The Women’s Work Lab and UWE Part 2

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For the last month, my team at UWE Bristol, the Stakeholder Engagement team, have had a guest with us on placement. This is part of an initiative set up by an amazing Community Interest Company called Women’s Work Lab.

Becky Ware has joined us and very quickly become a part of the team. I have seen her confidence grow, her enthusiasm spark new ideas and her creativity bring a fresh mind-set to challenges.  Here she shares her story about the power of Women’s Work Lab, and the vital support provided by many organisations, like UWE, in offering work placements.

“Being a single stay-at-home mum, it is easy to fall into a routine, and that routine becomes a comfort that is hard to break out of.

I have been out of work for just over 9 years, in that time I had a second child, and an operation on my kidney which I had to wait a few years for.

I was trying to motivate myself into job hunting, but didn’t know where to start, having had such a large career break.

I was lucky that I had a social prescriber who texted me unexpectedly one day advising about The Women’s Work Lab (WWL), I had a look at their website, and read through all the information, a 12-week programme where they help you to get back into work sounded ideal.

I applied on a Saturday and was offered a place on the course on the following Tuesday, I had a bit of apprehension, would I be any good? Am I really the type of person that they help? Am I deserving of this? But I decided that I had to give it a go, I owed myself the chance to improve my life, and that of my kids.

The Thursday of that week I went for my first day, I arrived and waited in reception with a group of other mums, all in the same position as me, none of us knowing, really, what to expect.

The WWL course was insightful and run by a wonderful lady called Sally, she had the experience to really give us all some good advice. I’m currently only halfway through the course, the experience so far has been amazing, I’ve met some wonderful mums who are in the same position as me, and I hope we keep in touch following the end of the course.

Part of the course is a four-week work placement, I was so nervous to find out where I would be going, as were the other mums, but I was delighted to find out my placement would be at the UWE.

I’m now in my job placement, working in the FBL.

The staff in the FBL have been so incredibly welcoming, and happy to spend time with me, considering I’m not a permanent member of staff, and will only be here for 4 weeks, the amount of time and help they’ve given me has been nothing short of wonderful, their support has really helped my experience and I am so excited about looking for a job and getting back to work, I’m not sure how encouraged I would have been if I didn’t have this support.

I’ve got new experiences that will help me in my job search, even something as simple as using outlook again, and getting back into work friendly habits. The confidence this placement has given me is worth its weight in gold.

I’m so thankful to everyone in both the FBL and the WWL, without them I would probably still be at home trying to figure out the best pathway for me to return to work, and still be around for my children.

I cannot recommend the WWL course highly enough, I’m looking forward to finishing the course with some more classroom work, but I will also be very sad to leave my placement, I really feel like part of the team.”

The Women’s Work Lab and UWE Part 1

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Camilla Rigby is the Co-Founder and Joint CEO of Women’s Work Lab (WWL), a Community Interest Company with the stated aim to support under-represented women aged 25+ to fulfil their career potential and become work ready. The WWL aims to unlock potential and lay the foundations for a brighter future for the mums they work with. Outcomes for participants include new careers, positive role modelling for their families and communities and the creation of a vital support network. Camilla was virtually reintroduced to UWE when they were looking for a venue to host the Spring 2022 South Gloucestershire programme.  

The mission of WWL is in line with UWE’s core values and as a UWE alumni, we were keen to support Camilla with her endeavours. Camilla studied Business Studies, completing in 2004.  

“I enjoyed my time studying at UWE and today, as a regional hub for business, and an educational provider with enterprise, community and industry partnership at its heart, UWE seemed like the perfect place to inspire our participants.” 

“Completing my Business Studies degree really opened my eyes to what the real world of work could look like. My year-long work placement provided an amazing springboard for my career and I managed to land my first job before I’d even graduated! I am still in touch with many friends from UWE days and it’s great to see how many have followed entrepreneurial pathways. ” 

The WWL programme includes bespoke classroom training, 1-2-1 support, skills training, practical career support and a four-week work placement. During 2022, 90 women will be supported in this way across six programmes taking place in the local city/ region.  

