Consensus Building: the Democracy which Works Properly in Complex Society

  • Lawrence Susskind Department of Urban Studies and Planning Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Adriana Goni Mazzitelli Dipartimento di Studi Urbani Università degli Studi Roma Tre
Keywords: Consensus Building, Democracy, Complex Society


“Quality of life and governance are more and more related. The Consensus Building method is the “other” democracy, the one which works in complex societies. This approach has old roots, but its current success born in the last years due to two phenomenon’s; the great crisis in traditional governance in particular in western societies from 70’s until nowadays, and the inadequate local answers to this problems. On one hand some governments try to solve it with more restrict places of power, that take decisions on their own, on the other hand or they try to solve it with naïve participation, open new moments of decision without specific methods, thinking that differences could be solve with “good will” and  voting. (From the introduction“Confronto Creativo; dal diritto alla parola al diritto di essere ascoltati” Lawrence Susskind- Marianella Sclavi 2011)

On September 2011 Lawrence Susskind came to Italy in order to presents his book “Confronto Creativo, dal diritto di parola al diritto di essere ascoltati”, wrote with Marianella Sclavi. This book has been published in more than 20 countries, from China, to Japan. The authors underline the idea that globalization is, in certain way, helping the born of a different governance, which makes democracy and new ways of participation been closer than in the past. This interview tries to answer some questions of participatory urban planning in Italy nowadays. As for example; can consensus building help to deal with complex cities nowadays? Who should promote consensus building approach: governments, citizens, private entrepreneurships? Which are the obstacles, and the methodologies to solve them? Once urban planners finish their work, who implement the projects? What are the new languages that urban planning should find in order to create local processes?


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Author Biographies

Lawrence Susskind, Department of Urban Studies and Planning Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Ford Professor of Urban and Environmental Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has served on the faculty for 35 years and currently directs the Graduate Program in Environmental Policy and Planning. He is also Vice-Chair for Instruction at the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School, which he helped found in 1982, and where he heads the MIT-Harvard Public Disputes Program, and teaches advanced negotiation courses. In 1993, Professor Susskind created the Consensus Building Institute. In one of Professor Susskind’s most recent books, Breaking Robert’s Rules: The New Way to Run Your Meeting, Build Consensus and Get Results (Oxford University Press), synthesizes what he has learned about consensus building techniques and strategies that work most effectively in the public arena. He is author of 15 other books including Built to Win: Creating a World-Class Negotiating Organization (Harvard Business Press), Multiparty Negotiation (Sage 2008) Environmental Diplomacy (Oxford, 1995), Negotiating Environmental Agreements (Island Press, 1999), Dealing With An Angry Public (Free Press, 1994), and the award-winning Consensus Building Handbook (Sage, 1999). Professor Susskind has mediated more than 50 disputes, including land use conflicts, facility siting controversies, public policy disagreements, and confrontations over water. He has served as a court-appointed special master and helped facilitate negotiations on arrangements of global environmental treaties. He offers a range of executive training programs each year and has served as guest lecturer at more than two-dozen universities around the world.

Adriana Goni Mazzitelli, Dipartimento di Studi Urbani Università degli Studi Roma Tre

Social and Cultural Anthropologist. In the last years she had been working on urban anthropology (cultural studies) and integrated policies particularly in the process of political participation and urban planning. PhD in Urban and territorial Planning at Department of Urban Studies University Roma Tre (DipSU) Thesis Relationship between Local Cultural and artistic Practices and Participatory Planning, case studies Montevideo- Rome. Postgraduate Studies in Local Networks for local development, Complutense University, Madrid, Spain, and The New Urban Policies, University of Roma Tre, Italy. She worked with the EU in Interreg, Europe for Citizens and URBAL. In Italy with Lazio Region, Roma Municipality in Participatory Budgets, and Local XXI Agenda, as well as many botton-up processes in neighbourhoods.Nowadays she is a Post-doctoral Research Fellow at TIPUS Laboratory, Department of Urban Studies, University of Roma Tre, Italy, with a Research on “New approaches to territorial governance; local governments, active citizenship and participation at Rome”. Member of the « University Network of Human Settlements, Habitat and Housing» Latin America REAHVI. Foreign Researcher at National Centre of Research Uruguay (ANII). Member of the TIPUS Laboratory team of research in participatory planning, inter cultural studies (pidgin city research) and civic arts.   Member of the Participatory Democracy Network CIMAS IEPALA, Europe and LatinAmerica. From 2005-2011 teaches in the Master “Interactive Planning, Sustainability and Multimedia” University of Roma Tre. From 2011 she is the Academic Coordinator of the Master “Participation, Intercultural Studies and Civic Arts”, University of Roma Tre.


M Sclavi: “Il Metodo del Confronto Creativo: un upgrading della democrazia” in Riflessioni Sistemiche, semestrale on line dell'AIEMS (Associazione Italiana di Epistemologia e Metodologia Sistemiche), N. 2 , 2010

How to Cite
Susskind, L., & Mazzitelli, A. (2011). Consensus Building: the Democracy which Works Properly in Complex Society. TeMA - Journal of Land Use, Mobility and Environment, 4(4), 5-10.