Top » Teaching » Consensus Building in the Public Sector

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.


- 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



-Introduction to the course


Overview of participatory processes

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


Public participation and its problems

-Representation problems in pluralistic politics
-Participation and social movements

10/11 and 10/18 Student Presentations -Each student provides a short presentation about public policy disputes and controversies with their own experience.


Consensus building processes

-Five-step model of consensus building


Stakeholder analysis

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


Cases from Japan

-Learning from project stories


Joint fact-finding

-Processes and arrangements for adopting scientific and expert advice


Consensus building in Asia

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


Deliberative democracy

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


Process design exercise

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


Process design proposal presentation

-Each student presents a design of participatory processes for their own policy issue.