Before Co-Founding the WWL with Rachel Mostyn in 2019, Camilla had a 15 year career in senior communications roles for household brands including Dyson & OVO Energy. As a Mum to two boys aged 9 & 11 (one who is autistic), she understands first-hand the challenges that Mums can face trying to support her family alongside work.  

“My inspiration in co-founding WWL came back in 2016 when I felt unable to juggle the pressures of work and a young family; I felt like a failure to be honest. I recognised at the same time the privilege I had and began to question how much harder it must be for women who don’t have a decent support network, or lots of work experience. I was fortunate enough to meet Rachel during this time of reflection and we began to research what was available for Mums that were unemployed and in receipt of state benefits. Turns out very little and so we set about co-designing the programme with Mums from across the City into what we have now. We’re proud to have worked with over 100 womens on their journeys back towards work, whilst building an amazing team of women who really connect and inspire the Mums we support.” 

UWE has been proud to host this inspiring initiative and work with the local community to improve outcomes for mothers who have been challenged in some way in terms of securing work. This programme really aligns with our Strategy 2030 in boosting our economy and supporting the local and regional community, and has massive societal impact which is so rewarding and essential for continued growth and success. 

“We feel as though this is just the beginning for the Women’s Work Lab. Having started in early 2020, covid has unsurprisingly hampered what we’ve been able to achieve. That said, in 2021 we know that 60% of the women we supported are now working; this is testament to their hard work and determination. It also shows why specialist employability support is so needed and it’s amazing to have the support of employers like UWE in helping these women to fulfil their potential.” 

If you would be interested in finding out more about the work of WWL, you can find additional information via their website here

Take advantage of degree apprenticeship SME funding with UWE Bristol

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15 May 2019 15:00 – 17:00

Register here

Are you interested in upskilling your workforce and does the cost of training seem a barrier to accessing local talent?

This event provides an opportunity to hear first-hand accounts from existing businesses who have apprentices at UWE, and how to make it work. In addition to this, we will be highlighting upcoming degree apprenticeships and further opportunities for your business to train your employees at degree level with the funding available.

UWE Bristol is the only university in the region with funding from the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) to support non-levy employers and has secured funding to support apprentices from Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs).

David Barrett, Director of Apprenticeships at UWE Bristol, will welcome you to the event and alongside the Degree Apprenticeship Hub team will be able to help identify your training needs and suitable solutions.
Spaces are limited for this event, so please register below.

If you have any questions about this event or degree apprenticeships please feel free to contact Ellen Parkes.

We are looking forward to meeting you and beginning the degree apprenticeship partnership journey.

The event takes place in the University Enterprise Zone on Frenchay Campus from 15:00 – 17:00.

Register here

Visiting speaker at the Phenomenal Women Lecture Series: Sam Brooks

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On Wednesday 27 February, Industry Fellow Sam Brooks delivered a talk on Powerful Coaching Conversations at the Phenomenal Women Series at Gainsborough Bath Spa Hotel following a key note by respected broadcaster, journalist and author Bel Mooney. Bel spoke about her fascinating life story, and how she ended up as one of the top advice columnists in the country and how this role has provided her with some of the most rewarding moments in her professional life. Sam then explored how she operates at the other end of the coaching spectrum in a non-directive role as a coach, having been trained at UWE by completing the ILM Level 7 in Executive Coaching and Mentoring.

Sam’s talk focused on how to set the context to develop powerful coaching conversations and also introduced some of the work that is being undertaken by Dr Arthur Turner, a Senior Lecturer in Organisational Studies and tutor on the ILM coaching courses, on the effectiveness of walking coaching in creating more relaxed conversations and increasing the likelihood of creative thought. 

