Legislative Negotiation

 

The Legislative Negotiation Project at Harvard Kennedy School was created to develop a range of cases and simulations for teaching legislative negotiation tactics at the state and congressional level. Although legislators come from diverse professional backgrounds and often have considerable experience in negotiation, even the most experienced negotiator can learn from formal training in how to negotiate effectively.  Negotiating in a legislative setting is often far more complex than business negotiation -- and integral to the success of the legislative process.  

In this era of increasing polarization, Jane Mansbridge, Adams Professor of Political Leadership and Democratic Values and Ash Center faculty affiliate, and the negotiation specialists working with her, believe that legislators and their staffs can learn, based on the core principles of legislative negotiation, skills helpful in overcoming the legislative impasses that have afflicted Congress and state capitols around the country. Building on her experience as president of the American Political Science Association in 2013-14, and co-editor of Negotiating Agreement in Politics (American Political Science Association 2013; revised as Political Negotiation, Brookings Foundation Press, 2016), Mansbridge has brought together a team of top-ranked scholars and negotiation faculty to write and advise on these cases and simulations.  The project aims to provide members of federal and state legislatures with the tools to forge mutually acceptable policy solutions to the country’s problems.

Mansbridge and the Legislative Negotiation Project staff have interviewed many current and former members of Congress and their aides, as well as state legislators, to understand more thoroughly the conditions in which bipartisan deal-making can and does succeed. The resulting case studies, simulations, and exercises are now available or will be available soon, without charge, to any qualified instructor in negotiation (see [URL of SLATE]). They are the first materials ever developed for teaching legislative negotiation. 

The larger goal of the Legislative Negotiation Project is to help all legislatures by beginning to produce greater knowledge of the processes of legislative negotiation.  Current courses and training in negotiation do not include legislative negotiation.  Current courses and training on Congress and the state legislatures do not include negotiation.  If this project is successful, courses on negotiation in law schools (which provide an important feeder to both the federal and state legislatures) will begin to include training situated in legislatures, while courses on Congress and the state legislatures will begin to include discussions of the need for, and the skills required to produce, good negotiation.  Over time, accumulating scholarship and practical wisdom on legislative negotiation should build up a corpus of principles and examples, as well as training materials, from which all legislators and potential legislators can draw.