As the world becomes ever more globalised and interdependent, government responses to the rapidly changing economic, social, and environmental conditions arguably are failing the majority of constituents, especially here in the UK. A common response is to call for ‘stronger’ leadership, but with little understanding of what that looks like, or of the abilities needed to drive social change. There is an urgent need to rethink conventional notions of leadership, and one answer could be a community - or place-based approach to leadership that allows for more inclusive forms of governance and social activism.
Community leadership can be based on common place, purpose or experience, and is increasingly recognised as a driver of social change. It operates within the boundaries of the group it serves, representing an interactive, reciprocal form of leadership rather than a fixed hierarchy. And place-based leadership welcomes and supports people from all different backgrounds to build change together, creating vital networks that can then provide opportunities for collaborative working, creative thinking, and peer support - all of which are crucial to building a dynamic and thriving society.
Because communities are based on shared experiences and connections, this kind of leadership is less hierarchical than its traditional, top-down counterpart. Community leaders operate everywhere in society, from a housing estate playground to the VCSE sector to the local authority; so, crucially, place-based leadership must be multi-level rather than restricted to those in positions of authority. This approach allows leaders to disrupt traditional power structures, creating space for new and innovative ways of thinking.