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Simulating Negotiations in Urban Planning
United Kingdom

A multi agent-based model to simulate urban negotiations

Our main question in this research is “how can automated negotiation support real negotiations in urban planning?”. We do not think -at least at this stage of the research- that automated negotiation can substitute real negotiations. Negotiations involve argumentation and creativity which are still difficult to be simulated by computers. We argue that simple models of automated negotiation can still be helpful as support systems in real negotiations.

To prove our argument, we develop two agent-based models which simulate the negotiations of planning obligations (particularly affordable housing negotiations) in England. The first model is non-deterministic. It illustrates how simple changes in negotiation behaviour of agents can lead to considerable changes in the outcome. We expect that the model can help as a support tool in the ongoing debates about whether or not planning obligations should be negotiable. The assumptions and limitations of the model can foster the public dialogue about negotiations of planning obligations. Stakeholders can use the model to test different arguments and generate new insights. The second model simulates the reasoning of agents while negotiating and how such reasoning may be affected by the emotions and the perceptions of the negotiator. We expect the model to help stakeholders reflect on their own behaviours in training and capacity building programmes. This can help them improve their self-awareness which is one of the main pieces of advice in the seminal book on negotiation Getting to Yes.

Because those models are initially developed to support stakeholders, it was important to know their opinions and feedback about the models and how they can be improved. In the last stage of the research, we conducted a workshop to showcase the models to stakeholders. We presented to stakeholders a version which couples between the two models. Stakeholders gave valuable feedback about how the model can be improved to simulate other complexities in the negotiation process.

The research is an early stage in a long-term agenda of developing automated urban negotiation systems to help support real negotiations and may be in the future even substitute them!

Project partners

The project is supported by a doctoral scholarship from the Faculty of the Future programme of the Schlumberger Foundation.

Research Team

The project is lead by Miss Aya Badawi (PhD in Planning and Environmental Management, University of Manchester) under the supervision of Dr Nuno Pinto and Prof Richard Kingston (University of Manchester)

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