Photo of David Fairman

David Fairman

Senior Mediator

David Fairman is Senior Mediator at the Consensus Building Institute and Associate Director of the MIT-Harvard Public Disputes Program. For 34 years, he has built consensus and enhanced collaboration capacity on complex public and organizational issues internationally and in the U.S. His primary focus is improving economic and social opportunity and inclusion. He also works extensively on environmental sustainability. His work has been profiled in The New York Times (in 2018 and 2023) and The Washington Post.

Areas of Focus

David leads CBI’s Economic and Social Policy practice, facilitating consensus building and initiatives on:

  • economic opportunity and mobility with public workforce and education agency leaders, corporations, small business associations, labor advocates, and economic mobility experts;
  • public housing policy with HUD and public housing authorities;
  • incarceration and reentry policies with state and local corrections leaders, criminal justice advocates, and formerly incarcerated people;
  • improving the governance of social media with major platform executives, advocates for free speech and human rights, and digital innovators; and
  • strengthening democratic institutions with current and former Members of Congress, Executive Branch officials, liberal and conservative democratic reformers, and experts on building social cohesion.

He also has facilitated consensus building and partnerships on many other issues in the U.S., including national energy policy, regional transportation and economic development plans, and local affordable housing initiatives.

Leading CBI’s Global Development and Peacebuilding practice, David builds consensus and partnerships on a wide range of issues: implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals; preventing debt crises; integrating the UN’s peace, humanitarian and development operations; promoting climate change mitigation and adaptation; and addressing the impacts of extractive sector operations, among others.

David is deeply engaged in strengthening leadership collaboration capacity and dispute resolution systems in multilateral and bilateral organizations, including the UN Development System, the World Bank Group, and major NGOs. He has catalyzed and supported national initiatives to promote collaborative governance in Brazil, Nepal, Nigeria, the Philippines, South Korea, Tanzania, and more than 20 other countries. In support of this work, he convenes CBI’s Global Network of highly skilled mediators and facilitators, who partner with CBI on many international projects.

Exemplary Projects

  • Oxfam America Strategic Planning
  • Tanzania Natural Resource Negotiations
  • UN Development Group Strategic Priorities
  • World Bank Compliance Advisor and Ombudsman Capacity Development
  • Reimagining Education in the U.S.
  • National Ex-Offender Re-entry Policy Council 


The following is a partial list of clients:

Global Development and Peacebuilding

  • International Finance Corporation
  • MasterCard Foundation
  • Oxfam America
  • UN Development Programme
  • UN Peacebuilding Support Office
  • US Department of State
  • US Institute of Peace
  • World Bank, Office of the Compliance Advisor/Ombudsman
  • World Health Organization
  • World Resources Institute
  • World Wide Fund for Nature

US Economic and Social Policy

  • Education Reimagined, Convergence Center for Policy Resolution
  • Council of Large Public Housing Agencies
  • Massachusetts Governor’s Commission on Crime
  • Re-entry Policy Council, Council of State Governments
  • US Department of Housing and Urban Development

Commercial Negotiations

  • Capital One
  • IBM
  • Mercer
  • Merck
  • Pfizer

Education and Affiliations

David is a senior mediator on the rosters of the U.S. EPA and the U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution, a founding board member of the Alliance for Peacebuilding, and a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from MIT, and a B.A. summa cum laude from Harvard College. 

Books and Articles