The next Phenomenal Women Lecture is on 10th April with Dame Fiona Reynolds, Master of Emmanuel College Cambridge doing the keynote.  Dr Finn Mackay, a Senior Lecturer at UWE Bristol who specialises in contemporary British feminism and feminist activism will deliver the follow-up workshop on behalf of UWE Bristol.  Finn has been involved in feminist activism for twenty years and is passionate about all social justice issues and equalities.  Other research interests include gender studies, animal rights, lesbian and gay studies and particularly gender identity, definitions, expressions and borders within the LGBTQI+ community.

Rob Law CEO Trunki: Unpacking leadership and innovation

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On Thursday 7th February, Rob Law CEO MBE Trunki gave an inspirational guest lecture at the Bristol Business School.

Rob spoke about his career challenges and how he has grown the Trunki brand on an international scale.

He also talked about his leadership style and how he keeps the Trunki team motivated.

Rob was talking as part of our free CPD programme for alumni, Trailblazers. The Trailblazer Programme blends face-to-face sessions with webinars and social events. Participants are motivated to maximise personal impact, boost effectiveness and develop leadership skills. The talk was also open to the public.

Facebook Usage and Mental Health

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Originally posted on the Bristol Leadership and Change Centre blog here.

Dr Guru Prabhakar’s co-authored paper has been published in the International Journal of Information Management (Impact Factor: 4.5).

Facebook Usage and Mental Health: An empirical study of role of non-directional social comparisons in the UK.

This paper explores the relationship between the nature of Facebook usage, non-directional comparisons and depressive syndromes. The extant research on linkage between social media usage and mental health is inconclusive. There is small but significant causal linkage between increased non-directional social comparisons and depressive symptoms among the users.

This study hypothesizes that one of the mediating factors could be the social comparisons that Facebook users conduct whilst on the site. Dr Prabhakar’s paper therefore explores the link between non-directional social comparisons on Facebook, with increased depressive symptoms in 20-29 year olds.  In brief, a positive correlation was found between passive Facebook use and non-directional social comparisons.

The findings of the research have implications at three levels: individuals, firms and medical practitioners. The individuals shall benefit from the finding that passive Facebook usage would lead to increase in social comparison which in turn results in depressive symptoms. The passive usage behaviour includes logging into the sites and monitoring others’ profiles without any interaction. Over a period of time, this might result in depression.

The issues surrounding social media usage and mental health in the UK have also been highlighted recently in the media. For example, only a few days ago the BBC published the following article:

Mental health: UK could ban social media over suicide images, minister warns

Follow this link to view the full paper:

Nisar, T. , Prabhakar, G. , Ilavarasan, P. and Baabdullah, A. (2019) Facebook usage and mental health: An empirical study of role of non-directional social comparisons in the UK. International Journal of Information Management, 48. pp. 53-62. ISSN 0268-4012

Functional Spaces for Team Working

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Bristol Business School academics Dr Harriet Shortt and Dr Selen Kars recently spoke to Moon Consulting as part of their series of articles with academic leaders.

Read the full article below which originally appeared here.

With an increased focus on flexible working practices, employers need to be conscious of creating an environment which enhances learning, creativity and knowledge transfer so when teams do come together, they are in the best environment to achieve maximum results. 

In the latest of our articles with academic leaders, we talk to Dr Harriet Shortt, Associate Professor and Dr Selen Kars, Senior Lecturer from Bristol Business School, at the University of the West of England, about how an organisation structures it’s work, breakout and functional spaces and how these can positively impact knowledge transfer and idea generation. 

by Dr Harriet Shortt and Dr Selen Kars

Everyday life at work includes solving problems together, acknowledging people have different skills, expertise, experiences and ideas, and learning how best to exploit these in order to advance organisational objectives. Indeed, it could be argued that knowledge is what makes organisations tick. But the problem is that knowledge often sits in the heads of individual employees, and if it stays there it’s worthless. So, what can organisations do to improve knowledge transfer? The answer could lie in the organisation of space.  

