Decision Making & Negotiation

Brokering Collaboration: Involving Officials in Community Scorecard Programs
Kosack, Stephen, Jessica Creighton, Courtney Tolmie, Fatu Conteh, Eric Englin, Linda Gassama, Hannah Hilligoss, et al. 2021. “Brokering Collaboration: Involving Officials in Community Scorecard Programs”. Read the full report Abstract

Transparency for Development Team, April 2021 

Programs to improve the transparency and accountability of public services are an increasing focus of international commitments to sustainable development. We ask whether involving officials in one common approach—community scorecard programs—brokers state-society collaboration that improves public services. We compare two scorecard programs focused on improving maternal and newborn health care that were offered in 215 communities similarly stratified across five countries. The first program, offered in 200 communities in Indonesia and Tanzania, involved facilitated meetings among community members. A similar program in 15 communities in Ghana, Malawi, and Sierra Leone involved facilitated meetings among community participants as well as between community members and hereditary authorities (in Malawi) or district-level elected and appointed officials (in Ghana and Sierra Leone). Interviews, focus groups, and systematic observations consistently suggest that in the program in Malawi, participants took similar approaches to improving their health care to participants in Indonesia and Tanzania—focusing primarily on improving care themselves and with health-care providers and others in their communities—and that the results of their efforts were similar to the program in Indonesia and Tanzania, where a randomized controlled impact evaluation found that average community outcomes did not improve significantly faster than in a control group of communities. In both Ghana and Sierra Leone, participants collaborated more with officials and saw tangible changes to health care that they and others noticed and remembered in nearly twice the proportion of communities as in the program in Indonesia and Tanzania. We conclude that involving officials in these programs may increase their effectiveness.

Norgaard, Stefan, Elizabeth Patton, Monica Giannone, Brian Mandell, Jorrit de Jong, and Guhan Subramanian. 2020. “In the Green: Negotiating Rail Expansion in Somerville, MA”. Read full the case study Abstract

Stegan Norgaard, Elizabeth Patton, Monica Giannone, Brian Mandell, Jorrit de Jong, and Guhan Subramanian; May 2020

Successful litigation against the Commonwealth of Massachusetts made an original, legal, and moral case for building alternative transportation in Somerville: the Green Line Extension (GLX). Having campaigned on extending the Green Line—first as alderman, then as mayor—Joe Curtatone took office as mayor in 2005. His first victory was creating a MBTA “T” stop for the Orange Line at Assembly Station. Working with the same coalition of nonprofits, he pursued a participatory visioning process (“SomerVision”) that brought together over sixty organizations from different sectors in Somerville, that had a common vision for the GLX. Curtatone overcame hiccups surrounding industrial parcels and successfully kept the project eligible for a federal NewStarts grant; using an economic-development narrative, he acquired the problematic parcels through eminent domain. By 2014-2015, though, the project was running over budget and it was uncertain whether the Commonwealth would support the GLX.

Curtatone negotiated with the State of Massachusetts and agreed on simplifications to the original GLX, including a shorter route that would no longer directly benefit neighboring regional communities. He also negotiated project funding by the Cities of Cambridge and Somerville and the Boston Regional Metropolitan Planning Organization board (BRMPO). But then, the Commonwealth announced a shortfall of roughly $200 million, that Curtatone resolved through an agreement: Somerville paid $50M, Cambridge $25M, and the BRMPO diverted funding for the rest. The narrower GLX project was approved and construction began in May 2018. This case is designed as the capstone case in a series of negotiation cases developed by the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative. 

Thanks to a gift from Bloomberg Philanthropies, no permission is required to teach with, download, or make copies of this case.

