Bridging Divides Negotiation, Mediation, Systems Design & Dialogue

Recent Posts

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Truth Commissions as an Antidote to Unrest: Where Dialogue and Transparency Promote Reconciliation

by Oladeji Tiamiyu ’20   In recent months, America has experienced significant social upheaval, ranging from the nation-wide protests in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd to the attempted insurrection of the Capitol that led to the deaths of 5 individuals. In July 2020, Boston, San Francisco, and Philadelphia established truth commissions in… More

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Identity Commitments at the Negotiating Table

by Zekariah McNeal ’21 Identity often affects the substance of negotiations, not just the process. But this influence might be the most likely to remain unspoken.  Consider an employee who enters her employer’s office to ask for a raise. That employee might prepare for such a negotiation by gathering objective criteria such as comparable salaries, market trends,… More

Thursday, February 4, 2021

What Are We Learning About Convening Peace in a Pandemic?

The field of peace negotiations relies on extensive travel of the parties, mediators, and advisors. From 2018 to early 2020, a major component of my work portfolio was advising parties involved in Sudan’s civilian revolution and democratic transition, and advising delegations to the Sudanese Peace Process. So I spent a lot of time going back and forth to locations like Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Paris, France; and Juba, South Sudan. On March 12, 2020, I woke up at around 6am in Juba, South Sudan, to prepare for another day of peace negotiations for Sudan. When I looked at my phone I quickly realized that instead, the United States had announced the start of flight and entry restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and borders were rapidly closing around the world. I was in transit back to Washington, D.C. by that afternoon, and the flights and airports were filled with internationals traveling home as countries locked down. Seemingly overnight the landscape of the peace processes changed, and for me this article was born out of being on my flights home thinking, “Well, we are all going to have to innovate.”… More

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

The Risk—and Relief—in Calls for Unity

President Biden ran on a campaign of unity, “restoring the soul of our nation.” These calls often resembled a pastor’s sermon more than policymaker’s plan, and suggested that division was not a symptom, but instead a harm in and of itself. . . . In President Biden’s view, it seems that division itself is what needs to be overcome. But how? Does his vision of unity include those who stormed the Capitol, or the lawmakers who refuse to denounce them? How do we achieve unity when the current moment also requires an unambiguous rejection of forms of violence? Is his unity a moral aspiration, or a political project? If it is the latter, how do we implement it?… More

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Remote but Robust: having difficult conversations virtually using best practices from crisis counseling 

“That is a conversation that probably needs to happen in person.”  We can all think of myriad personal and professional conversations that fall into this category:  Giving critical feedback to someone you manage; having a conversation with a family member about political views; talking a friend through the loss of a job; announcing big changes in company policy; onboarding a new employee and introducing them to their team; providing support for someone who has an ill loved one; introducing your parents to a new significant other.  The list could go on and on.  There are many moments in work and in life that prior to early 2020, you would have turned away from text, email, phone calls, or even video chats in favor of in-person communication.  But over the last nine months, our ability to build, maintain, and provide support in relationships has been largely – and suddenly – restricted to doing so through technology.  … More

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

What we’ve learned from the election – no matter who wins 

Election Day has come and gone.  At this moment, we sit with anxious uncertainty about the outcome in the Presidential race, as key states continue to count the millions of legitimately cast votes that remain.  The color-coded maps are ubiquitous but incomplete, the pundits spin out endless speculative scenarios.  And we wait.  … More

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Reflecting on the Journey of “Thanks for Listening”

When we launched the “Thanks for Listening” podcast in the fall of 2018, our goal was to explore what seemed like deep and growing political polarization in the U.S., and to find out what was being done about it. We wanted to be able to tell a hopeful story about people and organizations who are working to “bridge the partisan divide in America,” as we said in the opening of each episode. And for both of the authors, hope was something we needed; the political and social dynamics at play at the time seemed to be posing dire stress tests to some of the basic premises of our work. … More

