BLCC Research Symposium, 6 June 2019- Responsible and Inclusive Leadership: Paradoxes and Possibilities

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We are delighted to announce that we will be hosting a Research Symposium event on Thursday 6 June 2019. This afternoon research event will take place before our evening Professorial Lecture with Steve Kempster.

Thursday 6 June 2019, 14:00-17:00
Bristol Business School, UWE Bristol

Click here to register for this event.

Overview

In the face of environmental, social, political and economic change organisations are coming under increasing pressure to demonstrate responsible and inclusive leadership that makes a lasting, positive impact to the lives of the communities they engage with. Whilst such principles are now well accepted in both policy and practice the continuing prevalence of discrimination, inequality and unethical practice, combined with a loss of trust and a growing sense of disengagement and disillusionment across significant parts of the population, suggest that implementing such an approach is not so straightforward.

This event, organised by Bristol Leadership and Change Centre in collaboration with the Centre for Responsible Management at the University of Winchester, opens up a space for discussion and reflection around the paradoxes and possibilities of responsible and inclusive leadership, drawing on the latest theory and research in this field. The event is designed for academics, students, consultants and practitioners interested in and/or responsible for the management of people and organisations. It may be particularly beneficial for those working with or towards Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and/or with the Principles of Responsible Management Education (PRME), as well as those with a responsibility for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (ED&I) and mobilising culture change.

This event will be hosted at Bristol Business School, UWE, Bristol and will be followed by a Distinguished Professorial Lecture by Professor Steve Kempster. Both events are free to attend although registration is required in order to reserve a place.

Session 1

The Responsible Management and Leadership Paradox: An interactive workshop

Dr Simon M Smith
Department of Responsible Management and Leadership, University of Winchester

This interactive session is designed to explore and discuss the day-to-day realities faced with delivering responsible management and leadership. This will be presented as a number of paradoxical situations that we address within the world of business and will lead into a rich and diverse set of discussions around responsible management and leadership.

There will be a short introduction to outline the conceptual paradox theory of ‘Organizational Ambidexterity’ applied to the responsible management and leadership context. No experience with this academic construct is needed. A number of situations are then provided to all participants to instigate a discussion of how these situations are dealt with on the frontline. As well as increasing our understanding of these paradoxical realities, it is hoped that we will inspire how to tackle such situations through shared practice.

Session 2

Learning from Lived Experience: Opportunities and Challenges for mobilising lasting change on leadership and inclusion in the NHS

Professor Richard Bolden, Professor Carol Jarvis and Stella Warren
Bristol Business School, UWE Bristol

Recent years have seen increasing emphasis on the need for collective, compassionate and inclusive leadership in UK public services. The National Health Service (NHS) constitution in particular places a legal and moral requirement to address inequality in all that it does. Despite an espoused commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion, however, and a series of associated policy and practice initiatives, inequality gaps continue to increase, compounded by successive neo-liberal policy agendas that have contributed to a growing financial deficit, constant political and systemic interventions, increasing fragmentation and conflicting accountabilities.

A recent initiative from the NHS Leadership Academy – Building Leadership for Inclusion – intervenes at both an individual and systems level. Engaging meaningfully with ‘lived experience’, it aims to foster inclusive leadership and hasten the speed of change, a commitment reiterated in the NHS Long-Term Plan to “do more to develop and embed cultures of compassion, inclusion, and collaboration across the NHS” (NHS England, 2019: 89). Whilst a more abstract concept than ‘equality’ and ‘diversity’, ‘inclusion’, with its emphasis on perceptions and experience (rather than objectively measurable criteria) highlights the cultural-cognitive dimensions of change. In so doing, we suggest, it offers the potential to address systemic causes, rather than surface-level symptoms, and to support the complex, messy, emotional and politicised work of mobilising large-scale culture change.

In this session, we will share findings from our action research and evaluation on this initiative, including enablers and barriers to change.  We will also invite participants to reflect on their own lived experience of inclusive and non-inclusive leadership and the challenges of mobilising lasting change on this agenda.null

How to attend

If you would like to attend this research symposium please register your details online: Click here to register

If you would also like to attend the evening Professorial address with Steve Kempster (please see below for details) you will need to register separately for this event.

Professorial Lecture Series: Professor Steve Kempster


Professor Steve Kempster (University of Lancaster Management School)

What are the Responsibilities of Business Leadership: Generating good dividends?

Thursday 6 June 2019, 17:30-20:00

Click here to register for the Professorial Lecture.

The talk will focus on Steve’s new book (with Thomas Maak and Ken Parry) out in February 2019 that explores the role of leadership in making manifest societal purpose to everyday business activity – how business value and social impact can be aligned and realised. Too little attention in leadership is focused on the responsibilities and activities of those who lead.

Steve will seek to answer the question ‘leadership for what?’ He will outline an answer through focusing on responsible leadership of purpose through an interdisciplinary perspective. Responsible leadership moves the axis of leadership from leader – followers to leader – stakeholders; away from looking at leadership as person-centric – the qualities, abilities, and effectiveness of the leader – to a focus on the purposes, responsibilities, and activities of leadership. For further details and to register please visit our event page.

