Consensus Building in the Age of Trump

This is a guest post by Professor Lawrence Susskind, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA and General Editor, Anthem Press Environment and Sustainability Programme

What’s special about the Age of Trump? I would point to two things. First, our political leaders (not just the President) no longer feel an obligation to represent all the people in the district or state that elected them. Now, they only feel accountable to their “base.” This is a relatively new occurrence (not just in the United States, but in other democracies as well). It used to be that after politicians were elected they felt some obligation to represent the interests of all the people in their district or state. As a result, we now have districts or states (or countries!) where 49.9% of the electorate has no representation. This makes them feel angry, anxious and defense. It also makes them feel combative.

The second thing that has changed, and it is related to the first, is that many elected and appointed officials don’t care what evidence or arguments anyone on “the other side” presents. They won’t allow themselves to be convinced by what anyone outside their base has to say. This means that those in control of the levers of power can pursue whatever agenda they choose, without having to explain or justify their actions in a manner that “an independent observer” would agree is reasonable. This adds to the outrage, and even desperation, of those who feel shut out and unrepresented. They are especially angry that scientific evidence can be ignored entirely.

So, in the Age of Trump, many people who have not felt powerless before feel powerless now. They are befuddled by the changes that have occurred in the rules of the game. In the past, they assumed (maybe somewhat naively) that their elected leaders would choose the common good over narrow partisan interests; and, they counted on being able to advocate for what they believe by presenting credible evidence. Now they assume these things won’t happen.

Special challenges for Consensus Builders and other ADR professionals

ADR professionals operate in ways that are intended to ensure fairness – to ensure that all voices are heard and all interests are taken into account when disagreements arise. In a decision-making or governance system that rejects the idea that the interests of all groups matter, ADR professionals are not quite sure what part they are supposed to play. The reason those of us in the ADR field have worked hard to add facilitation, mediation and arbitration to public and private efforts to deal with differences, is to enhance the fairness, efficiency, stability and wisdom of decisions that must be made. In the judicial, executive and legislative branches, at every level of government, we have spent decades demonstrating that adding a professional neutral can, in fact, save time, save money and produce better outcomes (and give stakeholders greater control over what happens to them). In the Age of Trump, ADR professionals now wonder how they can do their job if some of the parties don’t care what the interests of the other parties are; or, some parties feel no obligation to listen to or present credible evidence to support their claims. Many ADR professionals are extremely upset about these changes. Some are so upset they feel compelled to invest their personal time in political efforts to put things back the way they were. When this involves advocacy, though – even when the professionals involved are operating as private citizens — it threatens our most important professional asset – our neutrality.

Neutrality is central to the value we add as ADR professionals. Our neutrality allows us to earn the trust of all sides in any dispute. It also means we can operate in the interstices between the parties and, in so doing, carry messages and provide cover for parties to come together without appearing to be weak. My contention is that many ADR professionals are so upset by what is happening in the Age of Trump that they are ready to risk their perceived neutrality. While I understand their motives, I am convinced this would be a disaster for the profession.

Increasing demand for ADR assistance in periods of heightened conflict

The Age of Trump has certainly generated new conflicts of various kinds. When everyone is escalating their efforts on behalf of their own point-of-view, and more people feel entitled to act in the own interests regardless of the interests of “the other side,” there ought to be increasing demand for our services. So, in these times, we ought to be able to make a greater contribution (in part because no one else is offering to reconcile those in conflict or pursue problem-solving strategies in spite of the conflicts that exist). To succeed in the current context, however, will require several things:

First, we have to remind our potential clients that our goal is not to stamp out conflict. Rather, if they find themselves stalemated and unable to take unilateral action, we can help them find agreeable ways forward in which no one has to give in.

Second, if well managed, conflict can lead to produce change. Conflict is not a bad thing. As others have noted, it is the engine of change. We can help manage conflict in a constructive way.

Third, the fact that parties are inclined to express their interests and concerns with more passion in the Age of Trump, is not a problem for us. In some ways, it should make our work easier. We need to know what the interests and priorities of each party are so we can help them formulate mutually beneficial agreements. We do this by supporting the parties in their search for trades (across issues they value differently) that produce outcomes better for all sides than their BATNAs.

Finally, we need to be sure that our clients understand that our job is not to get anyone to change their beliefs or change their mind. We try to help parties reach mutually advantageous agreements in spite of their differences. We do not allow our own point of view or our own preferences to introduce.

