Ep. 002:  Pablo Restrepo-Saenz


Show Notes

  • Susan Coleman introduces Pablo Restrepo who has over 20 years of experience as consultant, practitioner and professor of negotiation, mediation, strategy, leadership and teamwork. Together with his partner, Stephanie Walcott, Restrepo leads an international consulting boutique, Aluna Catalyst.
  • The word ‘Aluna’ comes from the Kogi Indians of Colombia and means a space of transcendence.
  • Pablo Restrepo has had a career working with multinational corporations, government agencies, universities, local communities, and multilateral organizations.
  • As a teacher, Pablo has worked at the Kellogg School of Management, Columbia University, Universidad de los Andes and McGill University, where he has taught complex negotiation for more than 14 years.
  • His journey from ‘hardcore’ negotiator with a background in business and engineering to his current focus on peace, sustainability, and the transformation of leaders and organizations.
  • His early experiences in studying conflict resolution and negotiation at Teachers College,Columbia University, in a class taught by Susan Coleman and Ellen Raider.
  • Working with United Nations, how the employees of the UN used their training in conflict resolution first to tackle internal organizational problems in their office; how the UN employees were frustrated because they were spending their energy on internal office politics rather than creating peace in the field.
  • The Kogi Indians in the mountains of Colombia have struggled with Occidental Petroleum in a standoff between tradition and development; The Kogi view themselves as an enlightened people with a responsibility of caring for the rest of us, the less enlightened. A movie on this subject, called Aluna, made by the Kogi Indians. (See below for links to this and other resources mentioned in this podcast.)
  • Systemic negotiation is useful for conflict resolution, building consensus and reaching complex agreements.
  • His experience with the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) that Colombia, jointly with Peru and Ecuador, negotiated with the United States.
  • Training a team of 150 people and helping to craft the strategy of an incredibly complex negotiation.
  • Creating alignment within the ministries of the government by building a flexible mandate from the government for the negotiators, a mandate based on interests and priorities rather than positions or rights.
  • Internal negotiation is often the hardest part of the process but if this is poorly done or is incomplete one will not be able to negotiate well with the counterparties.
  • At the first meeting of the parties in Cartagena during the FTA process, the primary purpose was exclusively relationship building. The chief negotiator gave instructions that the team had to spend their entire per diem allowance entertaining their counterparts from different countries; the bonds created at this early meeting were crucial to overcoming difficulties later in the negotiation process.
  • Focus on the process not on the outcome, and focus on the various phases in the process: relationship building, information exchange, reframing, negotiation, and agreement.
  • Peacebuilding and conflict resolution within the context of working with ex-combatants from Colombian paramilitary groups, such as the FARC and M-19, focusing on the difference in belief concepts.
  • Approaching the process of working with ex-combatants with a western or business mindset, one based on money and economic opportunity, and discovering that that it was more about prestige and recognition. After the peace agreements, the ex-combatants had lost their sense of self and purpose, and more than money or jobs, they needed to find a new place in society.
  • The challenge of balancing confidentiality and transparency where some confidentiality is necessary to maintain leverage and to avoid limiting capacity.
  • Apply basic conflict resolution even when working with guerrillas and insurgent groups: focus on building strong relationships, even with people you don’t like, building trust is always problem solving, whether it is a free trade agreement or a peace process.
  • Training with Roger Fisher in Colombia, learning the Harvard Model of 7 Elements and his approach as detailed in the book Getting to Yes.
  • Learning conflict resolution in a safe and fun way using role playing.
  • Early failures as an entrepreneur and doing better by doing what you love.
  • Working with the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia(UNICTY).
  • The challenge of bridging cultural differences, sometimes small differences can be more difficult to bridge than larger, more obvious differences.
  • Exploring systemic thinking.
  • Using enneagram personality characterizations, to help you understand your own personality type.
  • When you are trying to help people, the biggest obstacle has to do with beliefs, wisdom is triggered when you can completely drop your point of view and then tap into your true intelligence.
  • Getting past the ‘boringness’ of the word ‘peace’, making peace feel compelling and dynamic.
  • What is your vision? If we could shift this planet to another level where we transfer energy from violent conflict into something else, what would we be creating?
  • Ekhart Tolle, in his book, A New Earth, says that when addressing scarcity of resources, climate change, and violence that you cannot change the way people deal with these issues until you change their consciousness.
  • The Kellogg Innovation Network, a group whose goal is to increase global prosperity.
  • Shifting perspectives from scarcity to prosperity, realizing that you can be very happy with fewer things and less money.
  • In our present system, the war against drugs, creating peace, addressing climate change, these are bad for some businesses; there are those who profit off of drugs and violence and keeping conflict in place.
  • Fear comes from ignorance, people don’t understand peace, this has to do with belief systems; people are afraid of dealing with climate change, afraid that something worse will happen if the problem is resolved.
  • Sometimes people have to change and know that change is better, but cannot change because they have a deeper belief, something that they are not conscious of, where they are afraid of the consequences of change. As long as they are not conscious of this it will hold them hostage. This has been described by the psychologist Robert Kegan.
  • There are so many failed peace processes that now part of the problem is that people have stopped believing in the process.
  • For people who are interested in negotiation and conflict resolution: the concepts are exciting and the skills are useful in every aspect of your life. When you apply these skills without ego, they are so elegant and powerful, you can listen with full presence, to understand fully the interests of the other side.
  • There are also people who are excited about the concepts but do not put them into practice, people who are limited by un-liberating structures.
  • What helped me is perseverance. Always go back to interests. Be courageous. It will work out.


Contact Pablo

You can contact Pablo via his LinkedIn or email him at pablo@alunacatalyst.com.