New Publication – Economic Clusters and Globalization: Diversity and Resilience

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Economic Clusters and Globalization: Diversity and Resilience“, edited by our Dr Berrbizne Urzelai and Francisco Puig, shows that in today’s globalized world, clusters are an important factor in explaining the different growth rates of firms, cities and regions. Drawing on the expertise of an international contributor team, it covers topics such as clusters and small and medium-sized enterprise competitiveness, innovation and science parks, clusters and multinationals, and information and communication technology clusters. It reveals great diversity in terms of the origin of clusters, the organizational relationships at play, and the characteristics of the firms involved. Taking lessons from a rich variety of literature and empirical cases, the book provides valuable insights for regional development and industrial policy.

The 18th International Studying Leadership Conference 16th-17th December 2019

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Bristol Leadership and Change Centre is delighted to be hosting the 18th International Studying Leadership Conference in 2019 at Bristol Business School, UWE Bristol.

Please see our ISLC 2019 flyer and full PDF Call for Contriubutions

Call for Contributions

Theme: Putting Leadership in its Place

In contemporary tumultuous societal landscapes, some commentators claim that answers for problems are located in heroic individuals, whereas others take a more holistic approach and call for an understanding of context, culture and place in leadership practice. Only through understanding the relationship between leadership and the environment, they argue, will we be able to develop more effective and sustainable forms in the future; forms that are responsive, flexible and sensitive to change. We will define the concept of place in due course, but before note that researchers and scholars interested in studying place and leadership share some common similarities.

Most significantly, they challenge the notion that leadership is the sole responsibility of one individual who acts as if in a context-free vacuum. That is, mainstream approaches to leadership tend to valorise the quest for locating a ‘magic recipe’ of leadership attributes that can be farmed out to any individual to allow them to become effective in any situation. Very little attention is paid to other factors outside of the individual that may impact on success, largely because the ideal-type leader is seen to be so omniscient and omnipresent that place is deemed irrelevant. Despite the continued popularity of this simplistic approach (as evidenced in contemporary airport texts and ‘how-to’ guides), scholars from a diverse range of backgrounds take issue with the a-contextual nature, claiming it to be overly prescriptive (Graeff, 1983), to represent a North American bias (House, 1995) and to fail in capturing the nuanced and fundamentally idiosyncratic character of day-to-day leadership practice (Sutherland et al, 2014). They fail to ask questions such as: Why does leadership style vary from place-to-place? Why do certain leaders work well in some contexts and not in others? Why has the magic recipe of leadership not yet been found, in almost 100 years of formal leadership research?

We propose that focussing efforts primarily on individual leaders is problematic and reductionist. Instead, concentrating on the relationship between leadership and place can offer a deeper and more representative account of how leadership activity occurs. In some cases this may involve investigating how place influences leadership (e.g. how leaders have to conform to particular societal codes) and in others it may note how leadership influences place (e.g. the part that leaders play in shaping organisations and subordinates). Whilst we are reluctant to concretely define what we consider the concept of ‘place’ to encompass, there are some broad strokes we can draw at this stage, and would encourage those interested to submit work centered around the following questions: What is place? What aspects of it are important to consider for leadership practice?

What is place? What aspects of it are important to consider for leadership practice?

  • Geographical place. Scholars interested in ‘Worldly Leadership’ have long spoken about the importance of considering national culture and context on leadership practice, noting that for too long leadership studies has assumed a predominantly Western slant. Rather, geographical place bears influence over possibilities and constraints for doing leadership, and gives rise to a variety of different forms.  
  • Societal values & beliefs. Leading on from the former point, within issues of geographical location come the associated values, beliefs and ethical assumptions. Indeed, if we view these as inherently socially constructed, it seems clear that there can be no overarching way of defining what ‘good’ leadership is constituted by. Rather, we must develop approaches that acknowledge the importance of local constructs. 
  • Organisational culture and space. Moving beyond the macro level, consideration must also be paid to the organisational environments in which leadership happens. In what ways do leaders influence culture? In what ways are they influenced by existing cultures? What influence does the layout of space have on the day-to-day experience of doing leadership?
  • Structure, power & politics. The imagined structure of organisations and enmeshed power relations also constitute a part of place. Attention must therefore be paid to existing social relationships, roles and responsibilities, hierarchical assumptions and reporting relationships. Indeed, all of these aspects influence how effective certain styles of leadership may be. Do more autocratic styles of leadership work better in highly centralised organisations, compared with more fluid approaches in flatter groups? Does the structure of an organisation change with different forms of leadership, or vice versa?
  • Historical developments. Leadership styles, types and leader-follower relationships are also determined by history. Human beings cannot separate themselves from the ‘baggage’ of experience, and from this perspective we might note that deeply enmeshed relationships have positive or adverse effects on future leadership possibilities. Here then, we may focus on issues of time, not just considering what we wish future leadership to look like, but how we may learn from present and past practices.