Harmonizing interests through dialogue vs. assisted problem-solving

A segment of the ADR profession has been moving in the direction of facilitating dialogue. Indeed, there are many who think we should devote a substantial portion of our time to helping Red and Blue (and others who have conflicting values) learn to talk with and understand each other more effectively. I’m personally not convinced that dialogue for its own sake should be a high priority for the ADR profession. I don’t think greater understanding is going to lead to harmonization of conflicting values and interests. Perhaps we can help people with diametrically opposed views hear each other, but I’m not sure that’s as important as working out agreements in specific contexts. I think we should emphasize problem-solving — generating “a workable peace” when some action needs to be taken — rather than devoting time to generating a deeper understanding of the sources of disagreement. I don’t think Red and Blue need to believe the same things to find ways of taking action.

The key is to convince as many stakeholders as possible that there is a way to meet their interests in a manner that will get them more than what no agreement (stalemate) guarantees, and more than they are likely to get if they continue to battle.

Coming back to neutrality

As I have already said, we must be absolutely diligent about maintaining our neutrality – no matter how strongly we feel personally – if we want to make a case for the value we add. I’m convinced that the way we act in our personal lives may shape how we are perceived in our professional roles. While each of us has opportunities to take direct political action in our personal lives, remember that if you sign a petition, march peacefully, write op eds, or lobby for your point of view, there is no way anyone on the other side will accept you as a dispute resolution professional they can trust. We need to think very carefully about how we carry ourselves in public. I promise you that whatever actions we take in our personal lives will be noted. Being perceived as neutrals in the Age of Trump is, in my view, the key to contributing to conflict resolution in these difficult times.

Professor Lawrence Susskind is Ford Professor of Urban and Environmental Planning and Head of the Environmental Policy and Planning Group at MIT. One of the founders of the field of environmental dispute resolution, he has been teaching at MIT and Harvard for 45 years.

[Based on Lawrence Susskind’s keynote presentation made to the Biennial Conference of the New England Association for Conflict Resolution (NEACR) in Waltham, Massachusetts on 9/8/17. Originally posted on and reproduced here with permission from the author.]

Sociology: New Series Announcements

sociologyAnthem Press is pleased to announce the launch of five new Sociology series, each highlighting a compelling area of research.

The first of these is the Anthem Law and Society Series, which delves into the role of law and legal institutions in everyday modern societies in order to understand and discuss many relevant and fundamental legal issues. Law and Society discusses both theoretical and empirical issues and is edited by Bryan S. Turner of the City University of New York.

The Anthem Companions to Sociology series, also edited by Turner, offers authoritative and comprehensive assessments of major figures in the development of sociology from the last two centuries. Covering the major advancements in sociological thought, these companions deliver critical evaluations of key figures in the American and European sociological tradition and provide students and scholars with an in-depth assessment of the makers of sociology while charting their relevance to modern society.

Forthcoming titles in this series address figures including Pierre Bourdieu, Max Weber, Hannah Arendt, and Auguste Comte.

Fran Collyer of the University of Sydney will edit the Anthem Health and Society Series, which focuses on the role of health and health care in modern societies. Volumes in the series range over topics including the sociology of medical knowledge, health professions, hospitals, primary care, bio-medical science and medical technologies.

The series also encourages critical interdisciplinary viewpoints on health and illness from both social science and humanities. The first title in the series is Socialising the Biomedical Turn in HIV Prevention which addresses the major challenge for HIV prevention: reaching beyond the limitations of biomedical approaches to disease and designing prevention strategies informed by and connected with the social realities of people’s lives.

What does it mean to make a grounded judgement on the success of failure of a city or nation-state? The Anthem Successful Societies Series explores this question by focusing on their contextual inheritance, and on the normative, conceptual and empirical considerations that need to be brought to bear on evaluative assessments.

Volumes may examine practices holistically but may also concentrate on particular institutional spheres, such as the economy, health, education, migration, civil society, and politics. This series will be edited Rob Stones of the University of Western Australia.

Turner and Universidad Diego Portales’s Yuri Contreras-Vejar will edit the Anthem Religion and Society Series, which will include scholarly works on comparative religions throughout the modern world. The decline and disappearance of religion in secularizing modern societies had been taken by many theorists as inevitable, but the past decades have increasingly put this perspective into question.

This series aims to move toward a new understanding of religion in the modern world by highlighting innovative research on new religious movements, secularization and post-secularism, radical religions and fundamentalism, revivalism and conversion, and religion and violence. Its primary focus is on public religions in a changing world.

