Phase I

Phase I of the project, “Collaborative Decision-Making in the Realm of Hydropower Projects in Southern Chile,” officially started in January 2012, when a joint proposal between Universidad Austral de Chile (UACh) and the MIT Science Impact Collaborative was awarded a seed grant for $30,000 from the MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives Program (MISTI). The project kick-off began with a May 2012 visit from UACh representatives. Professor Teodoro Kausel, Professor José Aylwin, and Dr. Ernesto Zumelzu, the University’s Director of Research and Development, visited MIT and the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School. At a one-day workshop at MIT, Professors Kausel and Aylwin presented their views on Chilean politics and history, the country’s energy dilemma, and various aspects of current laws and practices related to civil society participation, including consultation with indigenous groups. Professor Lawrence Susskind from MIT shared his expertise in consensus building and engaging stakeholders in policy development and decision making in high-conflict matters around the world. These first meetings framed the research agenda for a team of graduate students who reviewed Chilean water law and energy and environmental regulation, current Chilean practices regarding consultation and public involvement, and cultural and social norms pertaining to civil society engagement in government decision-making. The research process also included a second joint meeting between UACh and MIT in July 2012, this time in Chile. UACh welcomed a small group of graduate students from MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning and Harvard Law School, as well as a representative from the Consensus Building Institute, a Massachusetts-based firm that specializes in mediation of complex public disputes around the world. While in Chile, the research team traveled throughout the Los Ríos region, to a specific hydro project conflict site, and throughout areas where past conflicts have occurred and future projects are likely to be proposed. The team met with dozens of hydro development stakeholders, including organized Mapuche leaders and community members, a hydro company executive and engineer, several academics, a large business and land owner, representatives of environmental and human rights NGOs, and government officials. UACh also hosted an all-day workshop at the university, which was well attended by government, community, academic, and industry representatives. The MIT-UACh team in Valparaiso[/caption] By the end of the summer, the research team – under the supervision of Professors Susskind, Kausel, and Aylwin – had produced three working papers entitled “The Role of Civil Society in Hydropower Development in Chile,” “The Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Development of Hydroelectricity in Chile,” and “Hydropower Conflict in Southern Chile: Current and Alternative Governance Strategies.” In addition, Professor Susskind and Daniela Martínez, a Chilean attorney and recent graduate of Harvard Law School’s LLM program, co-authored an Op-Ed calling for greater participation in the decision making process for siting new transmission lines. It was published in October 2012 in La Tercera, a prominent Chilean newspaper. Building on this base of knowledge, the UACh/MIT team turned its efforts to the organization of an experimental brainstorming event with key leaders of various stakeholder groups. This activity, called a Devising Seminar, was held in Santiago in January 2013. The Devising Seminar was followed by another conference on the UACh campus in Valdivia, where various presenters from MIT and UACH shared some of the lessons learned from Phase I of the project.

Read more...