Leadership from a Civil Society Perspective

Authored by: Jessica Ayesha Northey

Routledge Handbook of Conflict Response and Leadership in Africa

Print publication date:  September  2021
Online publication date:  September  2021

Print ISBN: 9780367332228
eBook ISBN: 9780429318603
Adobe ISBN:


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Whilst the nation state and global leaders are central to an understanding of conflict transformation, civil society, grassroots organizations, and opposition actors also have significant potential to tackle the root causes of conflict and provide leadership on the ground. This chapter explores different theoretical approaches and cases that might inform us as to how civil society can respond to conflicts. How can concepts such as servant leadership, authentic leadership, and ideas of humility enhance our understanding of civil society actors as agents of change (Winston and Patterson, 2006, p. 15)? How important is the role of civil society, not only in destabilizing or in creating discomfort by challenging the status quo but in healing and restoration, in post-conflict situations and contexts of deep inequalities? Can civil society organizations (CSOs) respond more effectively as leaders in peacebuilding, with what Lederach describes as the ‘moral imagination’ – the capacity to move from the challenges of the real world, to imagine that which does not yet exist (2005, p. 29)? What impact has the literature around the ‘local turn in peacebuilding’ had in challenging Western preconceptions of local agency in peacebuilding (Mac Ginty and Richmond, 2013, p. 765)? If liberal peacebuilding approaches have been overly critical of or neglectful of local civil society capacities, what then are the real limitations, obstacles, or risks for civil society leadership in conflict response (Rigual, 2018)?

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