How might we go about researching place and leadership practice?

With this in mind, attention must also be paid to the methodologies employed for investigating leadership. Indeed, if we are to welcome the notion of place, then we must (re-) consider how leadership is studied. To date the most common method continues to the questionnaire and survey (Bryman, 2005), and whilst interviews are increasingly in popularity we argue that further steps can be taken to understand the complexity of the task, including but not limited to: Ethnography; Collaborative inquiry / action research; Historiography; Narrative inquiry; Sensory methods. Headway is being made with this recently, with Sutherland (2016) arguing for deep participant observation as a way of understanding organisational discourses and leadership work, and Shortt (2014) promoting creative and visual methods to capture the day-to-day experiences of organisational actors. Whilst these approaches vary considerably in philosophy, style and outcome, all allow for a deeper appreciation of the interrelationship between myriad concepts of place and leadership. This stands in stark contrast with a more traditional approach of simply examining one piece of the puzzle: an individual leader and their personality.

What are the benefits of including place on the leadership research agenda?

In addition to reflecting on the place of place in leadership research, and the ways in which it may be studied, we also encourage thoughts on the various opportunities and potentialities that a place-based approach to leadership can bring. For example:

  • That it allows us to move away from the wild goose chase of mainstream approaches, and rather than seeking to find a ‘one best way’ of doing leadership that works in any situation, understand the leadership is an inherently context dependent act that requires a deep knowledge of individual situations. 
  • This may in turn lend to a greater appreciation for ‘alternative’ styles of leadership. Indeed, in casting our gaze beyond the conventional singular heroic individual, we may observe that this dominant narrative may become challenged by currently marginalised alternatives. That is, more distributed or hybrid configurations of leadership may receive more attention and gain traction as actionable and practical alternatives to the ideal-type individual leader. 
  • A place-based approach can also promote a general appreciation of continual reflection and organisational learning. In situating place as central on the research agenda, we acknowledge that flux is inevitable and situations are in constant transformation. Therefore, a significant part of leadership effectiveness is being able to keep up and respond positively to change. Through accepting reflection and being open to learning, leadership may become a more socially sustainable act. 
  • Finally, this place-based approach could be central in fostering connections between communities. Rather than seeing organisations as separate from their environment, Hambleton remarks that this perspective can allow leadership to “play a significant role In advancing social justice, promoting care for the environment and bolstering community empowerment” (2015).

Keynote Speakers

  • Professor Sonia Ospina, Professor of Public Management and Policy at the NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, USA
  • Professor Elena Antonacopoulou, Professor of Organizational Behaviour at the University of Liverpool Management School, UK
  • Professor Peter Case, Professor of Organisation Studies, Bristol Business School, UWE, UK and Professor of Management and Organisation Studies, James Cook University, Australia

Other highlights

There will be a conference dinner in central Bristol on the night of 16th December to which all delegates are invited.

Following the conference delegates will be invited to submit their work for a special issue of the international peer-reviewed journal Leadership on the conference theme of ‘Putting leadership in its place’. Additional activities and opportunities will be confirmed nearer the time

Submissions

Whilst we encourage submissions linked to the conference theme we will also welcome abstracts on any theme linked to research on leadership and allied fields.

Submissions to the conference should be in the form of a 750-word (excluding references) abstract and should be forwarded to the conference organisers from 1st June to 1st September 2019 at blc@uwe.ac.uk. The conference committee will consider abstracts as and when they are submitted and a decision communicated to authors soon after submission.

All submissions should include on the cover page:

  • Title
  • Name of author(s)
  • Organisation affiliation/position(s)
  • Address
  • E-mail address
  • Topic Area and Stream

The submissions should be:

  • A word or PDF file
  • Written in English
  • Indicating word count clearly on cover page

Conference fees

Early bird rate (inc. conference dinner) by 30th September 2019 – £295 per person

Standard registration (inc. conference dinner) from 1st October 2019 – £345 per person

Student fee (subject to availability) – £245 per person

Please note: conference fees do not include accommodation which should be arranged separately by conference attendees.

Delegates can book accommodation at the Holiday Inn Filton for the below reduced rates by quoting the reference “UWF”:

  • Sunday 15 December – £79.00
  • Monday 16 December – £99.00

To book this accommodation please contact Holiday Inn Filton on 0117 910 4270 between 8:30am – 5:30pm (Monday – Friday) or email reservations@hibristolfilton.co.uk

Conference Organisers

The conference is co-sponsored by the Bristol Leadership and Change Centre (BLCC).

www.uwe.ac.uk/research/blcc
@UWEleadership

Please refer all initial queries regarding the conference to Dr Gareth Edwards or one of the other conference committee members, see below:

For general queries about the conference please email blc@uwe.ac.uk.

For specific advice on your submission please contact Dr Gareth Edwards at Gareth3.edwards@uwe.ac.uk.

