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Consensus Building and Negotiation:
Research and Practice

I have been engaged in a number of action-oriented research projects for introducing consensus buidling and other consensus-seeking processes in policy-making.

While the term "consensus building" can have multiple meanings, such participatory processes have been employed in the practice of urban, regional, and environmental planning particularly in North America. In recent years, similar planning exercises have been implemented in Europe, Middle East, Asia, and South America. Meanwhile, its field of application has extended to science & technology and welfare policy in the United States.

I have been promoting such stakeholder approaches in Japan, formerly as a private consultant and now as a researcher, since the early 2000s. In 2005, I was involved in the design and implementation of a full-fledged consensus building exercise in Tokushima, Japan on the issue of highway improvements. Since I came back to Tokyo in 2007, I have also been involved in a number of such dialogues and processes as an expert, as well as research projects focusing on the institutional and socio-cultural aspects in implementing such participatory processes.

Reflecting on my practice, the major concern of using such participatory approach is about the adaptation to the local context. Because the consensus building approach was first developed in North America, it might not be operational in Japan due to many differences in norms and institutions. Thus in my dissertation project at MIT (titled "Localizing public dispute resolution in Japan") , I focused on the need of adapting it to the local context.

Aside from teaching negotiation theory (which serves as the underlying theory for consensus builidng processes), I occasionally conduct research on the practice of negotiation in the Japanese/Asian context with colleagues around the world.