Photo credit: Bart Dewaele
1.Tell us a little about Pathways and what your organization does? What is unique about Pathways?Pathways is an asbl/vzw that works with partners to develop creative, problem-solving negotiation skills through workshops, courses, and educational programs. Our approach is based on methodology developed at the Harvard Negotiation Project for transforming negotiation from bargaining or haggling to joint problem-solving.
I'd say that there are three things that, in particular, make Pathways unique: first, we have a focus on bringing creative negotiation tools and concepts into areas of the educational system where negotiation skills are not typically taught, working in partnership with various departments at universities, university-colleges and secondary schools - in addition to more traditional courses and training programs that we do with individual institutions, companies, and associations. Second, we work with a highly experiential pedagogy, recognizing the importance of interpersonal connection, creativity, and interactivity in the learning process. Finally, in addition to doing programs with individual academic institutions, our flagship programs bring schools and different communities together for joint learning, in particular connecting Dutch-speaking and Francophone institutions for shared programs for their students. By learning and practicing creative negotiation skills together - through simulations, role plays, and games - participants not only develop their own skills, but build new relationships, institutional bridges, and a shared sense of possibility. Currently, all of our workshops are conducted in English.
2. How did it start? Why negotiation?
I started my own career in negotiation training and consulting at a private sector consulting firm in Boston, Vantage Partners, which was founded by one of the authors of the negotiation book "Getting to Yes" along with colleagues from the Harvard Negotiation Project. I learned this interest-based negotiation framework there and, after leaving the firm, had the opportunity to get involved in launching and leading educational projects working with youth together with other colleagues. When I moved to Brussels, some folks involved in educational work heard about the work that I had been doing with schools and thought it would be relevant and adaptable to the Belgian context. With their support, and support from key partners including the U.S. Embassy in Belgium, we launched the Game Changers negotiation skills & exchange program for secondary school students, which was the first project that I ran here in Belgium.
Why negotiation? Well, we negotiate all the time, in our professional lives, personal lives, social lives, and political lives. If I want something and you want something and we try to reach an agreement about that, that's a negotiation. But, most people don't actively learn and practice this skill, unless they happen to go to certain business or law schools, or get professional training at some point in their career. Most of us just do our best, developing various assumptions and habits along the way that might not actually serve us in reaching our goals effectively. Working with teenagers and young adults is incredibly motivating, because at this point they are really developing their sense of agency, negotiating more and more and trying out different approaches to see what works for them. Equipping them with additional tools for their negotiation toolbox should serve them in different ways throughout their lives.
3. How can the ACB members apply negotiations everyday and improve this skill?
First, recognize where and when you are negotiating and towards what purpose. Even informal conversations that strive to reach an agreement (e.g. Where do we go for holiday during the upcoming break? Can I study overseas for a year? Can the bank extend the deadline of our mortgage offer? ) are negotiations and can be approached methodically.
Second, prepare: who are the parties? What are their interests? How well would different options meet our and their interests or not? What external standards can I reference to explain which options are fair and which are not? What would I and they do to meet our interests if we don't reach agreement? What's our best (and worst) alternative to a negotiated agreement? What kind of relationship with the other party do I have and do I want? Questions like these can help us prepare - and act - in ways that improve the odds of our reaching an outcome that meets our interests and goals, whether by finding a deal, or indeed sometimes by saying "no".
Finally, reflect on your experiences. Just as you ought to take the time to prepare, take some time - either on your own or with your team/counterparts - to reflect on the experience. What worked well? What might you try differently next time? Negotiation, like riding a bike or sailing, is a skill that is best developed through practice. You need some key theory to get going and structure your approach, and then the most important thing is to experiment and practice with purpose and attention.
Learn more about Pathways at www.pathways.be