Even though much has been written about negotiations in general, research into the negotiation of housing public-private partnerships (HPPPs) is still relatively sparse. The nature of partnership negotiation processes has never been fully defined.
Essentially, scholars disagree on how partnership negotiations are phased. In this regard, few studies have focused on phasing of HPPPs negotiations – which are characterised by long-term relationships – or on the impact of macro-level contextual and conditional factors. Furthermore, little is known about the number of phases that comprise an HPPP negotiation process in an Afrocentric context, or what may trigger their beginning and end.
There is also a dearth of literature concerning the influence of partners’ resource endowment and resource contribution on the process of negotiating partners’ roles and responsibilities, pace of phasing negotiations, and on resolving a project’s resource constraints. Similarly, little is known about the influence of partnership structure on the phasing of negotiations. Lastly, and whether there is a shift in the balance of power during negotiations once partners have shared resources.
Previously, some researchers have accentuated the importance of the negotiation process, while others have placed greater emphasis on overall negotiation outcomes. Furthermore, some described negotiation as an activity, while others have defined it as a process with distinct activities in each phase.
Based on five case studies, this qualitative research uses both organisational collaboration and negotiation theories to analyse the elements outlined above.
The research shows that an HPPP negotiation process consists of five phases: a finding that significantly challenges existing research, which has never recognised so many.
The phases identified in this study are:
(i) Partnership conception and initiation phase;
(ii) Partnership negotiation phase;
(iii) Partnership cementing phase; (iv) Partnership implementation phase; and
(v) Partnership conclusion or extension phase.
The study further shows that these phases differ in terms of negotiation span, duration, intensity and outcomes per phase, in line with negotiation content and skills required.
It further shows that although partners recognise that resources are synonymous with power, parties truly benefit once their resources are equally leveraged. This result in sound relationships characterised by equitable recognition of each partners’ resource contribution, characterised by shared risks and benefits.
Furthermore, negotiations are more effective in smaller forums; these structures are more focused, which significantly improves decision-making turnaround times.
Lastly, the study also shows that there are power dynamics between negotiating partners. Power does not reside with one partner, but constantly shifts over time. Implying that power balance should be viewed in a holistic and longitudinal manner over the lifespan of the partnerships, rather than on snapshots, which distorts the overall power balance over the life cycle of partnership negotiations
The identification of these five key phases has also enabled the development of a Housing Public-Private Partnership Negotiation Lifespan Wheel and a proposal for the development of a Housing Public-Private Partnership Negotiation Framework.
Key words: Housing public-private partnerships, negotiation process, power balance, resource capacity and contribution, Gauteng.