We welcome submissions of proposals for challenging and original works that meet the criteria of these series. Should you wish to send in a proposal for a new series or one of the following types of works — Monographs (mid-length and full-length), Edited Collections, Handbooks, Reference, Upper-Level Textbooks, Academic Non-Fiction — please contact us at:

Academic Publishing News Roundup: November 2015

IMG_2944 copyAcademic journal publisher profits might not last forever

Justin Fox’s article at Bloomberg View acknowledges the profits made by journal publishers who don’t have to pay for the content they publish. It examines academic publishing’s history and how journals have taken advantage of the monopoly environment to charge higher prices for journal subscriptions. According to Fox, the open access movement may be changing this model and could replace traditional, large publishers.

Full story

Misconceptions about open access still abound

The University of California (UC) press viewed open access as essential to the future of publishing when they began considering it several years ago. Today digital monographs remain relevant to humanities and social sciences, and the UC Press hopes to ‘reinvigorate’ it with a new open access model. But educating and winning over researchers to open access publications is crucial to helping them see its benefits. Some factually erroneously view open access journals as ‘vanity publications in which one must pay to publish’.

Full story

Richard Fisher addresses the monograph’s future

In two guest posts for the Scholarly Kitchen, Richard Fisher examines topics with a transatlantic appeal including the permanence of imprints, technological change and monographic demand. Fisher addresses misunderstandings and miscommunications between researchers and publishers.

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‘Ebook sales declining’ is not the whole story

The sixth annual Survey of Ebook Usage in U.S. Public Libraries, released last month, indicates that ebooks are becoming more entrenched in public libraries. Although the survey expects that a small percentage of libraries will never offer ebooks, it notes that 94 percent of libraries currently provide ebooks to users. This is down one percent from the previous year, but the article points out that ‘Ebook sales declining’ is a misleading statement.

Full story

What do authors really expect from peer review?

Results from a survey sent to hundreds of Taylor and Francis authors show that most authors are still largely supportive of the concept of peer reviewing. However, Phil Davis, the author of this review, finds that it is not the concept of peer reviewing that needs to be evaluated, but rather the ‘toolbox’ of peer reviewing that must be evaluated.

Full story

How can scientific publishing become more fair?

The use of publication consultants among scientific publishers has vastly increased over the years, leading to the question of why and how these consultants are used and cited. The Conversation’s article discusses the notion that the use of outside help in publishing should be transparent within the work itself in order to create more fair and transparent publishing system.

Full story

Five open access predictions for 2016

Founder and director of Research Consulting Rob Johnson lists five important and thoughtful predictions on the future of open access publishing. Within this, Johnson lists the notion that peer reviewer identities will become more transparent, as well as interactions among authors, editors, and reviewers, a convergence on standard identifiers will emerge, and libraries will become more involved with the process of academic publishing itself.

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Academic Publishing News Roundup: October 2015

IMG_2944 copyColumbia University Press partners with Russian translation nonprofit

The literary nonprofit Read Russia, which seeks to present Russian classics, modern words, and genre fiction to English-speaking audiences, has partnered with Columbia University Press to publish 125 Russian titles into English. Overlook Press was previously attached to the 10-year project. An editorial board will choose the titles and translators. Executive director of Read Russia Peter Kaufman expects the first set to be released by December 2016.

Full story

Are publishers really ‘hoodwinking’ academics?

Guardian published the story of an anonymous academic who claimed publishers ‘hoodwinked’ academics to write books unlikely to be widely read. An anonymous publisher explains commission motivation and combats the idea that they are ‘unseemly’.

Full story

Why Conference Book Exhibits Persist

The online marketplace may play an important role in the academic publishing arena, but Greg Britton (editorial director of Johns Hopkins University Press) insists that ‘book exhibits persist because they are more than just places to buy a book’. These reasons include acting as a window into an academic discipline’s current state of affairs, a way to determine the impact of a book, and being a public marketplace itself. And, of course, the conference book exhibit is also a way to sell books.

Full story 

What Is “Publishing” if Even a Library Can Do It?

Hundreds of libraries are engaged in publishing, but few of these libraries have large staffing resources or paid product types. The Scholarly Kitchen posits that library publishing ‘will do everything it is setting out to do except to replace the publishing models that are based on end-user demand’ although there is a possibility of an increased role in future publishing dominated by open access.

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Academics: leave your ivory towers and pitch your work to the media

Could academics use a bit of journalism skills to get their points across to wider audiences? Lu Qi of Harvard T H Chan School of Public Health co-authored a headline-grabbing study linking spicy foods to longevity, yet he remains unknown by the public. This article explores the challenges of writing for the public, including first-person writing and speaking in public.

