Negotiating the Complex: Policymaking Across Sectors

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Negotiating the Complex
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Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Susan L. Podziba

Industry, government, and civil society are becoming increasingly aware that the search for solutions to complex public policy challenges requires their cooperation in a process that draws out the collective wisdom of a diverse group to reach a common public goal. During the final PON Dispute Resolution Forum of the 2002-2003 academic year, Susan Podziba discussed the design and mediation of public policy and consensus building processes based on this growing awareness.

Drawing on her extensive experience as a public policy mediator for nearly 20 years, Podziba described several examples of processes that have enabled diverse groups to break through pre-existing assumptions and limits of thought. Nearly 70 mediation and negotiation practitioners and professors attended the Dispute Resolution Forum as Podziba discussed her ideas about the function, assumptions and elements of public policy mediation.

Podziba, who has mediated cases involving international relations, governance, environmental disputes, land use and development decisions, transportation planning, public health, and education policy, focused her remarks on complex processes involving various sectors. She discussed the difficulties in evaluating progress in these processes, the considerations involved in deciding to use public policy mediation, and the need to assess which model should be used to build consensus in a specific context.

Podziba’s current projects include: a negotiated rulemaking to develop regulations to implement the Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; a negotiated rulemaking to develop safety standards for cranes and derricks for the U.S. Department of Labor; and an assessment to determine the usefulness of a consensus process to develop a comprehensive strategy for a sustainable dairy farming industry in the State of Wisconsin. She also drew on her experience with the Charter Consensus process in Chelsea, MA.

Podziba taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning from 1996-2002 and at the Program on Negotiation’s semester-length courses from 1999-2002. She has a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania and a Master of City Planning from MIT.

Following Susan Podziba’s talk, Dwight Golann presented a Peervision case on learning from mediations in which parties do not reach agreement. The case involved a multi-party dispute over the construction of a court building, in which the causes of impasse appear to have been both structural and psychological in nature.

Dwight Golann is a professor at Suffolk University Law School, where he teaches ADR. He is the author of an award-winning text, Mediating Legal Disputes, a videotape, Representing Clients in Mediation, that is distributed by the American Bar Association, and the PON tape Mediators at Work. Mediating Legal Disputes and Mediators at Work are available at the Program on Negotiation Clearinghouse.

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