Ashoka's New Discourse of Weaving: Exploring Leadership Dynamics for Collective Social Change

Julie Bonnet Sørensen & Léna Borsoi

Student thesis: Master thesis


We conduct semi-structured interviews and we analyze relevant documents and secondary data to explore collaboration processes, leadership roles and relational dynamics in and across the broader network of stakeholders - or ecosystem, as they call it - of the nongovernmental organization Ashoka. We focus specifically on Ashoka’s recently introduced concept and practice of “weaving,” by means of which the organization intends to bring people together in a community where change leaders align, collaborate and act systemically. We argue that Ashoka’s concept of weaving constitutes a new leadership approach that transcends organizational boundaries by engaging individual weavers and relational processes of weaving to initiate and to sustain adaptive spaces for collaboration and social change. We draw on Relational Leadership Theory (RLT), its related concept of bridging and Collective Impact (CI) to support our argument. While the practice of weaving can be critiqued for its basis in entity assumptions about leadership, we argue that the individual weaver plays a key transitional role in moving leadership processes from an entity-based perspective to a relational leadership-based perspective. Furthermore, we use Complexity Leadership Theory (CLT) to critique the concept of weaving for not sufficiently recognizing the productive role of tensions and conflicts in the context of adaptive spaces. At the same time, we leverage our understanding of weaving to critique CLT in turn for locating and analyzing adaptive spaces primarily within organizational boundaries, and for not recognizing sufficiently how adaptive spaces can function to promote collaboration and social change within cross-sector collaborations and across multi-stakeholder action networks. We consider the practical implications of our theoretical insights for the practice of weaving that we have studied, and thus its implication on cross-sector collaboration and leadership approaches.

EducationsMSc in Business, Language and Culture - Diversity and Change Management, (Graduate Programme) Final ThesisMSc in Business, Language and Culture - Business and Development Studies, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2019
Number of pages104
SupervisorsEric Guthey