Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Newsletter X, Issue II: Director’s Letter

Woman SmilingDear friends,

In this moment of uncertainty and challenge in our country, we are keenly aware of the importance of our collective work. Each day brings new stories of anger, hostility, and alienation. Thankfully, if you look hard enough, most days also bring stories of hope, empathy, and connection. As our public discourse becomes increasingly fraught, our efforts to engage conflict as a source of wisdom and value take on growing urgency. At HNMCP, the Political Dialogue Initiative that we have been building over the course of the last five years feels more timely than ever.

We continue to work toward the design of much needed dispute resolution systems, and pedagogy to help us engage in political and public dialogue with more space and ease. I often call to mind Valarie Kaur’s moving aspiration that this moment might be “not the darkness of the tomb, but the darkness of the womb.” It is in this spirit that we at HNMCP continue to work to equip the next generation of lawyers with the skill to move toward the conflict and to learn what it has to teach us.

A great deal of thought, work, and heart has gone into our most recent tool for facilitation—the “Police-Community Dialogue” video resource —which we released through the HLS Case Studies website this spring. This resource includes video of an entire facilitated dialogue (recorded on July 9, 2016, a week after the shootings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Philando Castile in Minneapolis, and five police offers in Dallas). The teaching package also includes video of retrospective analysis and commentary with the facilitators, Danielle Bart ’13 and Toby Berkman ’10, and Prof. Robert Bordone ’97, as well as a detailed teaching note with discussion questions that can be used in courses on facilitation, multi-party negotiation, consensus building and mediation, and in workshops or training sessions of facilitating dialogue.

This video is part of our broader initiative to help students learn to lead genuine and challenging dialogue on issues about which people have strong and divergent views. We have learned from our efforts over the past several years—from our RealTalk and Harvard Community Dialogue series and the formation and training of our student HLSNow Facilitation Corps, to the creation of “The Lawyer as Facilitator” course and the “Political Dialogue in Polarizing Times: Election 2016” reading group. We’ve been working hard to train students, serve clients, and contribute to the field in a way that will help to improve civil discourse in America and globally. We are excited to welcome Neil McGaraghan to our team to continue this work and to advance our political dialogue initiative in the coming year.

This past spring we engaged in six clinical projects. They allowed us to assist a Supreme Court to evaluate a pilot of two new Civil Procedure rules on pre-trial conferences; support a local office of housing stability’s development of resources to resolve housing-related conflicts; consult with a restorative justice organization on how to develop a system to assist incarcerated individuals to apologize to those hurt by their actions; continue a project with a city’s Ombuds department, deepening their impact on public education; facilitate a joint-visioning process for a state-wide community mediation organization; and create a conflict analysis framework for an international peace organization. We are excited about our slate of projects this fall, and delighted to welcome Andrew Mamo ’14, who will supervise students in an exciting array of new projects over the coming years.

As part of an ongoing speaker’s series in the spring “Negotiation Workshop,” workshop students were regaled by negotiation lessons learned on the campaign trail and at the White House by Michelle Obama’s speechwriter, Sarah Hurwitz ’04. A team from our student practice organization Harvard Law School Negotiators worked throughout the spring semester with Catholic Charities Maine on a new project entitled “To Dialogue: Moving Towards Conversation About Refugee Resettlement in Maine.” We also include in this issue our Student Spotlight on two-time Clinic student Corey Linehan ’18 and our Client Spotlight on three-time Clinic client and newly instated MIT Ombudsman, Nick Diehl.

As always, we look forward to hearing your updates and learning more about your work.

Warm Regards,


Rachel Viscomi ’01

Acting Director, Harvard Negotiation & Mediation Clinical Program
Lecturer on Law, Harvard Law School