What is a Public Policy Negotiation?
Adopting a mutual gains approach to dealing with public policy can help overcome hostile or negative public perceptions.
Governments can experience strong resistance to new public policy initiatives, or fierce backlash to mistakes. How should they deal with the public? Incorporating a public relations perspective into a problem-solving or public dispute resolution processes can make the difference between success or failure.
Research from Meirav Furth-Matzkin, a fellow at Harvard Law School’s Program on Negotiation, and Harvard Law School professor Cass R. Sunstein, examined whether social norms could be used to sway people to support certain policies. In survey studies, they presented an identical public policy to hundreds of Americans with diverse political views.
When participants were told that most people favored the policy that they were presented with, they were more likely to support it than when they were told that most people opposed it. The results suggest a strategy for negotiators: When trying to persuade someone of the merits of a public policy or proposal that you’re advocating, be sure to emphasize its broad popularity, if this is the case.
Another approach to successful public policy proposals is through joint fact-finding to educate parties about the issues at stake. In doing so, it spurs agreements that are more credible, creative, harmonious, and lasting than those developed using a traditional “adversarial” process. Although a shared set of unbiased conclusions doesn’t guarantee that parties will come to an agreement, it does ensure that they won’t dismiss matters out of hand.
Augment your public policy and leadership skills with this special report, What is the Difference Between Leadership and Management?, from Harvard Law School.
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