The Program on Negotiation (PON) at Harvard Law School, a community of negotiation scholars, educators, and staff from HLS, Tufts University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is one of the world’s premier research and educational resources for negotiation theory and practice. We are happy to announce that PON has made available several of their negotiation and mediation role play simulations on the Harvard Law School | The Case Studies website. Professor Larry Susskind, co-founder of PON and the Ford Professor of Urban and Environmental Planning at MIT has authored or co-authored many of the simulations, which focus on resolving disputes concerning environmental issues, water rights, and cultural values. Read below for a short description of the role plays.
Water rights and environmental management role plays:
Indopotamia. What happens when countries can’t agree on a shared water plan? In this simulation, a mediator helps eight stakeholder group representatives, including senior officials from three countries, discuss possible development strategies for the Indopotamia River basin. The three countries face significant water-management challenges, and there is no formal agreement governing how they are supposed to share or use the resources of the river basin. A multinational Regional Development Bank is prepared to offer substantial financial support if the parties can come to an agreement.
Flooding. We’ve all heard about climate change, but how many of us have dealt with its effects first hand? This simulation puts us in the middle of a high stakes scenario: a real estate developer has sunk large amounts of money and is in the final planning phase of a mixed-use riverfront development project, only to find that, due to changes in the water table, the project now falls in the flood plain. Can (and should) the town seek to stop the development from proceeding? If the development is allowed to go forward, who will bear the cost of flood mitigation measures and the inevitable property damage due to flooding? What can the town (and other local, state, and federal governments around the world) do to deal with this increasing problem?
Long River. How can you make agreements when the future is uncertain? The Long River has been severely depleted by droughts, affecting those who rely on the river for irrigation, recreation, water supply, and fish and game. Although there have been some studies about future flow rates, various groups have different interpretations of the data. The stakeholders are trying to come to an agreement to preserve and protect this natural resource, but if they fail, it is very likely that federal regulators and the courts will step in and impose restrictions on water use.
Development Dispute at Menehune Bay. Can groups with vastly disparate and opposing views on developing a large resort on Hawaii’s idyllic and rural Menehune Bay come to an agreement? Will environmental and user groups stop the project in its tracks or can construction and commerce lobbying groups push it through over objections? Is there any possible way for this project to go forward with the blessing of most (if not all) of the stakeholders?
Dirty Stuff II. How can negotiations get back on track after an angry party has derailed the talks? This simulation deals with regulating a harmful industrial waste product: “Dirty Stuff.” The press reported that the first meeting about regulating Dirty Stuff ended abruptly in a highly emotional and hostile way. The parties have come back together with the help of a facilitator to try again. How can the facilitator help the group reach an agreement about the best way to revise the proposed rule about the production and use of Dirty Stuff?
Harborco is a consortium of development, industrial, and shipping concerns interested in building and operating a deep-water port. It has already selected a site for the port, but cannot proceed without a license from the Federal Licensing Agency (FLA). The FLA is willing to grant Harborco a license, but only if it secures the support of at least 4 of 5 other parties: the environmental coalition, the federation of labor unions, a consortium of other ports in the region, the Federal Department of Coastal Resources (DCR), and the Governor of the host state. The parties have several issues to negotiate before deciding whether or not to approve the port, including the types of industries that will be be permitted to locate near the port, the extent to which environmental damage be mitigated, the extent to which organized labor will be given preference in hiring during construction and operation of the port, the amount of any federal financial assistance to Harborco, and the amount of any compensation to other ports in the region for potential economic losses.
Value-based conflict resolution role plays:
Springfield Outfest. Can parties with deeply opposing views on gay rights reach an agreement that protects their individual rights and identities? Springfield Pride supports gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights through its annual Outfest celebration during National Coming Out Day. Last year, members of Salvation Now!, a nationwide network of grassroots religious and social campaigners, protested loudly during the Outfest, resulting in arrests of Salvation Now! protesters and unfavorable media attention, dampening the festival atmosphere. The simulation begins one year later. Springfield Pride has just submitted its permit application for this year’s upcoming OutFest. Fearing either an escalation of last year’s confrontation or legal liability and court challenges, the city has requested a meeting with all parties to try to agree on some parameters and rules before this year’s festival.
Ellis vs. MacroB. Ellis, a devoutly religious employee opposed to gay lifestyles, posts anti-gay Bible passages on the walls of his cubicle in response to posters his employer is using in a gay rights diversity campaign. After talks between Ellis and MacroB’s diversity manager deteriorate, Ellis is fired for insubordination. Ellis is thinking about launching a lawsuit against MacroB, but instead both Ellis and MacroB have agreed (reluctantly) to work with a mediator. Can a mediator help the parties and their attorneys craft a settlement that does not require them to compromise their fundamental values?
Seoul Food in Urbana. How best can a mediator under time pressure resolve a highly-emotional ethnic dispute? Racial tensions explode between Korean grocery store owners and their African-American customers after an elderly African-American woman is accused of shoplifting, sparking a massive boycott against Korean merchants. African-Americans say store owners are unfriendly and unfairly accuse customers of stealing. Korean store owners respond by saying that African-Americans shoplift and use racial slurs in their stores. Legal representatives of the local African-American and Korean-American communities are now meeting with the mayor’s Chief Aide for Urban Affairs in an effort to try to resolve the conflict. During the discussions, a newsflash will inform the parties that the boycott situation has worsened and that an urgent solution is necessary.