Conference venue

Bristol Business School

UWE Bristol
Frenchay Campus
Coldharbour Lane
Bristol
BS16 1QY
United Kingdom

Please see the UWE website for information on how to get here and a map of Frenchay campus.

References

Bryman, A. (2004) Qualitative research on leadership: a critical but appreciative review, The Leadership Quarterly, 15, 729-769.

Carroll, B., Firth, J. and Wilson, S. (eds) (2018) After Leadership. Abingdon: Routledge.

Denis, J.L., Langley, A. and Sergi, V. (2012) Leadership in the plural, The Academy of Management Annals, 6(1), 211-283.

Fairhurst, G. T. (2009) Considering context in discursive leadership research, Human Relations, 62(11), 1607-1633.

Graeff, C. L. (1983) The Situational Leadership Theory: A critical view, Academy of Management Review, 8, 285-291.

Hambleton, R. (2014) Leading the Inclusive City:  Place-based innovation for a bounded planet. Bristol: The Policy Press.

Hartley, J. (2011) ‘Political leadership’, in A. Bryman, D. Collinson, K. Grint, B. Jackson, & M. Uhl-Bien (Eds.), The Sage Handbook of Leadership. London: Sage, pp. 203-214.

Ospina, S. and Foldy, E. (2009) A critical review of race and ethnicity in the leadership literature: Surfacing context, power and the collective dimensions of leadership, The Leadership Quarterly, 20, 876–896.

Ropo, A. and Salovaara, P. (2018) Spacing leadership as an embodied and performative process, Leadership, Online First: April 16, 2018.

Rost, J. (1991) Leadership for the Twenty-First Century. Westport, CT: Praeger.

Schedlitzki, D., Case, P. and Knights, D. (2017) Ways of leading in non-Anglophone contexts: Representing, expressing and enacting authority beyond the English-speaking world, Leadership, 13(2), 127–132.

Schein, E. H. (1992) Organizational Culture and Leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Shortt, H. and Warren, S. (2019) Grounded visual pattern analysis photographs in organizational field studies. Organizational Research Methods, 22 (2), 539-563.

Sutherland, N. (2018) Investigating leadership ethnographically: Opportunities and potentialities. Leadership, 14 (3), 263-290.

Turnbull, S. Case, P., Edwards, G., Schedlitzki, D. and Simpson, P. (eds) (2011) Worldly Leadership: Alternative wisdoms for a complex world, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Western, S. and Garcia, E.J. (eds.) (2018) Global Leadership Perspectives: Insights and Analysis, London: Sage Publications.

 

Work-based pedagogy in Higher and Degree Apprenticeships Workshop

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By Dr Doris Schedlitzki

On Monday 28 January 2019, we welcomed colleagues from Sheffield Hallam University Business School to a half-day workshop on innovative work-based pedagogy in Higher and Degree Apprenticeships. The workshop was organised by Doris Schedlitzki and both UWE Bristol’s Faculty of Business and Law (FBL) and Sheffield Hallam’s Colleagues enjoyed an afternoon of exchanging examples of best practice in work-based learning and discuss challenges in the delivery of apprenticeships. This workshop was the start of a continuing exchange and we look forward to UWE Bristol’s FBL colleagues visiting Sheffield Hallam Business School in due course.

If you would like to get involved in work-based learning conversations and these type of events, please email Dr Doris Schedlitzki.

Dr Doris Schedlitzki, associate professor of organisational leadership and active member of the Bristol Leadership and Change Centre, talks about how UWE Bristol takes all aspects of the student experience seriously.

For more information on the Degree Apprenticeships we offer here at UWE Bristol please see our Degree apprenticeships website

Facebook Usage and Mental Health- latest publication from Dr Guru Prabhakar

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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.

Dr Guru Prabhakar (UWE Bristol)

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

In Critical Condition? Challenges and possibilities for critical leadership and management studies in current times.

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Guest post by Thomas Allan, Fellow, Centre for Welfare Reform

What if Universities were seen as institutions with responsibilities to the societies they inhabit? What hope for a citizen-led, participatory curriculum to equip us with the knowledge to build a more human, caring and sustainable economy? This Bristol Leadership and Change Centre (BLCC) research symposium was held at the University of the West of England (UWE), Bristol, in October 2018. Its purpose, as described by event organisers, was to bring together leadership and management scholars to reflect on the nature, purpose, and challenges of being ‘critical’ in the contemporary Business School environment.

Critical Challenge

Higher Education, as a social process of facilitating learning and change, has a critical challenge. Many academics are aware, sometimes intuitively, of the limitations of the liberal institution of education, characterised by the detached observations of objective, scientific discourses that form the supposed neutrality of knowledge. Many still adhere to the dispiriting task of preparing debt-laden students for the mercies or exclusions of work, markets, and consumption that follow, often due to a lack of any tangible sense of an alternative.