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

On Dispute Systems Design and Democratic Participation: Reimagining Voting 

By Deanna Pantin Parrish   American democracy is an almost 250-year-old dispute between “We, The People” and those elected to represent us.   Since America was an idea, voting has been a central mechanism for defining our collective identity and determining its representation. In the Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton penned that it was for Americans “to decide …… More

Monday, September 14, 2020

Strategies in Multi-Party Negotiations (A Video Presentation)

HNMCP is fortunate to draw on the expertise of a wide variety of practitioners in seeking to understand and teach students about the nuances of alternative dispute resolution. One of those practitioners is Susan Carney Lynch, JD, DrPH, NREMT-P, a lawyer, public servant, and Fellow with Harvard’s Advanced Leadership Initiative (ALI). Dr. Lynch has built a career… More

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Only a Game: How Elements of “Gamification” Can Enrich Online Dialogue

In light of the pandemic, dialogue practitioners are finding inventive ways to not only transfer dialogue online but also reimagine how traditionally in-person activities can be conducted online more effectively. A new way of making remote dialogue more engaging is to incorporate game-like elements to make the online experience more life-like. Carla Luna talks about how in her new blog.… More

Thursday, July 23, 2020

How will the post-Covid office space change the way we manage conflict?

When the physical setups of our offices constantly remind us to be wary of one another, what will happen to our choices about how to handle conflicts at work? … More

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Bridging the Virtual Gulf: Engagement Strategies for Online Facilitation

Imagine this. You are facilitating a local community meeting over Zoom. Although all participants have their audio and video enabled, about half are staring down at their cellphones while another participant (whom you recognize from two previous meetings) is single-handedly carrying the conversation. As a new participant starts to chime in, your virtual veteran cuts her off mid-speech. She mutes. This is facilitated dialogue post-COVID. … More

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

HNMCP Celebrates their 2020 graduates


Monday, May 4, 2020

Can Dispute Systems Design be “Rapid-Response”?

Dispute systems design, when done well, emphasizes thoughtful, intentional engagement with stakeholders in order to develop robust conflict management systems. Is this approach useful during an acute crisis? A few days ago, a friend who works in a state court system sent the following email to me and a number of colleagues in the field of… More

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Finding the contours of our virtual lives

In-person interaction is now largely unavailable to us. Can digital connections ever be as rich? In visual art, the term “negative space” refers to the space around the subject of an image. M.C. Escher’s Sky and Water I provides a vivid example: the birds at the top of this graphic print start out as positive… More

Tuesday, March 24, 2020


There is no avoiding or downplaying the enormity of the changes we have all experienced in the past three weeks. From the large-scale patterns of our movement from place to place, down to the number of seconds we spend at the sink scrubbing our hands, it seems like the very texture of our ordinary days has… More

Thursday, March 19, 2020

When the pandemic ends, will we remain “distanced”?

When I first read the phrase, “social distancing”—in an email sent by one of our law school deans—my first reaction was a visceral sort of aversion. It seemed a particularly callous phrase, tinged with both sadness and a cold, clinical sensibleness. I have since learned that social distancing was not, in fact, a term made up by a dean at Harvard Law School, but is actually a well-known protocol for slowing contagion, with which I and my colleagues and millions upon millions of people around the world are now personally familiar.   … More

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Engaging Deep Differences Online

Originally published on the Indisputably blog as part of the Theory-of-Change Symposium . You can find all the submissions for the symposium here.   As we approach the next election, we continue to confront important challenges about engaging across deeply felt differences. Our country remains polarized, and many feel disconnected from those whose views differ… More

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

On the Road

Former HNMCP clients Heather Kulp (New Hampshire Judicial Branch) and Rebecca Price (U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York) presented at the ABA Section of Dispute Resolution Conference in Minneapolis, MN, on April 9, alongside Clinical Instructor Sara del Nido Budish ’13. The presentation, “Trust the Process?  Understanding and Learning from Party… More

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Client Spotlight

The systems design approach HNMCP takes is a substantial asset during the semester of the project. But for me, the skills I’ve learned from HNMCP—both as a clinical instructor but perhaps more as a client—render HNMCP a greater asset long after the students have submitted their final projects. They teach me, and others, how to see our work and environment differently for years to come.… More