It is a commonly accepted practice for the neutral conducting a feasibility assessment (convening process) to consult with the parties before convening a negotiation.
Often, how the negotiation process is structured will directly affect the potential of the process to satisfy parties’ interests. Because all parties should feel they have something to gain from the process, it is important to help parties assess how a possible dialogue or negotiation would compare with their alternatives. Thus, a key product of any feasibility assessment will be general agreement among the parties as to who will participate and in what way, what the scope of issues will be, any deadlines, frequency of meetings, information needed to make sound decisions, who the mediator will be (if any), and other ground rules.
Mediators use some or all of the following criteria to evaluate the feasibility of negotiations:
- The parties agree on a manageable number of interdependent or related issues. There must be a sufficiently well-developed factual base to permit meaningful discussion and resolution of the issues or a way to incorporate information collection steps into the negotiation process. There should be several ways to resolve the issues.
- Those participants interested in or affected by the outcome of the negotiation should be readily identified and few enough in number to allow representation of all affected interests. Participants should be able to represent and reflect the interests of their constituencies.
- The parties should all have some genuine interest in wanting to participate in good faith negotiations. They should feel as likely, if not more likely, to achieve their overall goals using negotiations as they would through the alternatives to negotiation available to them.
- The parties can obtain adequate resources to negotiate, including technical support.
- There should be a legislative or judicial deadline or some other forcing mechanism requiring a decision within the foreseeable future.
- The negotiation will not cause unreasonable delay.
- A mechanism exists to implement a consensus, if reached.