I’m writing this blog in an airport lounge, waiting for the first leg (Tel-Aviv to Istanbul) of my journey to China. I’m on my way to the third, and final, conference of the Second Generation Negotiation Teaching Project to be held in Beijing over the course of the next week or so.
The conferences in this project have been moving steadily eastwards, with the first being held in Rome, and the second in Istanbul. Taking the third fully to the Orient is both an adventure and an acknowledgement – this group of teachers has got a lot to learn and explore, and a lot of willingness to do so.
As I blogged last year regarding the Istanbul conference, seeing a field or a discipline in motion is very exciting. This multiyear project, supported by Hamline University’s Dispute Resolution Institute, the JAMS Foundation and ADR Center in Rome, was envisioned with audacious outputs or products in mind: 3 negotiation pedagogy conferences, held in Istanbul, Rome, and Beijing, and 3 books, one to come out of each conference in an attempt to capture and develop the insights gained at each of them. As the project developed, additional products have been developed: a special edition of Negotiation Journal has been dedicated to the Project, select chapters from the first book were translated into Mandarin, and a special edition of a new bilingual (Chinese/English) journal on negotiation will be dedicated to articles written as part of the Project immediately following the Beijing conference.
However, measuring the results of this project in terms of seats filled or words written would not do it justice, not by a long call. The ripples of the Project include changes in the way many teachers - all right, I’ll speak for myself – the way I (!) teach negotiation, or particular aspects of negotiation. They include a defined community of negotiation teachers, with new spaces for collaboration on a large scale and with new or strengthened friendships as a cherry-on-top. They also include a very special level of energy focused on this field, which has been sustained over the course of several years and which has led to a great deal of creativity along the way.
What have we got waiting for us this week? Well, having read the program carefully, I can still say that ‘I don’t really know’. Not that the program is vague, on the contrary – every moment is tightly scheduled, and the activities themselves are very much pre-planned. For example, over the weekend I’ll be part of a panel judging a negotiation competition for students in Chinese law schools, and throughout the conference there will be specific panels and workshops taught, learned and discussed by a mix of the conference participants and Chinese negotiation teachers who have now joined our group. On the other hand, other activities are very much ‘we’ll get there and see’, including meetings with Chinese professionals – businesspeople, lawyers and negotiators - to discuss negotiation practices, and roaming around the campus of Peking University, and then around Beijing, in small packs of negotiation teachers and engaging in adventure learning. That’s the unknown element, and it’s what I’m most looking forward to in Beijing. In fact, the ‘unfolding’ nature of the meeting between Western negotiation teachers and Chinese culture and negotiation practices (as opposed to more rigid structures of conferences you may have attended, where you sat wondering ‘why don’t they organize things differently?’) is what prompted me to follow the conference in my blog. I’d like to promise a daily description but let’s be real. I’ll do my best – you watch this spot.