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Think. Check. Submit. (How to Have Trust in Your Publisher)

October 1 saw the launch of the “Think. Check. Submit” campaign, which aims to protect researchers from “predatory” publishers. The campaign includes a checklist of what to watch for, including who publishers a journal, if you have read it before, and if your colleagues recognize it.

Full story

AUTHOR EVENT: A Conversation with Ralf Fücks

Speaking at an event hosted by Nesta on Friday, economist and green thinker Ralf Fücks presented ideas from his new book Green Growth, Smart Growth: A New Approach to Economics and the Environment. His casual yet enthusiastic manner belied the fact that was giving this presentation in English for the first time.

It was an opportunity for the former Green Party politician to share his vision based on his vast experience in areas including sustainable development and foreign policy. In Green Growth, Smart Growth, Fücks calls for a paradigm shift to ‘smart growth’ using efficient technology, smart energy policy, and proactive innovation.

Ralf Fücks

Fücks and Westlake at Nesta

In his lecture, Fücks focused on the dark side of growth and environmental overstretch, the energy revolution, and the ‘Green New Deal’. He emphasised the importance of decoupling growth from environmental degradation, focusing on efficiency and energy revolutions. Fücks also discussed the concept of a ‘Moral Economy’ based on fair trade, sustainability, and changing lifestyles.

In the Q&A session at the end, Fücks took three questions, including one on the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference in Paris (COP21), saying that the outcome of it will matter but only if the necessary steps are taken to make it work, including providing funds for developing countries.

Ralf Fuecks

‘Green Growth, Smart Growth’

Conversations and discussions continued in the foyer after lecture over coffee and tea, with Fücks happily joining in.

Executive Director of Nesta’s Policy and Research Team Stian Westlake chaired the event, hosted by Nesta in partnership with Anthem Press and the Heinrich Böll Foundation (Berlin).

For more photos, check out Facebook.

Related: ‘Green Growth, Smart Growth’ Q&A with Ralf Fücks

Here’s How to Help Manage Local Climate Change Risks

This is a guest post by Professor Lawrence Susskind, Director of the MIT Science Impact Collaborative, the Director of the MIT-UTM Malaysia Sustainable Cities Program (MSCP) and co-director of the Water Diplomacy Workshop.

Climate Change RisksWe’ve spent far too much time thinking about the global causes of climate change, and not nearly enough worrying about the local impacts that climate change is already having on coastal communities. The distinction is important. Most of the people pushing for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are environmentalists or experts worried about future generations. But there is a very immediate constituency – the people being hit with higher costs for insurance, water and electricity, and those facing substantial property losses or a drop in business income today because of increased flooding and water shortages.

People who live in a coastal community or on a river nearly anywhere in the world are a lot more worried about what’s happening right now, than what might happen to future generations if we don’t limit greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., China, India and elsewhere.  Climate change means too much water or not enough water in the wrong place at the wrong time! It means deadly heat waves. It means radical changes in natural places, animal and plant life and the onset of new diseases.

Our new book, Managing Climate Risks in Coastal Communities: Readiness, Engagement and Adaptation (by Lawrence Susskind, Danya Rumore, Carri Hulet and Patrick Field) tells the story of four coastal communities trying to take climate change-related risks seriously. What they are doing — and what we have helped them learn from their efforts — can help other cities and towns fast-forward the adoption of climate risk management measures that everyone agrees on.

Here are seven important things to know about this climate change project:

1. What we did

The “we” in this story is the New England Climate Adaptation Project (NECAP), a partnership based at the MIT Science Impact Collaborative and the not-for-profit Consensus Building Institute. Our close partners included the National Estuarian Research Reserve System, the University of New Hampshire, and four New England coastal communities. We prepared four Stakeholder Assessments—one for each partner town in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Maine. These involved interviews with several dozen officials, activists, business leaders and scientists. The scientists on our team prepared a local climate change forecast (estimating likely temperature, precipitation and sea level changes in the near term, mid-term and long-term) using downscaled regional climate models and long-term data from local meteorological measuring stations.

We wanted to know if this approach to enhancing community readiness to address climate-related risks works.

With all this information in hand, we developed tailored role-play simulation (RPSs). These are “serious games” that ask participants to imagine that they are working in a community a lot like their own, trying to figure out what to do about possible climate risks. We organized several workshops in each of our four partner communities at which more than 100 – 150 people played the games in each place. Workshops were co-sponsored by a wide range of local environmental, business and public service organizations.  The press attended.  We used social media to generate as much interest as we could.

