practice. Working collaboratively on an array of interdisciplinary projects, their research has generated scholarly articles, books, and media that help build awareness of negotiation best practices.

Research projects and initiatives include the following:

The American Secretaries of State Project (SOSP) is a collaborative effort of the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School, the Harvard Negotiation Project, the Belfer Center’s Future of Diplomacy Project at Harvard Kennedy School, and Harvard Business School. SOSP illuminates and chronicles the negotiation experiences of former U.S. Secretaries of State.

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The Great Negotiator Award was established in 2000 to recognize the extraordinary accomplishments of outstanding negotiators. The award honors individuals who have made significant contributions to developing the theory and practice of negotiation and dispute resolution during their lifetimes.

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As the predecessor entity of the Program on Negotiation (PON), the Harvard Negotiation Project (HNP) was founded in 1979 and originally directed by Professor Roger Fisher, co-author of Getting to Yes. Folded into PON when PON was formed in 1983, HNP has operated since 2008 under the leadership of Professor James K. Sebenius. HNP’s special mission is practice-focused research, involvement in ongoing high-level deals and disputes, as well as education and training. Its members and affiliates are active in the creation and dissemination of innovative ideas to improve negotiation and conflict resolution.

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Given social media’s transformative roles in society from popular culture to business and from politics to international relations, it is odd that the roles of social media in negotiation have been relatively neglected by scholars and practitioners alike. The purpose of this HNP initiative is to highlight how social media can drive negotiations off the rails or toward profitable outcomes—and how savvy practitioners can harness this largely neglected factor to advantage.

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The Rebuild Congress Initiative (RCI) is a non-partisan initiative seeking to apply insights from theory and practice in negotiation, international mediation, and organizational transformation to improve the functioning of the United States Congress. The mission of RCI is to help foster a strong and functional Congress that fulfills its Article One responsibilities as a co-equal branch of government.

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The Difficult Conversations Initiative dates back to the early 1990's. It began with the observation that many conflicts are rooted less in disagreements over the substance than in challenges embedded in our relationships: how we understand and treat each other, how we each make sense of our feelings, and how we each see ourselves in the world and in relationship to the other.

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How can we work to improve the analysis and practice of negotiation, especially in managerial settings? This is the central question that has driven the work of the Negotiation Roundtable, a group of faculty, senior graduate students, and negotiation practitioners.

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The HNP Workshop Teaching Network includes faculty members who have a passion for, and have demonstrated excellence in, interactive teaching and pedagogical design, and who continue to innovate and produce case studies, simulations, exercises, and classroom conversations that are rigorous, inclusive, and aimed at preparing students to tackle the most important systemic and other challenges of our time that call for effective negotiation, dispute resolution, and consensus building.

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The Global Negotiation Initiative (GNI), co-founded by Dr. William L. Ury and Dr. Joshua N. Weiss, bridges theoretical academic research with practical negotiation work. GNI works in close partnership with the Abraham Path Initiative (API), which seeks to inspire and support the opening of a permanent cultural route of pilgrimage and tourism retracing the footsteps of Abraham in the Middle East.

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Faculty affiliates and research fellows work closely with field practitioners to conduct research and scholarship on key topics related to Middle East peace negotiations. Through publications, workshops, and multimedia resources, MENI affiliates disseminate problem-solving methodology and share negotiation methods and techniques that can help resolve challenges in the Middle East.

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The Negotiation Strategies Institute (NSI), under the academic sponsorship of the Harvard Negotiation Project (HNP), invests in the human capital of leaders in the Middle East, with the purpose of supporting those who shape today’s decision-making processes in their pursuit of transforming conflict and promoting a better future for the region.

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The Abraham Path Initiative (API), which was founded under the auspices of the Global Negotiation Initiative (GNI), seeks to inspire and support the opening of a permanent cultural route of pilgrimage and tourism retracing the footsteps of Abraham in the Middle East.

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This research project, led by Daniel L. Shapiro, examines symbolic dimensions of high-stakes negotiations. This academic project is a unique, knowledge-generating collaboration with regional decision makers, drawing on relational identity theory, a conceptual framework developed by Professor Shapiro that has been shown to improve negotiation results in high-stakes conflicts around the world.

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Since Charlene Barshefsky was honored as a “Great Negotiator” for her work as Special Trade Representative, especially for her efforts in China on intellectual property negotiations, a number of faculty have found public and private negotiations with China-related aspects to be of special interest. Although this initiative has been dormant for several years, a number of China-related negotiations continue to arise for study by HNP-affiliated faculty.

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From 2013 through 2016, James Sebenius and Graham Allison co-directed this initiative between HNP and the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs that was intended to analyze the negotiations between the P5+1 and Iran over a nuclear agreement. Largely dormant since 2017, members of this initiative are alert to significant opportunities and dangers since President Trump gave notice to withdraw the United States from the agreement.

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Graduate Research Fellowships are designed to encourage scholars from the social sciences and professional disciplines to pursue research in negotiation and dispute resolution. A Graduate Research Fellowship provides students with one year of dissertation research and writing in negotiation and related topics in alternative dispute resolution. It also provides fellows with the opportunity to avail themselves of PON’s many events and resources.

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The Next Generation Grants Program supports research in negotiation and conflict resolution by nontenured faculty and doctoral students. The program provides grants to fund specific research projects, not general support or tuition. Faculty and students from any school or department within PON’s interuniversity consortium (Harvard, MIT, Tufts) may apply. Postdoctoral students with formal affiliations with Harvard or one of our consortium schools are also welcome.

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Summer fellowship grants focus on the connection between scholarship and practice in negotiation and dispute resolution by supporting students interested in exploring career paths, either professional or academic. Summer fellowships provide students at Harvard University, MIT, Tufts University, and other Boston-area schools with up to $3,500 for internships or summer research projects in negotiation and dispute resolution in partnership with public, nonprofit, or academic organizations.

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Pedagogy at PON is dedicated to improving the way people teach and learn about negotiation and dispute resolution. Incorporating and expanding on the historical mission of the Teaching Negotiation Resource Center, Pedagogy at PON serves as an intellectual focal point for negotiation education through research, curriculum development, training, and networking.

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HNRP seeks to strengthen the theoretical research and empirical knowledge of negotiation and dispute resolution. In addition, it strives to help scholars develop the tools that translate theory into practical processes for parties engaged in conflict. Recent projects have focused on the limits of negotiation, the challenges of making wise decisions when encountering resistance, and ethnic conflict in divided societies.

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The MIT-Harvard Public Disputes Program is an internationally known center for action research focused on evaluating and resolving disputes in the public sector. The Public Disputes Program conducts research activities dealing with international environmental treaty negotiations and consensus building in the public sector. It seeks to ensure that science is included in resource management decisions. In addition, the program focuses on the social responsibilities of multinational corporations, the role of mediation in values-based and identity-based disputes, and how findings in the communications field may enhance negotiation practices.

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Negotiations in the Workplace is a collaborative group of scholars focused on addressing the changes, challenges, and transitions of today’s workplace. They examine negotiated approaches to change as a core competency—not just a helpful skill—as jobs become more knowledge based and competitive.

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NEG, a division of the Social Science Research Network (SSRN), is an online venue providing access to working papers and professional announcements of interest to the negotiation and dispute resolution community. NEG is one of a number of specialized networks SSRN has organized for the worldwide dissemination of research in all of the social sciences.

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