Leadership for resilient urban systems : two cases in Asheville, NC
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The role of leadership in the resilience of urban systems is poorly understood. Leadership can be thought of as a complex practice, where the functions of leadership emerge from the relationships amongst actors, systems and institutions. There are five theorized functions of Complexity Leadership: Community Building, Information Gathering, Information Using, Generative and Administrative. The purpose of this dissertation was to explore the connection, if any, between Complexity Leadership and the resilience of urban systems. This was explored in the context of two cases in Asheville, NC: the Residents' Council of Public Housing of Asheville and Rainbow Community School. The Residents' Council is a non profit that represents residents’ interests; Public Housing in Asheville is a typical for a 100k small city. The case documents some of the Residents' Council's attempt to adopt Dynamic Governance, a set of self-organizing governance practices. Rainbow Community School is a private k-8 school, recognized internationally as an Ashoka Change-Maker School for its innovative model of education. Data was collected through a hybrid of traditional ethnographic techniques and distributed ethnography. Data was analyzed inductively, using a combination of qualitative analysis and set theoretic analysis. The research generated findings of three kinds. First, complexity leadership was necessary but not sufficient to account for the observed resilience qualities. To explain the observed coordination across other functions and capacity to engage with mystery , this research theorizes an additional function of Complexity Leadership—a Spiritual function. Second, individual strategic leadership played a role in fostering resilience through strengthening weak functions of complexity leadership. Third, resilience qualities emerged over time through the process of Panarchy. Spiritual leadership plays a role in fostering Panarchy through creating conditions for cross-scale resonance. The dissertation closes with the contributions of this research to theory, practice, and methods for research in complex urban systems.