Most of our organisational interactions are routinised. The way work spaces are often organised means that employees typically relate and interact with a small circle of people. Despite open-plan office designs and spatial configurations that encourage people working in the same department or project team to be co-located, interaction patterns are often socially and spatially constrained. Daily interactions occur with colleagues who are sitting on average between only 18 and 25 metres away from us [1]. In fact, a recent Wall Street Journal article reports similarly; there is only 5-10% chance that we will interact with someone only two desk-rows away from where we sit! [2]

However, if you provide temporary, transitory spaces for conversations this provides opportunities for individuals to be exposed to new stimuli and new ideas. For example, international hearing aid producer Oticon replaced the elevators at their headquarters in Denmark with a central spiral staircase that was wide enough to permit chance encounters. Similarly, Pixar’s US headquarters are designed in a way that allows employees to have informal, chance meetings with colleagues all over the organisation, and having one cafeteria for over 1,200 employees was a deliberate choice. Steve Jobs is, infamously, said to suggest only one restroom for the whole company with the same idea in mind; although, luckily, he was later convinced to invest in one on each floor.  

Whether you encourage people meet for coffee on a staircase, at lunch, or in the restroom, the idea is that regular, informal, chance meetings are an effective way of instigating knowledge transfer between employees and create a breeding ground for new knowledge creation through collaboration.  

This is something that our research has revealed over the past decade – particularly with regards to ‘liminal’ spaces. Recent research by Iedema and colleagues[3] has shown, for example, how the corridors of hospitals have a learning function – this ‘ad hoc’ environment is where doctors, nurses and trainees engage in conversations, teach, learn and exchange knowledge. This is because corridors are ‘liminal’ spaces, meaning they are transitory, ‘in-between’ the formal spaces of an organisation, and lack the formality of defined spaces like ‘a meeting room’. Because of this people feel more comfortable asking questions or testing out ideas there, as there is a sense of freedom from organisational constraints and expectations. Harriet’s research exposes similar findings and suggests that it is the liminal spaces at work that provide vital sites for employees to seek and find inspiration and creativity – the toilets, corridors and stairwells are ‘transitory dwelling places’ that momentarily offer a ‘no man’s land’ where, for example, formal power dynamics appear to evaporate[4].   

But if you want to inject some ‘formality’ there are alternative options. Selen’s research with a medium-sized company, with a limited budget for employee training and development, saw the organisation introduce ‘lunch and learn’ sessions. These sessions were held in the busy cafeteria area, where interested employees gathered around a big table to learn about new products, a new process or practice they needed to follow. An open, transitory space like this may not be your first choice for a venue when you design a training event but think about the multiplier effect you could create – passers-by overhearing discussions, deciding to sit down or stand for a while, and taking new knowledge with them when they leave.  

Many have argued that physical proximity positively influences social relationships, friendships among colleagues and, in turn, job satisfaction[5]. Indeed, Harriet’s recent publication on eating cake in the office highlights some of these points[6]. In a study of spatial interactions in a large open-plan UK Government office, she found that – again, against organisational conventions – what really got people moving beyond the 18-25 metre mark, was the sharing and brandishing of cakes and biscuits at the end of long shared desks. The combination of cake and an open-plan office encouraged these temporary pockets of space to be socially created in the corridors and walkways between desks, and for social relationships and knowledge transfer to really flourish.

So, although we may find the familiarity of constrained social and spatial interactions at times rather comforting, if we don’t travel more than 20 metres on a typical work day to talk with our colleagues, we need to remember this severely limits the insights, ideas, and experiences we’re potentially subjected to. The liminal, in-between spaces not only allow for different relationships to be built across knowledge frontiers, but they can also facilitate shared learning processes where employees communicate knowledge, challenge practices and support knowledge creation, experimentation and innovation.

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Moon Consulting understand the challenges that employers face when recruiting for an evolving market. The brightest talent is high in demand, and often hard to find. Our comprehensive local and global knowledge coupled with our extensive industry awareness allows us to source those hard-to-find skillsets whilst providing unparalleled service.