More recently, learning in an era of globalization is understood as dispersed, taking place outside the bounds of traditional education and within a high velocity exchange of people and places, finance, technologies, cultures, settings, and spaces. Despite talk of helping individuals adapt to complexity, diversity and change, the priorities of the Business School can still seem dominated by the narrow, quantitative models valued by economists and market-fearing policymakers, alongside a distinctly neoliberal narrative of entrepreneurship, leadership and ‘being enterprising’.

Creativity is the buzzword, but in an increasingly disturbed world. At the same time, individuals have become ever more isolated from each other amid spiralling mental ill-health and shrinking space to imagine alternatives. Technological advances are reducing family, peer and social relations to cyber-relations – only exacerbating feelings of loneliness – while automation and marketisation reduce much subsequent employment to precarity or meaningless grind. Political apathy, social inequality and welfare state dismantling seem the accepted costs of ever-expanding markets and ‘continuous improvement’. Higher education can, for all its virtues, end up merely helping individuals adapt to the deep pathologies of neoliberal market society.

At the heart of this, I think, is the spectre of homo economicus. This is the assumed ‘rational’ economic agent inculcated with the knowledge and the skills to play the occupational roles demanded by the over-capitalised and financialised global economy. Yet we apparently still need the local, the situational and the social value found in non-market participation: the human touch, the sense of presence and care increasingly found absent in our turbo-charged market society. Recent research has demonstrated that social connection, empathy, and cooperation are at the foundation of personal, social and community change. Do academics or leaders in academia have the courage to move the discussion beyond the shadow of the selfish gene?

In Critical Condition

The value of critical pedagogy lies in its capacity to equip us with the knowledge to expose and challenge often hidden injustice. It also lies in a sense of hope that grows with connecting and working together to co-create practical and political alternatives to some of the major challenges of our time. This is important because how we frame contemporary social or environmental problems depends on our values and principles, which can in turn open up a broader spectrum of solutions than our modern polity or market governance may view as plausible.

So how did this event contribute to our sense of individual and collective empowerment in this sense? What exactly is the nature, purpose and challenges of being ‘critical’ in the contemporary Business School environment?

There were some bright minds, interesting discussion and excellent presentations. Keynote speaker Professor Martin Parker from the University of Bristol exposed the ‘hidden curriculum’, explaining how contemporary business schools teach a narrow form of capitalism where ‘the market’ is the underlying driver and determinant of the education they provide. He pointed out how literally hundreds of alternative forms of organising social and economic life are excluded in the Business School curriculum, demonstrating this through his ‘organising dictionary’. In this dictionary were many alternatives, including some of the more well-known such as worker-owned cooperatives and the commons.

Professor Martin Parker presenting at the BLCC Research Symposium 22 October 2018

Importantly, Parker invited us to think about patterns, and urged us to start re-building higher education from the bottom-up experiences and strengths of citizens and communities. To facilitate a more accurate conception of the rich tapestry of human organising, he moved us away from ‘management’ and towards the margins of what contemporary capitalism would consider value-able. He proposed an alternative institution: The School for Organising. This institution will develop and teach the multitude of different forms of organising, “enabling individuals to discover alternative responses to the issues of inequality and sustainability faced by all of us today”.

Dr Sarah Robinson of the University of Glasgow delivered some penetrating insights (and warnings) for the aspiring early career academic. Of particular interest for me was the disjuncture between the intrinsic motivation of critically-minded scholars who go into academia (considerations of social justice, democracy, intellectual autonomy and independence) and the post-PhD reality (Key Performance Indicators, stress, insecurity, audit culture, managerialism, publishing restrictions and conditionality).

Dr Sarah Robinson presenting at the BLCC Research Symposium, 22 October 2018

Dr Neil Sutherland from UWE delivered a convincing presentation on the drawbacks of ‘teaching’ under the rubric of the critical banner. A short paragraph alone would not hope to capture the clarity of his thinking on this topic. Yet in essence, he asked, does this impose ‘our’ way of thinking on free-thinking students? Does this create an unhelpful binary of us and them?

Dr Pam Seanor and Dr Doris Schedlitzki, also from UWE, invited participants to weave together the value of their experience with the entrepreneurship, leadership and ‘being enterprising’ agenda. What might critical entrepreneurship look like instead? How can we move the conversation beyond the ‘heroic’ individual entrepreneur and towards a recognition of the social nature of learning and change? Doris and Pam made clear they intend to take an ‘affirmative critical approach’ in their pedagogy to help students question dominant cultural narratives so that they themselves can feel empowered to identify the alternative practices that they seek.

Pam Seanor presenting at the BLCC Research Symposium, 22 October 2018

Professor Sandra Jones from RMIT University, Melbourne, was engaging in her provocation, inviting us to reject the dominant vision for humanity of competition and profit maximisation. Two aspects of her talk chimed most with me. One was her admission that, as well as the more common complaint about skewed resource distribution, many millenials had been left scant opportunity by their baby boomer predecessors to challenge the damaging conceptual myth of homoeconomicus, free markets and market growth. The second was a darkly humorous ‘quote’ from George Orwell in reference to his dystopian novel 1984: “I wrote it as a warning, not a fucking instruction manual”.

