Public disputes regularly emerge around issues related to land use, the state of the environment and the crafting of policy. Public disputes are particularly challenging, as they almost always involve multiple parties. In addition to differing interests, parties typically have very different means and degrees of influence over the situation. The agency or department with formal regulatory or management authority must be at the table, but so too should disenfranchised groups that will be significantly impacted by the outcomes. In many cases, the various stakeholder groups are not immediately obvious and some will require technical support to effectively engage.
The Teaching Negotiation Resource Center (TNRC) offers a range of materials to help mediators, facilitators and negotiators prepare for the peculiarities and special requirements of public dispute in the public policy arena. Many of the role-play exercises available revolve around interactions with regulatory agencies. Some, like Federal Lands Management I, introduce good process design. Others, like Radwaste II, introduce certain dynamics often present in public disputes, including the emergence of coalitions, the interplay between various issues, the role of information and the importance of neutral facilitators.
A variety of videos on the mediation and negotiation of public disputes are also available through the TNRC. Books available offer prescriptions and advice for negotiators engaged in public disputes – like Seven Secrets for Negotiating with Government: How to Deal with Local, State, National, or Foreign Governments and Come Out Ahead – and the mediators trying to support them, like Breaking the Impasse: Consensual Approaches to Resolving Public Disputes.