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Appl Ergon. 2013 Sep;44(5):739-47. doi: 10.1016/j.apergo.2012.05.005. Epub 2012 Jun 21.

Organisational adaptation in an activist network: social networks, leadership, and change in al-Muhajiroun.

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Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Pittsburgh, 3935 Posvar Hall, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, USA.


Social networks are said to facilitate learning and adaptation by providing the connections through which network nodes (or agents) share information and experience. Yet, our understanding of how this process unfolds in real-world networks remains underdeveloped. This paper explores this gap through a case study of al-Muhajiroun, an activist network that continues to call for the establishment of an Islamic state in Britain despite being formally outlawed by British authorities. Drawing on organisation theory and social network analysis, we formulate three hypotheses regarding the learning capacity and social network properties of al-Muhajiroun (AM) and its successor groups. We then test these hypotheses using mixed methods. Our methods combine quantitative analysis of three agent-based networks in AM measured for structural properties that facilitate learning, including connectedness, betweenness centrality and eigenvector centrality, with qualitative analysis of interviews with AM activists focusing organisational adaptation and learning. The results of these analyses confirm that al-Muhajiroun activists respond to government pressure by changing their operations, including creating new platforms under different names and adjusting leadership roles among movement veterans to accommodate their spiritual leader's unwelcome exodus to Lebanon. Simple as they are effective, these adaptations have allowed al-Muhajiroun and its successor groups to continue their activism in an increasingly hostile environment.

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