Collective resilience: The role of self-organized leadership communities in uncertain times.



Over the past years, business leaders have led their organizations through multiple crises: the COVID-19 crisis, labor shortages, financial shocks, weather events. Economic, social and geopolitical disruptions require changes in decision-making and innovation processes to address immediate needs. Most recently during the Ukrainian crisis, for example, new telecommunication, insurance, and financial services were provided in the affected areas by expert communities and specific task forces.  

Fragilities and instabilities inherent in such extreme situations create multiple vulnerabilities for people at different levels. Different actors belonging to local or international communities answer to those difficulties (Lough, 2021). As noted by Lough (2021) “It recognizes that people can bounce back from adverse events through self-organizing leadership. People are capable of self-organizing to lead and build the resilience of their own communities.” 

The presence of "core communities" is an essential ingredient needed for an effective localized resilient approach to respond to a crisis. The leadership taken over by those self-organized “core communities” places value in the social and relational connections between people situated in specific geographic places (Beer et al, 2019, Bailey, D. et al. (2013, Muller, 2006).  

Now more than ever, self-organized communities and “place leadership” (Lough, 2021, Bailey, D. et al., 2013, Beer, A. and Clower, T., 2014) appear essential in the context of global crisis, to provide rapid responses to complex issues and foster collective resilience. In times of emergency, the spontaneous responses of communities are multiple and striking, supporting creative efforts and promoting innovations to increase resilience of our societies. In any case, the ability to survive on the short and long term requires innovation, change and adaptation within organizations. The resilience of companies particularly relies on their ability to mobilize and value "human intelligence" available within and around organizations (Woodward, I. C. and Shaffakat, S., 2017).  

The objective of the special issue is to increase our knowledge on self-organized communities that take the lead to leverage value creation, knowledge sharing, and performance within and around firms in order to foster innovation and resilience in time of crisis. Research must equip organizations with a framework for rethinking social processes to overlap relations between individuals within and outside organizations. As an example, one such framework could be based on the theory of learning-by-doing which sheds particular light on the role played by actors in crossing frontiers of knowledge (Wenger, 1998, Wenger 2015) to facilitate interactions between individuals inside and outside organization and reinforce the self-organized communities. Wenger (2015, 2020) distinguishes here between internal and external actors:  

First of all, boundary actors who simultaneously participate to several communities, which provides them a legitimacy (expertise) and enables them to transfer knowledge more easily from one community to another.  

Second, peripheral participants: these actors share their experiences and knowledge with members of a community but are not members of it. They help to instigate change and stimulate innovation. The literature on open innovation attributes a similar role of external stimulation (West & Bogers, 2014) to intermediaries or brokers whose objective is "to enable other organizations to innovate" (Winch & Courtney, 2007: 751) and to develop access or trust between two parties (Marsden, 1982). These intermediaries can intervene in any aspect of innovation. They may be specialized service companies with strong knowledge in a field such as KIBS (Knowledge Intensive Business Services) that innovate on behalf of their client through cooperative and trusting relationships (Koch & Strotmann, 2008). But these intermediaries can also be individuals (Obstfeld, 2005) with motivation and orientation (tertius iungens) to play this coordinating role. There are different typologies to qualify their role: knowledge brokers (Hargadon, 2002, Wenger, 2015, 2020), qualification brokers (Goglio-Primard & Crespin-Mazet, 2015), innovation brokers or intermediaries (Howells, 2006; Winch & Courtney, 2007), or technology scouts (Monteiro & Birkinshaw, 2014). Howells (2006) synthesizes the different roles of intermediaries on a continuum, ranging from providing knowledge and qualifying partners to a more proactive role of animation and co-creation generating a dynamic in an innovation system.  

These intermediaries, individuals or organizations, appear essential in the context of the crisis to provide rapid responses and foster collective resilience. We witness unprecedented collaborative impulses and community gatherings that emerge in all areas: support for caregivers, support for families and their children, consortiums of companies to manage and safeguard the common good (health, life), Emergence of communities spontaneously to leverage collective intelligence to search, qualify and design educative, engineering and manufacturing solutions. Specifically, in the case of the Ukrainian crisis, there are many examples of communities inside firms that have helped populations by providing essential goods and services such as food, water, internet services and electricity. To ensure the availability of raw materials, products and employees during blockades, border disputes, embargoes and military actions, they also increased agile manufacturing and distributed sourcing, production, service and distribution practices while moving to remote work for employee safety and business continuity. Educative and religious communities also provided concrete assistance to Ukrainian children and coordinated the reception of Ukrainian students in host countries. 

This special issue focuses on the role played by all these intermediaries, individuals or organizations to develop self-organized communities and to foster innovation, value creation and resilience in time of crisis. 


List of topic areas

Potential research questions for the theorical and empirical papers submitted to this special issue may include, but are not limited to: 

Self-organized Communities to foster innovation and resilience in time of crisis  

  • How do self-organized communities emerge to foster collective resilience of our societies - within and outside organizations? 
  • What role does leadership play to increase the innovative capacity of such self-organized communities? 
  • How can dynamics of self-organized communities foster organizational, regional and societal resilience? 
  • In time of crisis, what are the levers that support the development of self-organized communities that take the lead to identify innovative answers to a crisis?  
  • How to create and animate a community with experts, customers, and users, to create value, to develop innovation, agility and resilience in time of crisis? 
  • What value do Communities bring both to employees and to the organization itself? 
  • How to assess the value created by the communities in the organization?  
  • How to support the spontaneous emergence of communities within the same organization?  
  • How to mix new organizational forms (i.e. communities of practice, collectives, and epistemic communities) to create value, innovate and respond to a crisis? 
  • How can self-organized communities promote a common societal cause outside the organization and obtain the adhesion and legitimacy of a great number of the population? 
  • How can the spontaneous responses of communities support innovation and resilience in formal hierarchical structures?  

Boundaries relations between communities for innovation and resilience 

  • What is the key role of brokering (innovation intermediaries, knowledge brokers) in the development of successful communities?  
  • How to distinguish the role of internal and external actors within interacting communities?  
  • What role does boundary actors play to transfer knowledge more easily from one community to another? 
  • What role does peripheral participants play to instigate change and stimulate innovation and resilience?   
  • What is the role of KIBS (Knowledge Intensive Business Services) to consolidate cooperative and trusting relations between communities in time of crisis? 
  • What innovation intermediaries are required to facilitate knowledge sharing between communities and in which way are they different in times of crisis? 
  • What innovation intermediaries are required to animate and generate co-creation dynamics between communities? 


Guest Editors

Karine Goglio,
Kedge Business School Toulon, France.
[email protected]

Florence Crespin-Mazet,
Kedge Business School Toulon, France.
[email protected]

Marion Neukam,
BETA-CNRS, Université de Strasbourg, France.
[email protected]

Laurent Simon,
Mosaic HEC Montréal, Canada.
[email protected] 


Submissions Information

Submissions are made using ScholarOne Manuscripts. Registration and access are available at:    

Author guidelines must be strictly followed. Please see:

Authors should select (from the drop-down menu) the special issue title at the appropriate step in the submission process, i.e. in response to “Please select the issue you are submitting to”. 

Submitted articles must not have been previously published, nor should they be under consideration for publication anywhere else, while under review for this journal.

Key Deadlines

Opening date for manuscript submissions: 30 June 2023

Closing date for manuscript submissions: 30 September 2023

For additional information or queries about this special issue contact the Guest Editors.



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