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Fear – what are its causes and what are its consequences? In the context of public discourse, fear can prompt the public to boycott, raise fists in the air, overwhelm community meetings, and form advocacy groups to challenge public policy. Fear can result in allocation of thinly stretched resources to defend lawsuits rather than build infrastructure. How is fear created, and how can it be managed by those responsible for managing wastewater policy and operations? This presentation will discuss the challenges faced by utility directors, employees, and policy makers as they confront a public made angry by fear.

Drawing from research conducted by Lawrence Susskind (Director of the MIT-Harvard Public Dispute Program) to develop his “mutual gains approach” to resolving disputes, coupled with the manuscript author's more than 15 years of practical communications experience in the wastewater profession, the paper will help utility managers and public officials understand the public's sensitivity to change and to circumstances seemingly beyond their control. It will also relate practical strategies for addressing these concerns and anger in a constructive way that limits drains on utility resources. Susskind's research and writings present theoretical models that will be supported with actual case studies from wastewater agencies across the country.

Topics to be discussed include identifying rational and irrational anger, looking at anger and hurt, anger and risk, anger and belief, anger and weakness, anger and lies, and anger and show. Susskind's mutual-gains approach will be described in relation to scenarios many wastewater utilities could potentially face.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2004-01-01

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