Uncertainty

Despite my enthusiasm, the event felt quite overwhelming at times. It was free and inclusive. It was friendly. There were refreshments and breaks. People were free to talk, listen, ask questions, and participate as they wished. There was an invitation to continue conversations and networking at the end of the symposium. Yet I sensed a similar uncertainty in other participants as the event drew to a close, almost like a sense of unfinished business; something that didn’t escape the attention of event organiser Professor Richard Bolden.

As I waited in the cool, darkening autumn evening for my return train at Bristol Parkway station – listening to the occasional clanking of machinery or watching the faceless faces whizz past – I thought it was worth reflecting more on why this might have been.

Perhaps, as one participant pointed out towards the end, it was life and living conditions. To a large extent, people still need to submit to the anonymous power of the market for their livelihoods, their homes and their well being. People are worried about their loved ones and their futures; faced with new and shifting threats to their welfare each day. There is a tangible sense of atomisation and psychological strain. Economic life can feel like an uncertainty that follows you. This doesn’t look likely to improve, either:

“Whether through the enclosures brought on by neoliberalism or the increasingly authoritarian and exclusionary politics of the further right, the expected normality (job security, pensions, unemployment supports, fair working hours and conditions) that citizens experience or aspire to will likely continue to erode.” Bauwens et al. (2017)

In this world of ‘post-truth’ and fast-paced change, we hardly have time to navigate one personal trauma or social transformation before we are bludgeoned onto the next. Where neoliberal restructuring and toxic stress are still the norm, it is hard to know what is reality anymore let alone how we come to know it, or the right methodology for teaching it.

Critical questions: How can we carve out shared spaces for transitioning to something more time-rich, caring and human? How do we find ways to connect with one another in solidarity and on a deeper, more intuitive level? There was, at least, a sense that this symposium offered a valuable and important space to engage with others in precarious times; as well as something that people indicated a desire to continue engaging with.

Critical Moment

To me, critical pedagogy feels honest and authentic. We can be guided by the values of autonomy, responsibility and solidarity, and we are part of a larger interdependent whole rather than the struggling atoms of liberal-individualist and neoliberal market culture.

Yet it is also about having the courage to voice social silences and inject some authenticity beyond the sometimes gilded halls of academia and the career-building activity of contemporary neoliberal subjects. It might ask the following challenging questions:

What moved people to attend this event in the first place?

Did people feel moved to share their experiences, fears and truths?

What bridges of trust and solidarity are being built with people worst-affected by the marketisation and austerity policies of the state?

What examples of academics themselves organising alternatively outside of the University?

In this sense, I reflected, perhaps this is as much about courageous leadership and creating safe spaces and conviviality as it is about creativity or reformulating the curriculum. Creativity is, after all, not something that is the product of extraordinary individual minds but “originates from a culturally-shaped cooperation they also serve” (Gronemeyer 2014).

The ability to think critically and reflexively is indeed a fundamental priority if we are not perpetuating the mistakes and injustices of past and present. There is great social value in such approaches to education. Dialogic, participatory and action-orientated models of education and research, for example, go far further than formal, liberal interpretations of fairness and equality that stop at equal opportunities for individuals.

Yet whether scholars who identify themselves as catalysts for social change can carve out the common ground they seek solely ‘inside’ the university alone I’m not so sure. I sense that the radical spirit that drives this pedagogy will only find what it seeks once we have stopped striving as competing individuals. Conviviality is, after all, “a constant reminder that the community is never closed” (Illich 2005, cited in Gronemeyer, 2014). Perhaps only then will we be at the critical moment.

With this in mind, it was encouraging to note that both Martin Parker and Sandra Jones encouraged critical academics to organise in different ways beyond the academy in order to mobilise social change.

Knowledge as a Commons

Academics might reasonably point out it is not solely up to them to solve all society’s problems. Moreover, giving up stable employment to start a research cooperative in today’s economic climate and political culture might be considered at best a very risky undertaking. Yet if we really want to see ourselves as catalysts for social, democratic or environmental renewal, then we must begin to find ways to step out of the private sphere and begin listening to citizen’s voices and experiences. We need to work together to reclaim and create the public spaces for us to manage matters which concern us all.

One thing critically-minded scholars can do is to begin to raise awareness of the emerging commons movement, and situate research and learning within the context of the Commons Transition (Bauwens et al., 2017).

