Headquartered in the prosperous United Commonwealth, A&M Apparel is the world’s leading clothing company. A&M relies on supply chain factories spread across the globe to produce its garments. The Wolfcom Factory is one such supplier. Wolfcom is located in the Republic of Atyr, a recently industrialized country without labor unions that is beginning to embrace rule of law and international human rights standards. Wolfcom employs about 7,000 people on-site and contracts with multiple fashion companies. A&M purchases over half of the factory’s annual output, making it Wolfcom’s largest client.
Recently, an international non-governmental organization launched a campaign to shame A&M and other multinational fashion companies, alleging egregious workers rights violations in their supply chains. The new CEO of A&M has asked the Yarvard Negotiation & Mediation Clinical Program (YNMCP) to recommend a design for a new grievance system at the Wolfcom Factory—a factory particularly plagued by assembly line worker unrest.
YNMCP is a clinic at Yarvard Law School that serves the dispute systems design and conflict management needs of clients working in a wide range of industries. In the most basic of terms, a grievance system is a system through which key stakeholders can bring forward complaints and concerns. Two to three students will work on the A&M project.
HOW TO USE THE EXERCISES
The recommended sequencing of exercises assumes deployment over four weeks in an introductory Dispute Systems Design course. The exercises described below can be used in classes of varying size, but should at least have eight students.
The intention of these exercises is to offer students the opportunity to practice skills that they will use as dispute systems designers. These skills include identifying and categorizing stakeholders, conducting interviews, facilitating focus groups, managing client expectations and dealing with potential ethical challenges. Instructors can deploy the YNMCP exercises together in sequence, or they can use individual exercises to focus on a particular skill or learning objective.
There are five core learning units covered during four class meetings as described below in order of recommended use:
I. Stakeholder Identification
Students read a prompt describing the YNMCP context and attempt to identify as many stakeholders or stakeholder groups as possible. Students then work in small groups of at least two or three to categorize these stakeholders.
The purpose of this exercise is to allow students to practice identifying stakeholders impacted by a particular project; to give students practice in organizing stakeholders into various categories; to compel students to consider: (a) which stakeholders they might contact for the purposes of a particular project; and (b) how they might gather data from these stakeholders.
II. Client Contact
Working in teams of two or three, students speak with their client both to glean more information from the client and also to manage the client’s expectations.
The purpose this exercise is to allow students the opportunity to define a purpose before their initial conversation with their client; to give students practice with managing client expectations at the beginning of a project; to compel students to inquire about the hidden interests behind stated positions.
Students work in groups of two or three to practice developing an interview protocol and interviewing a stakeholder.
The purpose of this exercise is to give students the opportunity to consider how interviews might be a useful data gathering tool for a particular project; to encourage students to consider what might be included in an interview protocol; to provide practice in both drafting an interview protocol and then relying on that protocol to interview a stakeholder; to encourage students to consider what steps they might take after conducting interviews; to compel students to inquire about the interests hidden behind stated positions.
IV. Focus Groups
Students practice facilitating a focus group (or playing a participant in a focus group).
The purpose of this exercise is to encourage students to consider how a focus group might be a useful data gathering tool; to practice preparing for facilitation and then to facilitate a focus group; to encourage students to identify how individual stakeholders considered part of a “homogenous” group often hold diverse opinions; to consider how information gleaned in a focus group might be used and then to consider next steps in the project after a focus group concludes.
V. Ethical Considerations
In reaction to written prompts and phone calls, students will discuss whether or not they are facing ethical challenges in the A&M project and will also prepare to speak with their client about these potential challenges.
The purpose of this exercise is to charge students with considering whether or not particular changes in a project trigger ethical concerns; to revisit client management issues as they relate to potential ethical questions; to engage in a difficult conversation with client about an issue of concern; to compel students to consider how they might encourage implementation of their recommendations.
Dispute Systems Design; Stakeholder Identification; Conducting Interviews; Facilitating Focus Groups; Managing Client Expectations; Dealing with Ethical Challenges
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