Weaving color lines: Race, ethnicity, and the work of leadership in social change organizations

Sonia Ospina, Celina Su

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


For social change organizations working to address intractable social problems throughou the US tackling race may not only be unavoidable, it may also represent away to fully engage stakeholders in social change work. We argue that illuminating the relationship between race and leaders hip can advance our understanding of how social change leadership happens in practice. We build upon scholarship that emphasizes the ways in which seemingly essentialist, intractable racial categories are actually mutable, and the simultaneous emergence of academic research calling attention to the constructed and collective dimensions of leadership. Using a constructionist lens to analyze narratives from 22 social change organizations and building six of these as in-depth cases, we document three distinct means of understanding race, explore how they help to do the work of leadership, and suggest ways in which they seem to move their work forward.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)131-170
Number of pages40
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2009


  • Constructionism
  • Ethnicity
  • Race
  • Relational leadership
  • Social change

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Strategy and Management


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