“In the past thirty years, contemporary scholarship has rediscovered commons, illuminating their cooperative management principles as a counterpoint to conventional economics and particularly its growth imperatives, artificially created scarcities, and fealty to consumption as a preeminent goal.” Bollier & Weston (2014)

But what are commons? According to Innovator Michel Bauwens et al. (2017), commons are:

A social system for the long-term stewardship of resources that preserves shared values and community identity;

A self-organised system by which communities manage resources with minimal or no reliance on the market or state;

A sector of the economy and life that generates value in ways that are taken for granted and often jeopardised by the market and state;

The wealth that we inherit or create together and must pass on, undiminished or enhanced, to our children. Our collective wealth includes the gifts of nature, civic infrastructure, cultural works and traditions, and knowledge Bauwens et al. (2017)

Much research into commons was initially focused on natural resources. Dispelling the myth of the ‘Tragedy of the Commons’ (Hardin 1968), Elinor Ostrom (1990) considered subsistence commons such as meadows, water, forests, or fisheries (the resource alone minus the self-determined norms, practices, and traditions of communities is referred to by Economists as a common-pool resource). More recently, commons scholar Silke Helfrich (cited in Bauwens et al., 2017) points out how every commons, even those that revolve around land and water, are knowledge commons, “because the commoners must learn to apply knowledge in managing them”.

A commons, therefore, is distinct from a common-pool resource, and constitutes a self-management regime and dynamic social process called commoning. It can include digital commons such as free, open-source platforms such as Wikipedia and social, cultural and civic commons such as community support schemes, social care coops, playgrounds, public spaces, knowledge and ideas, public schools, libraries, and parks. In fact, a commons can arise whenever a community decides to pool its resources and defend or take control of its collective wealth, enlivened by this social process of commoning.

Where might academics fit within the Commons Transition Plan, a name coined by the P2P Foundation to “describe a process of facilitating open, participatory input across society, prioritising the needs of people and environments affected by policy decisions over market or bureaucratic needs”? (Bauwens et al. 2017)

1. Tell the story of the commons and its enclosures, the private appropriation of our common wealth.

2. Recognise that knowledge, information, and culture are part of the public sphere, and gain value though open access, sharing, and collaboration. Academics can help by facilitating open-source rather than proprietary knowledge.

3. Practice conviviality, involving, in the words of Marianne Gronemeyer (2014): “…a language that is both objectionable and triggers ideas to enable understanding rather than consensus which is often achieved by manipulation; research that speaks a personal language full of experience; practice that does not compete, but cooperates and shares; technology that helps to make the best out of the power, and the imagination that everyone has.”

4. Learn about the power of Vernacular Law: “Vernacular law originates in the informal, unofficial zones of society and is a source of moral legitimacy and power in its own right…places and spaces where people are struggling to achieve regeneration and social restoration against the forces of economic globalization” Bollier & Weston (2014)

5. Teaching, organizing or resourcing through Commons-based Peer Production: “Through imagining and constructing independent governance that supports the infrastructure of cooperation…can help us to protect the best qualities of the welfare state model, and transcend it with a radically re imagined politics that would facilitate social value creation and community organized practices.” Bauwens et al. (2017)

6. Recognise the need for a Partner State to fund and support this process of social value creation and community organized practices (e.g. the needs of civil society and its living, caring and learning environments) rather than the current state/market tendency to genuflect to corporate or financial interests: “The Partner State is the concept whereby public authorities play a sustaining role in the ‘direct creation of value by civil society’, i.e. sustains and promotes commons-based Peer Production.” Bauwens (2012)

7. Supporting the work of the School of Commoning, a worldwide community of people supporting the developing commons movement.

8. Supporting the work of the Centre for Welfare Reform (CFWR). Working on such projects as Sustainability and Social Justice, Constitutional Reform, Basic Income and other Commonfare practices to navigate the socioeconomic risks of life, CfWR is something akin to an open-access knowledge commons and a community of independent citizens committed to equality and diversity.

9. Join, support or contribute to the Citizen’s Network, a global non-profit cooperative movement, formed to create a world where everyone matters – where everyone can be an equal citizen.

10. Finally, if nothing else, add the missing social context. We should be wary of simple solutions to complex problems, but much social suffering and environmental damage could be avoided or reversed if the political will, citizen understanding, and the right public institutions of support and cultural learning existed to do so. This starts, as some speakers at this symposium correctly alluded to, with the rejection of the myth of homoeconomicus.

In brief conclusion, challenging the sanctity of ‘the state/market’ duopoly as the sole determinant of human nature, worth, and value creation is the priority. However, there’s much critical work to be done.

References

Bauwens, M 2012 Blueprint for P2P Society: The Partner State and Ethical Economy. Shareable Magazine 7th April 2012

Bauwens, M et al. 2017. Commons Transition: a primer. Transnational Institute. https://www.tni.org/en/publication/commons-transition-and-p2p

Bollier, D. & Weston, B. 2014. Green Governance: Ecological Survival, Human Rights and the Law of the Commons. Cambridge University Press.

Gronemeyer, M. 2014. ‘Conviviality’: Patterns of Commoning. The Commons Strategy Group. Amherst, MA.

Ostrom, E. 1990. Governing the Commons: The evolution of institutions for collective action. Cambridge University Press.

Hardin, G. 1968. The Tragedy of the Commons. Science (December 13th 1968).

