For over 25 years, the Massachusetts Office of Public Collaboration (MOPC) has served as the state office that focuses exclusively on assisting public agencies as a neutral forum and state-level resource for accessing quality services, proven programs, and national knowledge-based networks for dispute resolution, consensus-building and public engagement.
MOPC builds capacity for conflict resolution, collaboration and consensus-building within public entities and across sectors state-wide and serves as a neutral forum and state-level resource in these fields. MOPC works with government agencies, courts, businesses, nonprofits, and citizen groups to address complex issues related to economic development, environmental resource management, land use, agriculture, transportation, housing, health care, and other important community objectives. MOPC's work results in cost savings for the state and its citizens through reduced litigation and settlement expenses and enhanced capacity for effective problem-solving and civic engagement on major public initiatives in the commonwealth.
Philosophy & Approach
The state office of public collaboration was established to provide effective forums for conflict resolution, public decision-making and community involvement on contentious public issues, and to build capacity within public agencies.
MOPC offers public leaders a neutral forum and skilled resources for engaging public, private and civic institutions and members of the public in collaborative problem-solving, consensus building and dispute resolution. This approach is premised on the fact that the best public solutions come from people working together on issues. Collaborative processes help leaders to engage stakeholders across issues, jurisdictions and sectors to develop effective, lasting solutions to problems that go beyond what any one interest could achieve on its own. All with a stake are involved in authentic ways and all have a role in the final solution. Through collaboration leaders are able to accelerate change, work across overlapping institutions and jurisdictions, manage increasing complexity and integrate policies and resources.
MOPC uses proven collaborative methodologies, including mediation, consensus-building, public participation, and deliberative dialogue. As a neutral form, MOPC ensures that initiatives convened under its auspices adhere to best practices and principles for successful collaboration -- inclusiveness of participation, transparency of decision-making and shared responsibility for process and outcome. The office’s core public functions include:
- Assessing, designing and facilitating collaborative processes
- Training and coaching public officials as sponsors and conveners
- Designing, implementing, evaluating, and securing funding for sustainable public programs
- Developing policy, building capacity and conducting research to institutionalize best practices
- Qualifying experienced neutrals and collaborative practitioners for service on public contracts
MOPC’s enabling statute, G.L. Ch. 75, Section 46, sets forth specific legislative authority for MOPC to provide dispute resolution and related collaborative services to public entities. Public agencies engage MOPC through interdepartmental service agreements without the need to deploy a competitive procurement process. When MOPC receives requests to provide services, the office establishes a team to provide the requested service comprised of staff and affiliate practitioners who have been qualified to provide services on public contracts. In order to be able to respond to requests for services in a timely manner, MOPC maintains a pool of affiliates who have met qualification standards set by MOPC. Public agencies contract with MOPC, and in turn, MOPC contracts with selected affiliates as needed.
MOPC began in 1985 as the “Massachusetts Mediation Service,” a pilot project within the Commonwealth’s Executive Office for Administration and Finance funded in part from the National Institute for Dispute Resolution and the Boston Foundation. The office was formally established as a state agency in 1990 (G.L. Ch. 7, Section 51) under the name of the “Massachusetts Office of Dispute Resolution” (MODR). As one of the first state offices of dispute resolution in the country, the office pioneered the development of programs that evaluated and diverted to mediation a steady stream of disputes such as ones appealed to the state environmental agency over development near protected wetlands or civil disputes headed for trial in the Superior Court. To handle these cases MODR developed panels of skilled mediators selected through a rigorous evaluation process. From 1999 to 2003, the office worked with the Governor’s Office and the Executive Office for Administration and Finance to issue and implement Executive Order #416: Integrating Dispute Resolution into State Government. Through this initiative, the office trained appointees within each state agency to evaluate and refer cases to alternative dispute resolution processes, and consulted with agencies in the development of alternative dispute resolution programs.
View prior progress reports:
In 2005, through enactment of G.L. Ch. 75, Section 46, MODR’s functions and personnel were transferred to the University of Massachusetts Boston, a land-grant university with an urban mission and public service focus. This new institutional base has enabled the office to partner with the outstanding environmental, public policy and dispute resolution programs within the University of Massachusetts system and has expanded the research and educational resources for students and faculty and outreach services to local communities. Since transitioning to the University, the office has joined the Kettering Foundation network of public policy institutes that partner with community and civic organizations in framing pressing public issues for public deliberation, convening deliberative dialogues, and training dialogue moderators.
In2010, the office changed its name to “Massachusetts Office of Public Collaboration” (MOPC) to reflect the expansion of its work beyond dispute resolution into the realms of collaborative governance and deliberative democracy. Collaborative governance refers to a range of mechanisms that enable leaders to engage citizens and public, private and civic institutions in inclusive, deliberative, and consensus-oriented approaches to planning, problem-solving and policy-making.