Enhancing community leadership negotiation skills to build civic capacity

Deborah Shmueli, Wallace Warfield, Sanda Kaufman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Most intra- and interorganizational decision making entails negotiations, and even naturally talented negotiators can improve with training. Executive trainings for managers and leadership programs for publicly elected officials, public managers, and nongovernmental organizations frequently include negotiation modules. These efforts, however, have yet to reach community leaders who also need to develop their negotiation skills. We propose that members of disadvantaged low-income communities who lack educational and economic opportunities, and are less able to advocate for their own interest, need to build and strengthen their civic capacity, including their negotiation skills, to become more effective parties to decisions affecting them. While many professionals and executives have access to training, such opportunities are less accessible to the leaders of these disadvantaged communities. Although such leaders draw from their own heuristic knowledge, skills, and abilities, they could also benefit from sharpening their negotiation skills. We propose that the multidimensional understanding of their community that members accumulate through direct experience is indispensable, nontransferable to outsiders, and not teachable through in-class activities. Leaders with the ability to leverage knowledge and assets to connect effectively to community insiders as well as to outside people, institutions, and resources, however, possess some specific inherent personality traits as well an understanding of social structures, strategies, and agency, which can be taught and learned. Such skills as how to conduct negotiations around the table and away from it and how to identify community members who can help and how to rally them are also teachable. The cases were chosen to illustrate the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) that make these leaders effective in and beyond their communities. We highlight those KSAs that we think are teachable in the framework of a negotiation module in community leadership training to enhance civic capacity for community betterment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)249-266
Number of pages18
JournalNegotiation Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2009


  • Civic capacity building
  • Leadership in disadvantaged communities
  • Negotiation executive training

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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