Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Negotiation and dispute resolution in the public sector

Massachusetts Institute of Technology
In Maynard (USA)

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Important information

Typology Master
Location Maynard (USA)
Start Different dates available
  • Master
  • Maynard (USA)
  • Start:
    Different dates available

This course investigates social conflict and distributional disputes in the public sector. While theoretical aspects of conflict are considered, the focus of the class is on the practice of dispute resolution. Comparisons between unassisted and assisted negotiation are reviewed along with the techniques of facilitation and mediation.

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Where and when



Maynard (USA)
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Different dates availableNow taking bookings

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What you'll learn on the course

Dispute Resolution
Public Sector

Course programme

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 2 hours / session

Conventional legislative, administrative, and judicial means of resolving resource allocation and policy disputes in the public sector often produce less than satisfactory outcomes. This is true in democracies around the world. Planners, policy-makers, developers, and advocates of the poor, concerned about the fairness, efficiency, stability, and wisdom of public sector decision-making, are constantly searching for better ways of resolving conflicts. Recent advances in the theory and practice of consensus building and dispute resolution are, therefore, of great significance.

This seminar is designed for graduate students with no prior background or experience in the fields of negotiation or dispute resolution. Lectures, case studies, and simulations are used to introduce students to the "art" and "science" of negotiation and conflict management. The class also provides an intensive opportunity to build individual negotiating skills. Occasional guest lectures by well-known practitioners provide an opportunity for students to test some of the theoretical ideas presented in class against the issues that arise in practice.

Some of the most important work in the field of dispute resolution is being done at the inter-university Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School (PON). The Department of Urban Studies and Planning is well represented at the Program through the work of students and faculty affiliated with the MIT-Harvard Public Disputes Program. We try to build on the last two decades of research at PON.

No term paper is required. There will be a mid-term exercise and an in-class final. Every student is expected to submit bi-weekly journal entries commenting on the assigned readings and responding to questions presented throughout the semester. Participation in all weekly simulations is required. There will be an in-class final exam.

Copies of the course reader will be available to enrolled students for purchase during the first week of the term.

Enrollment is limited. Preference will be given to DUSP students. The graduate instructor will be available weekly to meet with students during scheduled office hours. In addition, if you would like to set up a time to see Professor Susskind, please sign up during his posted office hours.

Fisher, Roger, and William Ury. Getting to Yes. 2nd ed. Boston, MA: Houghton-Mifflin, 1991. ISBN: 0140157352. (Paperback.)
This is a short paperback. Please read before session 2.

Susskind, Lawrence, and Jeffrey Cruikshank. Breaking the Impasse: Consensual Approaches to Resolving Public Disputes. New York, NY: Basic Books, 1987. Reprint edition, 1989. ISBN: 0465007503. (Paperback, Out of Print.)
This is background reading. Please read by session 5.

Susskind, Lawrence, Paul Levy, and Jennifer Thomas-Larmer. Negotiating Environmental Agreements. Washington, DC: Island Press, 1999. ISBN: 1559636335. (Paperback.)
This is a summary of the theory of mutual gains negotiation. Please read the opening section before session 3.

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