Environmental Role-Play:

Pearl River: Negotiating the Future of Dams


Natallia Leuchanka Diessner, Catherine M. Ashcraft, Weiwei Mo, and Cuihong Song

Seven-party, facilitated, multi-issue negotiation simulation for eight or nine participants about the management of dams in a coastal basin.


Please note: you must order a copy (a.k.a. license/usage fee) for every person participating in the simulation in your course. This simulation has multiple roles, so you will be unable to complete your purchase without meeting the minimum quantity requirement of copies per role.

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PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center

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Soft copy vs. hard copy

You may order this role simulation in either soft copy (electronic) or hard copy (paper) format. If you select the soft copy option, you will receive an e-mail with a URL (website address) from which you may download an electronic file in Adobe Acrobat PDF format. You will have one week to download your materials from when you receive the email. You are then only authorized to use, print, or share the materials as many times as the number of copies you purchase. The TNRC charges for use of this simulation on a per-participant basis. Therefore, you must purchase a separate copy of this simulation for each person who will be participating, regardless of the number of roles in the simulation. You will only receive a link to one electronic file, which includes all general instructions, confidential instructions, and any teaching notes for the simulation. You should separate out the instructions before distributing to participants.

If you select the hard copy option, you will receive paper copies of this role simulation via the shipping method you select.

For additional information about the soft copy option, please visit our FAQ section, or contact the PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center at tnrc@law.harvard.edu or 800-258-4406 (within the U.S.) or 301-528-2676 (outside the U.S.).

Please note: At the present time, Teaching Negotiation Resource Center soft copies are compatible with the following versions of the Adobe Acrobat Reader: English, German, French, Spanish, Swedish, Portuguese, Japanese, and Korean. If you have a different version of the Acrobat Reader, you may wish to download one of these at http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2.html, or contact the PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center at tnrc@law.harvard.edu, 800-258-4406 (within the U.S.), or 301-528-2676 (outside the U.S.) for further assistance. This restriction does not apply to the freely available Teacher’s Package Review Copies.

Ordering a single copy for review

If you wish to review the materials for a particular role simulation to decide whether you’d like to use it, a PDF, or soft copy, version of the Teacher’s Package for the simulation is available as a free download from the description page of most role simulations and case studies. All Teacher’s Packages include copies of all participant materials. In addition, some Teacher’s Packages (but not all) include additional teaching materials such as teaching notes or overhead masters.

Ordering copies for multiple participants

To order multiple copies of a role simulation for use in a course or workshop, simply enter the total number of participants in the box next to “Quantity.” There is no need to calculate how many of each role is required.

If you are ordering hard copies, the Teaching Negotiation Resource Center will calculate the appropriate numbers of each role to provide, based on the total number of participants. For example, if you wish to order a 2-party role simulation for use with a class of 30 students, you would enter “30” in the box next to “Quantity.” You then would receive 15 copies of one role and 15 copies of the other role, for use with your 30 participants. As another example, if you ordered 30 participant copies of a 6-party role simulation, you would receive 5 copies of each role.

In the event that the number of participant copies you order is not evenly divisible by the number of roles in the simulation, you will receive extra copies of one or more roles. Participants receiving the extra roles may partner with other participants playing the same role, thus negotiating as a team. So, for instance, if you ordered 31 copies of a 2-party role simulation, you would receive 15 copies of the first role and 16 copies of the second role. One of the participants playing the second role would partner with another participant playing that same role, and the two would negotiate as a team.

Bulk Pricing Discount

For bulk orders, we offer the following pricing discounts. Please note that these only apply to bulk orders of the same simulation.

  • Between 100-250 copies – 10% discount
  • Between 251-500 copies – 25% discount
  • More than 500 copies – 50% discount
Log In or Register to download the free Teacher's Package Sample.

