Intellectual Contributions

Professor Susskind’s primary contributions to the fields of urban and environmental planning, negotiation and dispute resolution, and mutlilateral treaty negotiation are highlighted below. He is the originator of fourteen key ideas that have shaped theory and practice in the United States and elsewhere around the world.

Entrepreneurial Negotiation

In a period of technology innovation, start-ups and new ventures are getting a great deal of attention. Without proper attention to the unique features of entrepreneurial negotiations, inexperienced inventors and investors are likely to end up with little or nothing. The four unique features of entrepreneurial negotiation (i.e. the role of ego and emotion, technical complexity, enormous uncertainty, and the importance of long-term relationships) must be kept in mind.

Entrepreneurial Negotiations: The MIT Way
How to Negotiate the MIT Way
Successful Entrepreneurs Must Learn to Negotiate
Four Factors for Successful Entrepreneurial Negotiations

Public Dispute Resolution

Traditional approaches to resolving public disputes produce results that are not as fair, efficient, stable, or wise as they could be. This is true in almost every democratic society. By supplementing representative democracy with new forms of stakeholder involvement — facilitated by trained mediators — better results can be achieved at the local, state, and national levels. This suggests new roles for planners, a new profession of public dispute mediation, and ways of strengthening mature democracies.

MIT-Harvard Public Disputes Program
The Consensus Building Institute
Breaking the Impasse (Basic Books)
Breaking Robert’s Rules, with Jeffrey Cruikshank, (Oxford University Press) 2006 (Revised foreign language editions in Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Dutch, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, and French.)
Review of Consensus Building Handbook in American Bar Association’s Dispute Resolution Magazine (in Jennifer Thomas-Larmer’s web site).
History of Public Dispute Resolution in the US

Environmental Mediation

Environmental conflicts can often be resolved through mediated face-to-face negotiation. Environmental mediating raises a host of ethical issues. This is particularly true in the rule-making or regulatory context.

Negotiating Environmental Agreements: How to Avoid Escalating Confrontation Needless Costs and Unnecessary Litigation (Island Press)
Better Environmental Policy Studies: How to Design and Conduct More Effective Analyses (Island Press)
“Environmental Mediation and the Accountability Problem.” In Vermont Law Review, Vol. 6, No. 1 Spring 1981.
“Towards a Theory of Environmental Dispute Resolution.” (With Alan Weinstein) In Boston College Environmental Affairs Law Review, Vol. 6, No. 1, May 1981.

Joint Fact Finding

Science Impact Collaborative (SIC)
“A Dialogue, Not A Diatribe Effective Integration of Science and Policy through Joint Fact Finding”, by Herman A. Karl, Lawrence E. Susskind, and Katherine H. Wallace, Environment, February, 2007
Joint Fact Finding Course – USGS

Facility Siting Credo

The “decide-announce-defend” approach to siting regionally necessary but locally noxious facilities no longer works. Only an approach that follows the steps outlined in the Facility Siting Credo is likely to overcome claims of environmental injustice and political unfairness.

New Approaches to Consensus Building and Speeding Up Large Scale Energy Infrastructure Projects (with Jonathan Raab)
Environmental Technology and Public Policy Program at MIT
The Facility Siting Credo (with Howard Kunreuther), University of Pennsylvania Publication Services, 1991.

Public Entrepreneurship

New “greener” technologies will be needed to shift to more sustainable development patterns throughout the world. The diffusion of these technologies will not be easy because communities (rather than individual corporate or public leaders) will have to decide simultaneously to try them and ensure that they work. New public entrepreneurship networks (with public and private sector actors playing very different roles) will have to be created and maintained to ensure the implementation of these “greener” technologies.

Environmental Technology and Public Policy Program at MIT
Public Entrepreneurship Networks (with David Laws, James Abrams, Jonna Anderson, Ginette Chapman, Emily Rubenstein, and Jaisel Vadgama). MIT Environmental Technology and Public Policy Program Publication ETP 01-01, 2001.
A poster detailing the Sunline Public Entrepreneurship Networks

Mutual Gains Approach to Negotiation

So-called “win-win” approaches to negotiation have gained in popularity over the past two decades. There is actually no way, however, for everyone to get everything they want in most negotiations. So, building consensus in a way that ensures that all stakeholders exceed “their next best option if there is no agreement” is the key. Building on the work of Fisher and Ury at the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School, Susskind has spelled out how to make a mutual gains approach to negotiation work, especially in multi-party contexts of all kinds.

The Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School
The Consensus Building Institute
The Consensus Building Handbook (Sage)
Breaking Robert’s Rules

Interactive Representation

Most parliaments and legislatures are comprised of representatives elected on a district basis (by majority rule). As with the United States Congress, this heightens party politics, leads to enormous instability in policy priorities, and usually ensures that “good policy is not good politics.” A new system of Interactive Representation that shifts away from geography and toward shared interests as the basis for elections and emphasizes proportionality rather than majority rule would produce far better policy.

Can America’s Democracy Be Improved? (with Liora Zion) Draft Working Paper of the Consensus Building Institute and the MIT-Harvard Public Disputes Program, August 2002 (PDF)
The Cure for Our Broken Political Process: How We Can Get Our Politicians to Stop Fighting and Start Resolving the Issues that Truly Matter, with Sol Erdman, (Potomac Publishers) 2008.

The Mediation of Land Use Disputes

Most land use and growth management conflicts (particularly at the state and local levels) can be mediated as long as the right kind of “homework” is done beforehand and certain modifications in traditional institutional arrangements are worked out.

Mediating Land Use Disputes Seminar at Lincoln Institute of Land Policy
Mediating Land Use Disputes: Pros and Cons (Lincoln Institute of Land Policy)

Management of Sustainable Development

Sustainable development (i.e. patterns of growth and resource consumption that leave “good” options open to future generations) is an elusive goal. Only by treating the goals and methods of sustainable development as “negotiable” can they be achieved. Balancing economic, ecological, cultural and political objectives requires institutional capacity building and more effective management strategies, particularly in the developing world.

Sustainability Challenge Foundation – IMPS
Consensus Building Institute

Using Simulations As a Teaching Tool

Too much teaching and training is purely didactic. At every level – from grade school through the most advanced professional training – simulations can and should be used to supplement traditional educational techniques. Simulations (unlike unstructured role plays or case studies) put learners in carefully structured situations that build in real-life constraints. Simultaneous debriefing of multiple groups using the same simulations generate powerful lessons.

MIT-Harvard Public Disputes Program/Teaching Resources
Workable Peace
Using Simulations to Teach Negotiation: Pedagogical Theory and Practice (with Jason Corburn) Hewlett Conference at the MIT-Harvard Law School Program on Negotiation
Teaching Negotiation in Public Policy and Planning. (with Boyd Fuller)
Reflections on the Program on Negotiation’s beginnings (with Roger Fisher, Bruce Patton, Howard Raiffa, Frank Sander, James Sebenius, and William Ury)
Teaching Environmental Negotiations Using Role-Play Simulations

Global Environmental Treaty-making: Parallel Informal Negotiation

The global environmental treaty-making system is flawed. While hundreds of multilateral accords have been adopted, implementation (as with the Climate Change convention) has been difficult. A new approach to generating transboundary agreements — called Parallel Informal Negotiation– ensures much more than lowest common denominator agreements and increases the chances of effective implementation.

Global Forum on Trade, Environment and Development
Multistakeholder Dialogue at the Global Scale (with Boyd W. Fuller, Michéle Ferenz, David Fairman) (later published by International Negotiation Journal, 8 (2)).
International Environmental Negotiation (with William Moomaw) (MIT OpenCourseWare 11.364)
Environmental Diplomacy: Negotiating More Effective Global Agreements
(Oxford University Press, 1994, in Japanese in 1995, and in Arabic in 1996)
Papers on International Environmental Negotiation, Volume 16: Enhancing the Effectiveness of the Treaty-making System (2007)
Papers on International Environmental Negotiation, Volume 15: Ensuring a Sustainable Future (2006)

Joint Training As a Dispute Resolution Tool

As a prelude to negotiation, it is often helpful to bring together the parties for a period of joint training. By introducing the actual parties to the mutual gains approach to negotiation (and ensuring that their constituencies also understand what is involved), it is possible to minimize the adversary nature of contract and other kinds of negotiations.

Training as Organizational Development
Implementing a Mutual Gains Approach to Collective Bargaining, (With Elaine Landry) Negotiation Journal, January, 1991, pp 5-10.

Water Diplomacy

The Water Diplomacy Framework offers an alternative to the notion of Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) as a way of generating policies and decisions regarding the allocation of water resources. WDF is a negotiated approach to the management of complex water networks.

Water Diplomacy (Islam and Susskind), Resources for the Future, 2012

Water Diplomacy Workshop ( offered in June each year in Cambridge, Massachusetts in conjunction with the Swiss Embassay