Claude Bruderlein Photo

Claude Bruderlein


With the deepening of political divisions on societal challenges, policymakers must navigate increasingly tense environments to engage in constructive dialogues across political fault lines. They must be equipped with relevant personal competences interpersonal abilities to maintain productive relationships with difficult counterparts as they search for realistic compromises on programmatic options. These divisive tensions have been particularly visible in the response to recent crises, including during the COVID-19 pandemic, recent climate-fueled disasters and the various surges of migrants at the borders. Public officials and civil society organizations alike are not only expected to plan an adequate response to these crises but also to prevent and mitigate the risks of their instrumentalization by various political groups. These divisions and their exploitation on social media directly affect the capacity of governments to build the necessary consensus among stakeholders to put into place proper programs.

To fulfill their role in such environments, policy professionals need to acquire specific capabilities to lead constructive engagements with a wide range of stakeholders from the most supportive to the most disruptive, while maintaining a degree of control over their message in this interconnected information world. Such capabilities involve the ability of building trust in a tense public arena and managing effectively adversarial relationships with actors opposed to the proposed policies. Engaging successfully with difficult counterparts is expected to become a crucial skillset of policymakers responding to all sorts of crises over the coming years.

The main objectives of the course are:

  1. Develop a solid understanding of the social, behavioral and cognitive implications of political tensions in society and review conceptual frameworks related to conflict management in the public policy and public health domains;
  2. Provide students with core competences on complex negotiation informed by current practices from the political, public health and humanitarian sectors;
  3. Expand students’ skill set and enhance their self-confidence to engage in intense face-to-face negotiation with intimidating counterparts; and,
  4. Connect students with negotiation professionals from various sectors and offer opportunities to expand their personal network across this arcane domain.

Through an experiential learning approach, the course will present a systematic methodology to engage in complex negotiations in a proactive, critical, and practical manner. It will offer practical tools to plan such negotiation as well as facilitate learning through student’s engagement with seasoned practitioners working in these complex environments. It will complement existing courses on public policy and leadership for those planning to work in high-intensity situations such as the current pandemic, social and political crises, climate shocks, natural disasters, armed conflicts and other critical situations.

Please note, MLD-234M meets intensively over two weekends (March 29-30, 2025 and April 26-27, 2025).  See syllabus for details.  Interested students may apply through this link.

Also offered by the School of Public Health as GHP-243.