We work closely with your business, taking the time to understand the impact of the latest trends and product innovations. In addition, our office deliberately open plan which allows our experienced team of search consultants to work collaboratively across assignments.  

If you would like to find out how we can help you, contact the team on 01275 371 200 or recruit@moonconsulting.co.uk.

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[1] Sailer, K. and Penn, A. (2009) Spatiality and transpatiality in workplace environments. In: Koch, D. and Marcus, L. and Steen, J., (eds.) Proceedings of the 7th International Space Syntax Symposium. Royal Institute of Technology (KTH): Stockholm, Sweden. Available from: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/15303/

[2] Feintzeig, R. (2013) The New Science of Who Sits Where at Work, Wall Street Journal, 8 October. Available from: https://www.wsj.com/articles/no-headline-available-1381261423

[3] Iedema R, Long D and Carroll K (2012) Corridor communication, spatial design and patient safety: Enacting and managing complexities. In: Van Marrewijk A and Yanow D (eds) Organizational Spaces: Rematerializing the Workaday World. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, pp. 41–57.

[4] Shortt, H. (2015) Liminality, space and the importance of ‘transitory dwelling places’ at work. Human Relations, 68 (4). pp. 633-658. Available from: http://eprints.uwe.ac.uk/26742

[5] See Eric Sundstrom’s work for a more extensive discussion of this. Sundstrom, E. (1986) Work Places: The Psychology of the Physical Environment in Offices and Factories. New York: Cambridge University Press.  

[6] Shortt, H. (2017) Cake and the open plan office: A foodscape of work through a Lefebvrian lens. In: Kingma, S. , Dale, K. and Wasserman, V. (eds.) Organizational Space and Beyond: The significance of Henri Lefebvre for organizational studies. London: Routledge. [In Press] Available from: http://eprints.uwe.ac.uk/31539 ‘

Bristol Business School host 6th form conference for the Lighthouse School Partnership

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On Friday 19 January, Bristol Business School hosted the Lighthouse Schools Partnership for their first 6th form joint conference.

200 students from schools across North Somerset attended the conference promoting innovation, self-leadership, team work and entrepreneurship.

Director of Bristol Business Engagement Centre at the Bristol Business School, Dr Noordin Shehabuddeen, delivered a keynote address on “Innovation: the art of unlearning” and Bob Reeves, Director of the Foundation for Leadership through Sport, delivered a session on leadership alongside Bristol Bears Rugby sensation Nick Fenton-Wells. Students attended workshops throughout the day and received tours of the Business School.

The event was a huge success with great feedback from the students. One student commented “I have a UCAS application to UWE, but to be honest I was very half-hearted about it and thought I’d be going the apprenticeship route, however, after Friday, I’m thinking I need to be at UWE! I was blown away by the Law courts and the trading rooms.”

We hope to replicate this event in the future.

UWE Alumni raise over £5.5k for Help Bristol’s Homeless Charity

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Three alumni from UWE Bristol’s Team Entrepreneurship course have raised over £5.5k for local charity, Help Bristol Homeless.

Help Bristol’s Homeless aims to change the face of homelessness in Bristol. They believe a home is a right and the complex issues homeless people face will not be solved when they have the daily task of finding somewhere safe to stay.

Their mission is to develop a site with ten shipping containers, converted into self-contained studio flats, providing temporary accommodation until a service user can find a more permanent home.

Inspired by this social enterprise, Team Entrepreneurship alumni Zac Alsop, Jamie Rawsthorne and Rosh Gurung joined forces to try and make a difference.

As part of their Team Entrepreneurship degree, Zac, Jamie and Rosh all had to set up their own businesses. Rosh who set up Dazed Promotions, an events and DJ business, used his connections to secure Bristol DJ’s Roni Size and Danny Byrd for a gig to raise funds for the charity.

Zac and Jamie

Zac and Jamie (pictured) amongst other businesses, set up a successful YouTube channel which they used to raise awareness for Help Bristol’s Homeless and to promote the gig.  They recently shared a short film on Help Bristol’s Homeless on their YouTube channel which can be viewed here.

