Finding a Way to Yes: Resolving Public Disputes with Devising Seminars


The situation is familiar to many planners: a broad set of angry stakeholders with wildly divergent worldviews, a deeply personal and political problem with no clear definition or boundary, and limited options regarding a way forward. These are called  “wicked” problems, and this is a scenario that dispute resolution practitioners have few ways of handling.


In her thesis, Carri Hulet (MCP ’13) describes a new tool to add to the facilitator’s repertoire. Called a “devising seminar”, the concept is built around the idea of gathering a small group of stakeholders to brainstorm how they proceed without any immediate pressure to commit to a specific set of recommendations.


Carri details the experience that she and a team of university researchers had in applying this method in the case of a Chilean hydropower conflict. In the context of an intense dispute between Chilean government officials, project developers, environmental representatives and indigenous communities likely to be adversely affected by development, the team turned to a devising seminar to generate new policy ideas and a better understanding of the sources of their disagreement.


The Chilean experiment met with mixed results, but demonstrated the utility of devising seminars as a tool for promoting public policy dialogue among long-time adversaries. Carri lays out the crucial elements, major obstacles, and key recommendations regarding the use of devising seminars, which can be found in her thesis.


Posted on November 15, 2013, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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