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Title:Collective leadership for community action: A case-based inquiry into supporting digital literacy initiatives
Author(s):Phelps, Kirstin C.
Director of Research:McDowell, Kate
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):McDowell, Kate
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Diesner, Jana; Rosch, David D.; Twidale, Michael
Department / Program:Information Sciences
Discipline:Information Sciences
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
shared leadership
information behavior
mixed methods
social network analysis
digital literacy
community action
Abstract:Successful collaboration is a pressing need for groups, organizations, and communities that are looking to identify solutions to local problems. As these local problems become increasingly complex, collaboration requires the engagement and active participation of diverse stakeholders. In order to support the success of cross-sector, multiple stakeholder initiatives, there is a need for better governance frameworks that consider the voluntary, peer-led nature of grassroots efforts, as well as increased understandings of community-based initiatives. One challenge faced by communities is how to support the development of digital literacies in their citizens for not just long-term success in an increasingly technology-reliant life but also to meet social and economic development goals related to digital inclusion and workforce preparation. This study examines the organizing and leadership processes around one community’s responses to support digital literacy initiatives. It explores the applicability of a collective leadership framework for understanding leadership within the community, focusing on four behaviorally-based roles identified as supporting group processes in complex environments. It also examines the structures, systems, and processes that support or hinder such work and the associated information behaviors of individuals enacting leadership roles. A sequential mixed methods design was created for this study, comprised of a multi-phased process structured to solicit data from across the community. Forty-one semi-structured interviews were conducted with individuals across five community sectors, followed by a social network survey (n=78) asking about relationships around information, general leadership, and collective leadership roles for digital literacy. Analysis of the social network survey identified eight participants for the second round of semi-structured interviews. Ongoing document analysis, observations, and site visits contributed contextual information about the community’s efforts. The final phase involved the integration and review of all data sources. Findings reflect the complexity present within the community and the coordination challenges of working across organizational and geographic boundaries. Digital literacy resources around information and leadership were present, but scarce. Collective leadership was found to be present, with evidence for the existence of collective leadership roles found within both qualitative and quantitative analyses. Expertise remained related to the emergence of collective leadership roles, with social expertise seen as particularly important. Analysis of community information needs, resulted in the creation of a novel typology of information needs around digital literacy, comprised of educational, technical, organizational, and community-specific components. Implications for research concern future work exploring leadership and community initiatives, with methodological contributions from the study of relevance for research around community-based phenomena. Implications for practice revolve around the support of community capacity-building efforts, particularly around community leadership development and community learning.
Issue Date:2021-04-20
Rights Information:Copyright 2021 Kirstin C. Phelps
Date Available in IDEALS:2021-09-17
Date Deposited:2021-05

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