Pearl River is a facilitated, multi-issue negotiation simulation for eight or nine participants about the management of five dams in the hypothetical Pearl River basin. This science-based role-play negotiation simulation provides an opportunity for learning about and discussing larger-scale management of ecosystems, use of scientific data and modeling in environmental decision-making under uncertainty, and consensus-based negotiations over water resources. This role-play simulation includes the Pearl River system dynamics model application, which simulates environmental and economic outcomes under different dam management alternatives.

The Pearl River basin is a coastal basin that includes the Pearl River and its tributary, the Mill Creek. Multiple stakeholders with diverse interests and concerns are interested in the dam-related issues in the basin. There are three hydropower dams on the Pearl River and two non-hydropower dams on Mill Creek. All dams have varying levels of fish passage, ranging from no passage to adequate passage. Dam A on Mill Creek is owned by the Town of Allen and has recently received a Notice of Public Safety from the State Water Resources Division (State WRD). The town must decide how to address the Notice and whether it makes sense to consider the future of other dams in the Pearl River basin as it makes its decision.

State WRD invited representatives from six other stakeholder groups to participate in a Working Group (for a total of seven stakeholder groups): the Federal Agency of Natural Resources (Federal ANR), the Historic Preservation Agency of the State (State Historic), Rivers-R-Us (an environmental nongovernmental, non-profit organization), the Allen Pond Homeowners Association (representing property owners along Allen Pond, the impoundment created by Dam A), HydroEnergy, LLC. (the hydropower developer which owns the three hydropower dams on the Pearl River), and the Town of Allen (which owns two non-hydropower dams on Mill Creek). The Working Group also includes one or two facilitators who will help manage the meeting. The main goal of the meeting is to develop a “Work Plan” for the future of Dam A and possibly for the other dams in the Pearl River basin. To support the Group’s efforts, a local university developed and shared a novel system dynamics model, which simulates the impacts of different decisions on fish populations, hydropower generation, and project cost. Negotiators can access the model during the negotiation via a web-user interface. The Working Group looks forward to using the model to find agreement on the following three decisions:

  1. Which dams should be included in the Work Plan and what dam management alternatives should be considered?
  2. Who is responsible for implementing the Work Plan?
  3. Who pays to implement the Work Plan?

The municipal, state, and federal officials have indicated they aim to act on the Work Plan if at least six out of the seven stakeholders support the agreement. If fewer than six stakeholders support the recommendations, the Town of Allen will decide on its own about next steps to respond to Dam A’s notice of deficiency.

Key lessons of this simulation include:

  • Sustainable solutions to conflicts over dams meet multiple stakeholders’ interests and receive broad political, community, and financial support for implementation.
  • Dam decisions are multi-issue negotiations that involve linked social and ecological systems, feedbacks over spatial and temporal scales, many stakeholders, overlapping legal and procedural frameworks, and scientific uncertainty.
  • The most successful dam decisions pay careful attention to preparation, including ensuring the right parties participate, are prepared, and interact throughout to bring both expert and local/experiential knowledge to bear on the decision.
  • A negotiation agenda should include opportunities for stakeholders to share information about quantifiable interests and non-quantifiable interests, time to brainstorm multiple alternatives and develop new alternatives, and time to agree on performance criteria for deciding between alternatives.
  • Linking decisions across multiple dams within a river system can expand the range of alternatives available to meet multiple interests and optimize across social, economic, and environmental tradeoffs, as compared to making decisions about a single dam at a time.
  • Dam decisions should be informed by credible scientific data about the likely impacts of decisions. A system dynamics model can provide information about the likely impacts of choices, such as how the decision to focus on one dam or a series of dams will affect outcomes for fish, cost, and hydropower generation.
  • A neutral party can provide critical process management services before, during, and after decisions.
  • Role-play negotiations create opportunities for participants to experience dam decisions from another stakeholder’s perspective.
  • Role-play negotiations create opportunities for participants to develop policy innovations.

Pearl River: Negotiating the Future of Dams Attributes

Time required: 5 hours
Numbers of participants: 8
Neutral third party present: Yes
Scoreable: No
Teaching Notes Available: Yes