In the 2012 finals of the CEDR sponsored University Negotiation Competition (held this year at last year’s winner’s homeground – Manchester Metropolitan), twelve teams went head-to-head negotiating three Olympic themed scenarios which could see the LOCOG stumbling at the first hurdle this Summer.

At the sound of the starting pistol the first negotiation began and saw the delegates playing representatives of the management of three blocks within the Olympic village. The task was to divide up international teams. The issue: a fixed security budget. This negotiation challenged teams to divide a fixed pie and the teams had justifying why they team should receive a greater share of the budget. Taking on more disruptive teams would warrant more money, but alternatively housing the more wealthy teams is another way of making money irrespective of budget share.

In good-humour, negotiators went about dividing up national squads from around the world. The teams avoided awkward neighbour combinations (North and South Korea, the U.S. and Iran, Britain and France..!) The dynamics and strategies of each team differed greatly, but the gold medal went to the team who facilitated the discussions using humour to both diffuse and claim national teams. Within this team, each negotiator had distinct roles; one personable and cajoling, while the other the matter of fact. By claiming the riskier teams, not only allowed the negotiators to claim a larger share of the security budget but also capitalising on the charging money for media access to three-time Olympic Gold medallist Usain Bolt.

Round two concerned open-air concerts in Hyde Park to entertain music-lovers during the Olympics. The teams were divided into the local Residents Association and the Royal Parks Agency / concert organisers. The dispute had three distinct issues; setting precedent, the role of the Royal Parks Agency and the control of events in terms of decibel levels and numbers. This negotiation really encouraged creative solutions and judges were all impressed at how all teams thought around the issue (silent discos to name but one example), prepared thoroughly and anticipated questions. The winning teams argued through interests, created value and managed both their and others emotions by ceding concessions on hotly fought over issues.

In an especially topical fashion, the third negotiation focused on public sector strikes during the Games. One set of teams played the union representatives of a group of key workers who were planning to strike potentially causing havoc for Olympic organisers. The other set represented the interests of the exasperated London boroughs who are keen not to upset any threat to the smooth running of London 2012. Replicating an end-game of a settlement process this negotiation challenged teams to energetically engage in bargaining and agreeing a comprehensive settlement. With legal issues surrounding employment rights, a long list of commercial demands the negotiation fell to how the teams built trust between one another.

In the true spirit of the Olympics 2012 and with not a touch of the BBC drama twentytwelve, the slogan ‘Inspire a Generation’ held fast for all participants.

For those interested in negotiation CEDR’s Advanced Certificate (running over seven days in June, July and September) has only a few places left.

More details on the Negotiation Competition—

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By Andrew Fiddy

Andrew Fiddy is CEDR’s Programme Manager responsible for the management of international aid-funded dispute resolution and change projects. He has managed projects in the Middle East, North and East Africa, and Central and Eastern Europe for clients that include the International Finance Corporation, World Bank and the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development. He is a CEDR accredited mediator and is a conciliator with the Funeral Arbitration Service and the Renewable Energy Association.