Network leadership for transformative capacity development: roles, practices and challenges

T. Strasser*, J. de Kraker, R. Kemp

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Non-technical summary A wide variety of social innovations exist today that offer urgently needed pathways for transforming societal systems into more just, sustainable and regenerative ways of organising human existence on this planet. However, a more systematic and practically useful understanding is needed of how individuals and organisations can strengthen the transformative capacity of people working on connecting, spreading, maturing and structurally embedding these innovations. This study presents an updated conceptual framework of network leadership roles and practices, and describes how these can contribute to more widespread, systemic and lasting impact of social innovations. Technical summary This study tests and refines a conceptual framework, describing the roles and practices of network leadership that can support the development of transformative capacities, in the context of social innovation networks. Such capacities include spreading social innovations in wider society, embedding them in policy and public discourse, and generating continuity and further development of social innovation activities. We studied five cases of transnational social innovation networks involving community-led and student-led sustainability initiatives. Practitioners in these networks were asked to rate and comment on the perceived recognisability and importance of network leadership roles and practices, as well as challenges, which we articulated in a previous study and further developed in the current study through participant observation and document analyses. This resulted in a revision of the roles and practices, the identification of relations between roles and a better understanding of how they can contribute to transformative capacity development. The interviews also helped to clarify the practical usefulness of the framework, suggesting possible applications for evaluating, prioritising and aligning roles performed by various individuals and organisations. The findings are relevant for better understanding and guiding distributed agency in transformative social innovation networks. Social media summary Roles and practices for network leadership to enable more widespread, systemic and lasting impact of social innovation.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere11
Number of pages12
JournalGlobal Sustainability
Publication statusPublished - 5 May 2022


  • network leadership
  • social innovation
  • transformative capacity


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