Importance of Preparation

Frank Dukes

Director, Institute for Environmental Negotiation, University of Virginia

Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003

This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).

Q: What techniques have you found to be particularly useful in accomplishing the goals of your work?

A: It's almost a question I'm afraid to answer because it's not so much techniques as much as a whole program. The fact is that we have a program here that has institutional memory, so we've learned from what we've done, and that has some legitimacy by being associated with the University of Virginia, which for better or for worse, most people see universities as being good places. It brings us some level of legitimacy when we enter a project. By virtue of the training that I've had I have the ability to analyze that conflict is not bad, that conflict can reveal injustice, can force change, and then be able to secure other resources to address problems. If you look at technique as one very small aspect of on the ground type projects, or policy projects, the consensus building and mediation type of work involves a substantial amount of work ahead of time, and then the processes themselves almost, it's not an afterthought. The facilitation is important, but it's far less important than the type of preparation.

Thinking, and strategic thinking in particular, in working with the parties to help set up the process appropriately is very important. One of the former deans of the university said, "You have an ocean liner going across the ocean, what's the most important part of that?" Well, it's the designer; it's not the pilot. It's not the crew. If you have a bad design, the thing is going to sink, if you've got a good design, and a fairly well trained crew, they'll be able to take it forward.