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Consensus Building in the Public Sector
(Policy Study III-J)

Consensus building is an integral part of policy-making in any parts of the world. Not just land owners and influential politicians, public officials and project sponsors have to negotiate with a wide range of stakeholders, including community groups and environmental organizations, towards planning and implementing public policies and projects. While varieties of consensus building processes have been proposed, this course will primarily focus on the steps proposed by the MIT-Harvard Public Disputes Program with which the instructor has been affiliated. After learning about the model steps, we will examine various cases of its application by reading case studies. We will also discuss consensus building and participatory processes in Asia.

Textbook

- Susskind, L. and Cruikshank, J. (2006). Breaking Robert's Rule. Oxford University Press.

- Susskind, L. and Cruikshank, J. (1987). Breaking the Impasse. Basic Books.

Course schedule

9/21

Introduction

-Introduction to the course

9/28

Overview of participatory processes

-Historical review of participatory practices around the world
-Theoretical review of consensus building and other participatory processes

10/5

Public participation and its problems

-Representation problems in pluralistic politics
-Participation and social movements

10/12

Consensus building processes

-Five-step model of consensus building

10/19

Stakeholder analysis

-Practical techniques for identifying stakeholders to be involved and issues to be negotiated

10/26

Case study (1)

-Learning from a project story

11/2

Joint fact-finding

-Processes and arrangements for adopting scientific and expert advice

11/9

Case study (2)

-Learning from a project story

11/16

Consensus building in Asia

-Challenges in adopting consensual and participatory processes in Asian public policy context

11/30

Student presentations

-Students will present a case from his or her own background involving consensus building challenges and discuss possible pathways for improving the practice

12/7

12/14

Deliberative democracy

-An emerging form of democratic engagement of citizens in policy-making

12/21

Process design exercise

-Each student will choose a case and develop a proposal for consensus building processes to a project sponsor.

1/11

1/18

Wrap-up