Public Dispute Resolution

By — on / MIT-Harvard Public Disputes Program

The quality of our democracy presumably rests on the deliberations we are able to promote and sustain among individuals and groups with contending interests and views. The responsiveness of our elected and appointed officials also presumably hinges on our ability to involve a wide range of stakeholders in policy-making and a range of administrative processes. To the extent we can enhance the quality of deliberations and the responsiveness and accountability of government, we can contribute to the continued development of our democratic practices (as the founders envisioned).

In 2006, Susskind’s Breaking Robert’s Rules (Oxford University Press) was published ( In 2008, Japanese, Chinese, Russian, Portuguese and Dutch versions are scheduled to appear, each co-authored and rewritten (not just translated) to take account of political, cultural and legal differences. In 2009, revised versions are scheduled to appear in Spanish, Korean, French, and Italian. A number of public, private and voluntary organizations are in the process of adopting consensus building bylaws to replace their old parliamentary operating procedures based on the ideas presented in Breaking Robert’s Rules.

Associate Director Patrick Field is preparing a manuscript on public apology. And, he has added a element on public apology to the popular Executive Education course called Dealing with An Angry Public that Susskind, Professor Michael Wheeler, and now Patrick Field offer twice a year in conjunction with the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School.

We are engaged in a number of “action-research” projects that will allow us to “test” various approaches to collaborative decision-making at the federal, state and local level in the United States and overseas.

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