Vo, Hung, Elizabeth Patton, Monica Giannone, Brian Mandell, Jorrit de Jong, and Guhan Subramanian. 2020. “Many Ways to Get There: Securing Public Investments in Richmond, VA”. Read the full case study Abstract

Hung Vo, Elizabeth Patton, Monica Giannone, Brian Mandell, Jorrit de Jong, and Guhan Subramanian; May 2020 

The City of Richmond elected Levar Stoney as its youngest mayor in 2016. Mayor Stoney campaigned for better-funded public schools, government accountability, and crime prevention. One of the mayor’s main responsibilities was to propose biannual budgets to a nine-member city council, which could approve the budget as proposed or pass it with amendments. This case illustrates Stoney’s efforts to increase Richmond’s real estate tax from $1.20 to $1.29 per $100 of assessed value. This tax increase was quickly rejected by a majority of city council members. Disagreements climaxed when the mayor’s administration walked out of a city council budget hearing, prompting council members to respond by voting to pursue legal action against Stoney.

This case focuses on how positional bargaining prevents creative deal-making when negotiators fail to understand the interests of other parties. By exploring Stoney’s relationship with city council, the case emphasizes the downsides of positional bargaining and the opportunities for better outcomes with an interest-based approach to negotiation. This case also introduces the four negotiation concepts of interests, options, criteria, and alternatives, and examines their relevance to city-level negotiations.

Thanks to a gift from Bloomberg Philanthropies, no permission is required to teach with, download, or make copies of this case.

Norgaard, Stefan, Elizabeth Patton, Monica Giannone, Brian Mandell, Jorrit de Jong, and Guhan Subramanian. 2020. “In the Weeds: Securing a Grass-Mowing Contract in Stockton, CA”. Read the full case study Abstract

Stegan Norgaard, Elizabeth Patton, Monica Giannone, Brian Mandell, Jorrit de Jong, and Guhan Subramanian; May 2020

Kurt Wilson, the City Manager of Stockton, CA, joined the city government ten months after the City declared bankruptcy. After successfully steering Stockton out of bankruptcy, Wilson committed to implementing a set of permanent financial control measures to ensure that the City remained fiscally solvent well into the future. He had an extensive background in both the private and nonprofit sectors and had served as city manager in four other California cities.

Stockton’s Long-Range Financial Plan (L-RFP) indicated that the City could spend, at most, approximately $1.3M in 2019 fiscal year (FY19) on a contract to mow grass on city medians. The City had spent $1.2M the previous year. Wilson believed shortages of tradespeople in the Bay Area—caused in part by demand for construction after California wildfires—would affect price points. At worst, he thought he could justify spending $1.6M on the contract. Wilson cared about the fiscal health of Stockton, but he also wanted to ensure high-quality public services.

When the City issued its RFP, bids started at $2.26M, well above what Stockton could afford. After considering his options, Wilson issued a new RFP that included a lower “base” scope of services with modular components that the City could accept or decline depending on cost. Stockton ended up spending $1.91M for a year of service, but even as costs increased, tall grasses remained on city medians. Wilson wondered whether there might have been a better way for the City to have anticipated the higher prices.

Thanks to a gift from Bloomberg Philanthropies, no permission is required to teach with, download, or make copies of this case.

Norgaard, Stefan, Elizabeth Patton, Monica Giannone, Brian Mandell, Jorrit de Jong, and Guhan Subramanian. 2020. “You Get What You Pay for: Reforming Procurement in Naperville, Illinois”. Read the full case study Abstract

Stegan Norgaard, Elizabeth Patton, Monica Giannone, Brian Mandell, Jorrit de Jong, and Guhan Subramanian; May 2020

Naperville, Illinois is a suburb of approximately 150,000 people in the Chicago metropolitan area. Traditionally, the City focused on price for all procurement negotiations, but it often had few vendors applying for key contracts and struggled to negotiate on both price and quality.

Naperville’s original procurement process was called Quality-Adjusted Cost (QAC). This process sought to simplify a myriad of concerns and variables (including price, quality, timeline, and scope, among others) into a single metric, so that the City could easily and objectively evaluate bids. Although QAC attempted to incorporate quality into the evaluation, there were instances when it seemed the best vendor was not selected.