2. What we wanted to learn

We wanted to know if this approach to enhancing community readiness to address climate-related risks works. Does it give people a better understanding of the problems they face, the options open to them, the reasons that experts and locals think differently about what is happening and what ought to be done, and the costs of taking different actions?  Does this approach to public engagement build capacity and political momentum? Does it change anyone’s mind?  Does it legitimize the search for immediate “no regrets” actions as far as public spending is concerned?  Does it help the community see why adaptation is a local (not a state or a federal) problem?

To answer these questions, we used independent town-wide polling to establish a base line of public attitudes about climate change before and after the workshops, surveying more than 500 people. We held intensive debriefings with all participants at the end of each workshop. We interviewed almost 25% of the participants 4 – 6 weeks later to see what they remembered.  We did statistical analyses of the results across demographic groups within each community, between those who participated in workshops and those who didn’t, and then compared the four communities in the four states. We prepared detailed Case Studies summarizing what we learned in each town. In the book, we summarize all of our findings.

3. What our results were

A simple, but tailored one-hour game with a 30-minute debriefing can change minds with regard to the importance of climate change, the nature of climate risks, and the need for local action. People from almost all groups (except those so convinced that climate change is not a problem that they refused to participate) learned about the science involved, increased their sense that local governments need to act and became more optimistic that people in their community could and should act together to manage climate risks. Public officials and staff felt more empowered to take action in their respective spheres (public works, emergency response, health services, etc.) after seeing people’s hearts and minds change at the workshops.

Above all, communities must enhance their level of readiness if they expect to address climate risks.

4. What communities can do

Communities facing climate change-related risks have a few different options: they can do nothing and hope for the best. They can invest in emergency preparedness so they are better able to respond and recover from crises. They can “retreat” from the most vulnerable areas. They can try to defend themselves by building protective infrastructure and adopting new policies, such as land use regulations and building codes. They can mix and match elements of each of these strategies. Whatever they decide, they will need widespread support because it will take public and private cooperation and a continuous, not a one shot, effort to bring all but one of these options to fruition. Individual landowners, businesses, environmental activists, public agencies and taxpayer groups will have to work together.

5. What we learned

Above all, communities must enhance their level of readiness if they expect to address climate risks. They will have to provide opportunities for widespread public involvement in something other than a few “town hall” meetings at which pre-packaged information is handed out and people are lectured at. They will have to help taxpayers understand that there are “no regrets” moves they can make to reduce climate risks while simultaneously accomplishing other important objectives at the same time. For example, using this year’s open space preservation money to create natural barriers along the shore can provide storm protection for private property owners, reduce saltwater intrusion into freshwater wetlands (protecting underground water supplies), armor waste disposal and electricity infrastructure, and minimize flood risks.

6. What we took away

The sooner the U.S. shifts its focus to reducing local vulnerability to climate risks (so that everyone can see what the costs are going to be year after year as climate change accelerates), the sooner there will be more of a political constituency that wants to get at the source of the problem. So, unlike many who worry that any talk of adaptation detracts from global efforts to push for mitigation (i.e. reduction in greenhouse gases), we take just the opposite view.

Don’t wait for extensive state or federal direction — it’s probably not coming anytime soon.

We think the political pressure for mitigation is not strong enough to push for a global action plan or new US laws because people don’t recognize the costs to them today.  Now is the time to highlight what it’s going to take to help vast numbers of coastal and riverine communities all over the world avoid paying immense costs just to survive in the years ahead. When they see what it really costs to manage climate risks, we believe they will care much more about the underlying cause, and quickly become the missing constituency needed to push for global emissions reducing policies.

7. What can you do?

Get your community to play the serious games we have developed (or look for a range of local partners that will help adapt the games to your local conditions). Do a simple, anonymous assessment to understand what everyone’s real views are at present on issues of climate change (you might be surprised!).  Use our before-and-after surveys to document the shifts that occur once people start attending workshops and playing the right games.

Get local officials and community activists to be the first to play the games and talk about what the results suggest for your community. Involve the local media in reporting the story.  Adopt a consensus building approach to formulating a collective risk management plan for the community. Don’t wait for extensive state or federal direction — it’s probably not coming anytime soon. Emphasize the search for no-regret options — things you can do right away that are good for multiple reasons AND will reduce your community’s vulnerability to sudden climate change.

Managing Climate Risks in Coastal Communities: Readiness, Engagement and Adaptation is out tomorrow. Learn more about this project at This post was originally published on Professor Susskind’s blog ‘The Consensus Building Approach’.