Thank you to Thomas Allan for sharing this blog post with us. It was previously posted on the Centre for Welfare Reform blog: https://www.centreforwelfarereform.org/library/by-az/academia-is-in-a-critical-condition.html

Privatised profit inside prisons: real work for prisoners or invisible exploitation?

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Dr Jenna Pandeli has recently published a blog post for the American Sociological Association. The blog piece is a condensed article of Dr Pandeli’s paper published in Work Employment and Society this summer.

This summer we have seen what could be considered one of the largest prison strikes in US history, where prisoners are undertaking nineteen days of peaceful protest.

Some of the demands that underpin these protests are the need for improved prison conditions and greater funding in rehabilitation. But at the heart of this protest is a demonstration against imposed prison labour and the disturbingly low wages that accompany such work. This approach to prison work, an approach where profit is becoming more prevalent and private organisations are becoming more and more involved in the prison system, is not isolated to the US.

The research discussed here is based on a study conducted in the UK and is particularly pertinent in helping us to understand the reasoning behind the strikes and the feelings and experiences of those prisoners protesting.
Employment has been singled out as an important factor in reducing reoffending.

Read the full blog post online here.

 

Ethical moments in International Development research with Professor Peter Case

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Professor Peter Case gave a seminar paper last week entitled, ‘Ethical moments in International Development research: Aporia, undecidability and the unintended consequences of ethnocentric ethics’, as part of the Ethics Seminar Series run by the University of Technology Sydney’s Business School. This was the last Business Ethics Research seminar for the year at UTS.

Professor Peter Case works between James Cook University and UWE Bristol.

Reflections on the Aspire People Development Programme with Avon and Somerset Police

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By Holly Poole, Policy and Support Coordinator for Avon and Somerset Police.

When I was asked to write this blog, I was a little hesitant to broadcast myself to the whole of the Force but I hope my blog may inspire others to take a step out of their comfort zone and put yourself forward to help make a positive difference.

I joined the force nearly two years ago fresh out of University after recommendations of opportunities within the organisation and have undertaken Clerical and Personal Assistant roles within Criminal Justice. I am currently undertaking a role within the Citizens in Policing department in Business Improvement working with our Police Support Volunteers, Special Constables and Police Cadets. You may also recognise my name from running the Citizens Academy and I am also a volunteer Specials Assessor. I enjoy engaging with volunteers and communities, being a representative for the force and being part of the wider organisation and learning more about how each element of our organisation works together to reach our mission to be outstanding.

During my short time within the force, I have constantly looked for ways to improve the way I work and to support others. I have always taken on tasks and work above my role responsibilities and offer my assistance wherever I can. I have a need to be constantly challenged and I am always looking for ways to develop and this is why I put myself forward for the Aspire People Development Programme (PDP). The programmes ambition is to develop potential leaders and is tailored to those who exceed expectations, have the desire to develop and seek posts at a higher level. At the end of the programme, an academic accreditation in leadership and management will be awarded.

The programme is in partnership with UWE and its format runs over nine months and features monthly lectures on a range of areas including effective leadership, understanding change and building effective workplace relationships. To gain the academic accreditation at the conclusion of the programme, two academic assignments and a project are required to be completed.

During my first day on the programme, I had a severe case of imposter syndrome. Not only was I the youngest on the programme, but I was also the lowest ranked staff member and had little/no management experience unlike my peers. During the day team activities were carried out, learning styles were analysed, the project options were discussed and work packages that had been identified in need areas of business over the force were presented. The realisation that not only would my project be implemented to make improvements within the force but that at the programmes conclusion I would present my recommendations to COG overwhelmed me. Surely it was a mistake I had been shortlisted for this PDP programme? I felt as though I didn’t deserve my place and there was definitely someone out there with more skill than I to carry out a project at such a strategic level!

Four months on since that first session, supported by my UWE lecturer, line manager, mentor, HR and my project business lead I no longer feel like an imposter. The programme has helped me to identify the leadership qualities I already possess and enhance them alongside learning new skills and tools I will be able to use in both my current and future roles. Following a personal development plan I have been able to identify areas of improvement within myself including problem solving and presentation skills. I am due to carry out a number of presentations over the course of the next few months to various stakeholders which I have volunteered for…I never thought I would be confident enough to volunteer to present, let alone on a project of this scale!

I am passionate about my chosen project and I am progressing well, my aspiration is that my project will improve the way we work in a large area of business and support us on our journey to be outstanding. Taking part in the PDP Programme has been challenging at times and having my role responsibilities alongside managing assignments and projects has truly tested my time management skills.

Both the PDP programme and the project have enabled me to network with a variety of departments, roles and partnership agencies which I would have not had the opportunity to in my current role. No matter what role or rank, the programmes main aim is to develop you personally and provide you with the skills to take into higher or more demanding roles.

The experience and skills the Aspire Personal Development Programme has provided me with has been invaluable, I feel what I have learnt has developed me as a person and will help me to make a positive difference. I look forward to completing the remainder of the programme, whatever challenges may lie ahead.