In an effort to improve the quality of City services, Naperville adopted a new procurement approach called “Cost as a Component.” This revamped process allowed the City to negotiate with vendors on more than just price for technology upgrades and aimed to ensure long-term partnerships with relevant firms, creating value for both vendors and the City. This case illustrates the trade-offs between QAC and “Cost as a Component” for Naperville and prompts participants to apply negotiation concepts to the broader process of city procurement.

Thanks to a gift from Bloomberg Philanthropies, no permission is required to teach with, download, or make copies of this case.

Government Leadership Network

The Government Leadership Network (GLN) is a convening of municipal chiefs of staff and other senior city leaders from among the largest cities across the United States. GLN is a unique initiative that provides a platform for cities to share and adapt best practices and innovative policy ideas that improve the lives of citizens. 

Twice a year, the Ash Center hosts a convening for GLN representatives chaired by Stephen Goldsmith, the Daniel Paul Professor of the Practice of Government at Harvard Kennedy School and the director of the Ash Center's Government Innovations...

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Legislative Negotiation Project, May 2018 

The case, a product of the Legislative Negotiation Project, describes how state legislators in Utah, a very conservative state, assembled a “Coalition of the Willing”— Republican and Democratic representatives alongside religious, civic and business leaders—to negotiate a bipartisan compromise to address the emotionally-charged issue of immigration reform in 2010-2011. The case illuminates issues such as: diagnosing the barriers to agreement; understanding the role of the Utah Compact in shaping the negotiation strategy and trajectory of the 2010-2011 legislation; showing how a focus on problem framing brings more people to the table and creates the conditions for buy-in of an acceptable compromise solution.


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.  


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Legislative Negotiation Project, February 2019 

This multimedia case, a product of the Legislative Negotion Project, focuses on the key decision points leading up to the unlikely passage in 2014 of the bipartisan Water for the World Act in the U.S. Congress. It features interviews with members of the House and the Senate, Congressional staffers, advocates and lobbyists. Through seven short videos to be played in class, faculty and students can explore the challenges of bipartisan negotiation in a highly polarized legislative environment, and of strategies to increase the chance for success when the only way to pass legislation is through bipartisanship.

Legislative Negotiation Project, January 2019 

This multimedia case, a product of the Legislative Negotiation Project, provides a lively portrait—from multiple points of view—of the creative bipartisan negotiations in both the Oregon House and Senate that ultimately led to passage of the 2017 Equal Pay Act. The case helps participants gain insights on the benefits and risks of bipartisanship, how a culture of bipartisanship is created, and strategies to resolve thorny issues and maintain support from political allies.

Legislative Negotiation

In this era of increasing polarization, even enemies can negotiate. Indeed for the health of the country political adversaries must learn to negotiate well. Learning the fundamentals of successful negotiation does not have to be limited to the business sector or labor unions, but can also be of tremendous benefit to members of Congress and state legislators across the country. Yet remarkably,...

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David Dapice, February 2017, revised April 2017

In this paper, David Dapice, considers the factors that are at the heart of the instability in Rakhine state and suggests options for approaching citizenship and mobility issues and for overcoming the constraints on implementing development in the state.

Dealing with Dysfunction: Innovative Problem Solving in the Public Sector

Jorrit de Jong, Brookings Institution Press, 2016

How can we intervene in the systemic bureaucratic dysfunction that beleaguers the public sector? De Jong examines the roots of this dysfunction and presents a novel approach  to solving it. Drawing from academic literature on bureaucracy and problem solving in the public sector, and the clinical work of the Kafka Brigade — a social enterprise based in the Netherlands dedicated to diagnosing and remedying bureaucratic dysfunction in practice, this study reveals the shortcomings of conventional approaches to bureaucratic reform. The usual methods have failed to diagnose problems, distinguish symptoms, or identify root causes in a comprehensive or satisfactory way. They have also failed to engage clients, professionals, and midlevel managers in understanding and addressing the dysfunction that plagues them. This book offers conceptual frameworks, theoretical insights, and practical lessons for dealing with the problem. It sets a course for rigorous public problem solving to create governments that can be more effective, efficient, equitable, and responsive to social concerns.