The gig was a great success and raised over £2,000.

The Team Entrepreneurship alumni have since raised an additional £5,835 for the charity. They have set a target of £25,000 which will help to build an additional two homes on the site.

The Help Bristol’s Homeless site currently has 20 shipping container homes and renovated bus that was donated by First Bus. The charity encourages anyone who stays on site to help with the construction and maintenance of the site.

To find out more and to contribute to the fundraising effort see here.

Think tank praises Ofsted’s changes but says more can be done

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Written by Jeremy Allen

Members of a pioneering institute set up to shape national education policy on enterprise skills has welcomed The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) new draft inspection framework. However it believes some of the new measures should be more ambitious. 


The Aldridge Institute for Enterprise and Entrepreneurship, based at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol), develops innovative approaches to the teaching and learning of enterprise skills, and acts as a national think tank, lobbying government on how enterprise education can transform students’ futures and boost the economy.

This week Ofsted published a draft framework on how it plans to change the way in which it assesses and rates schools. It plans to focus on how results are achieved – which it says reflects good education – as opposed to focusing solely on pupils’ marks and exam results.

Professor Gurpreet Jagpal, Director of the Aldridge Institute, said: “We welcome this new framework, as well as Ofsted’s desire to focus on how results are achieved. 

“We strongly advocate the positive value of enterprise and entrepreneurship in education, the need for equal opportunity and young people equipped with future-proofed skills – the proposed framework begins to take some steps to recognise the voice for enterprise and entrepreneurship teaching and learning.

“However, we believe it needs to be more ambitious and should look forward to the needs of young people beyond their time in education, to focus on knowledge and skills.”

The education watchdog’s draft set out that school pupils’ personal development and behaviour should be separated when a school is assessed. Referring to this, Professor Jagpal said: “We commend Ofsted’s focus on personal development and behaviour, but the two should not be separated.

“Behaviour is about more than classroom discipline or bullying. It’s about the enterprising skills needed to succeed – in education, in employment and in society – such as teamwork.

“As a result, we would encourage the ‘embedding’ of such attributes in all aspects of learners’ education interaction.”

Ofsted’s Chief Investigator Amanda Spielman said in her speech announcing the framework that she summed up her ambition for the framework using the words ‘substance’ and ‘integrity’.

In response to this, Professor Jagpal said: “Integrity is an education system that equips young people with the skills to succeed in our rapidly changing society and economy. This is a chance to change not just an inspection regime, but a culture that exam results are the only success criteria. Enterprise skills must be a key part of this.”

The Aldridge Institute is a partnership between The Aldridge Foundation charity and UWE Bristol. Made up of a team of researchers and lecturers, the Institute is based at the University’s new £55 million Bristol Business School building. Academics from across the Faculty of Business and Law collaborate with the Institute to strengthen its impact.

Professor Jagpal said: “To solve the biggest challenges the world is facing, we need to think about educating our young people differently and break away from traditional teaching models – any new inspection model needs to support this and over the coming months we look forward to engaging with Ofsted to see how the proposed framework will ensure that young people are equipped not just with academic qualifications, but also with enterprising skills and attributes.

The Institute is currently developing measures that will help schools, colleges and universities assess the impact of personal development of enterprising skills and behaviours.

It is also pulling together input from leaders in enterprise skills and entrepreneurship education to fully respond to Ofsted’s framework draft, which is open to consultation until April.

The Aldridge Foundation is a charity that supports ten schools across Britain in communities with levels of high unemployment and income deprivation. These Aldridge Academies have pioneered the implementation of an education approach that encourages teamwork, problem-solving, creativity, risk-taking, determination and passion.

-ENDS-

  • For further information, images or interviews, please contact the UWE Bristol Press Office on 0117 3282208 or pressoffice@uwe.ac.uk. Our press release archive can be accessed here.

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