Innovative projects receive Vice-Chancellors Early Career Researcher Awards

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Every year Research, Business and Innovation (RBI) invite Early Career Researchers working at UWE Bristol to apply for the Vice-Chancellors Early Career Researcher (VC ECR) Development Award. The award is open to members of staff who are in the early stages of their research career, typically within five years of their first academic appointment on a teaching and research contract, or on completing a doctorate. UWE Bristol wants to support early career researchers to undertake research in areas aligned with the University’s research beacons;

  • Digital futures
  • Health & wellbeing
  • Creative industries & technologies
  • Sustainability & climate change resilience

This year, we are delighted to announce that four members of Bristol Leadership and Change Centre have been successful, here is a summary of their projects.

Navigating the storm, exploring the leadership experiences of female entrepreneurs in the South West

Beacon: Health & wellbeing

Dr Alison Miles, Senior Lecturer in Organisation Studies

The current academic debate surrounding female entrepreneurs focuses on barriers and gender differences. This, together with reports of female entrepreneurs being hardest hit by the pandemic, have shaped the current UK policy debate leading to a government pledge of 600,000 new female run businesses by 2030.

While these factors are undoubtedly true, the current debate misses ‘how’ these companies are run. The aim of this project is to explore how the leadership styles and characteristics of female entrepreneurs influences their approach to the challenges faces by their businesses due to the Covid 19 pandemic.

Using focus groups of 6 leaders in 5 areas around the region, followed by a series of semi structured interviews, the research will explore what it is about these leaders that makes them successful in the current climate, what opportunities and barriers were faced and how did the leaders respond?

In answering these questions, the research will build a narrative to highlight leader development in South West SME’s, embed opportunities and shine a light on ways to deal with change.

Organising truth: exploring critical thinking and fact-checking amongst digital natives

Beacon: Digital futures

Richard Longman, Senior Lecturer in Organisation Studies (Leadership & Change)

Richard Longman’s project is set against a modern-day maelstrom of misinformation and disinformation, and is inspired by online organisations who promote digital literacy. The project aims to investigate how people (especially those who have grown up with digital technologies) produce and consume information online and how they make sense of associated truth claims. To further this aim, the project examines the organisational processes by which information is produced and consumed online, and questions the power effects of the technologies that mediate our online experiences. From this, the project critically-evaluates the legitimacy of different truth claims – this will deepen understanding about how people and technologies go about “organising truth”.

Digital literacy is a prerequisite to the good functioning of democratic societies. As engaged, critical research, seeking to be transformative of practice, it has a dual focus. First, to interrogate the framework for information literacy advocated by FaktaBarri (a non-partisan journalistic service in Finland using social media to collect and distribute factual information with crowds). Second, to explore how people navigate informational abundance online, and to evaluate the critical thinking skills and fact-checking resources they use. The interplay between these two foci will lead to theorising about how digital literacy can combat misinformation and disinformation. Located within Bristol Leadership and Change Centre, this project makes a distinctive contribution to existing work exploring leadership and change in a rapidly-changing world by focusing on our digital futures.

Identifying Threshold Concepts of Entrepreneurship beyond business and across cultures

Beacons: Creative industries & Digital futures

Dr. Berrbizne Urzelai, Senior Lecturer of International Business

Threshold concepts are “conceptual gateways” or “portals” that lead to previously inaccessible ways of thinking about something (Meyer and Land, 2005). Mastery of a threshold concept simultaneously changes an individual’s idea of what they know and who they are (Cousin, 2009). 

This project aims to identify threshold concepts to explore how being entrepreneurial and enterprising differs across disciplines, countries and levels of study. There are three main research questions:

  1. What do Creative Industries (CI) understand by “thinking as an entrepreneur”? 
  2. Which of the CI entrepreneurs’ perspectives are concepts that are threshold concepts?
  3. Are there concepts that are distinct to 1) creative industry sector (and sub-sectors), 2) specific country (UK or Spain) or 3) level of study (undergraduate, postgraduate, other)?

The project will:

  • Provide evidence of research applied to education, and help embedding enterprise education (EE) in the curriculum and/or co/extra-curriculum (tailored programmes, modules, etc.). 
  • Inform educators and practitioners about the thinking and needs that these entrepreneurs have in different disciplines and the impact of their understanding on their practice.
  • Evidence the efficacy of EE initiatives when comparing programmes based on threshold concept related findings with programmes that have not taken these findings on board.
  • Identify concepts that complement learning outcomes and other frameworks.  

This research will enable us to validate a set of threshold concepts for Creative Industries and understand the ways of thinking and practicing that are distinctive, which can be used as a pilot for a wider national/ multinational study in the future. This knowledge can then be used to inform curriculum development. 

Developing an understanding of ‘Leadership Resilience’ within creative and cultural spaces and places

Beacon: Creative industries & technologies

Dr. Hugh Waters, Lecturer in Organisation Studies

Dr. Hugh Waters has received a competitive award from the Vice Chancellors Early Career Research Award Programme to deliver an action research project ‘Developing an understanding of ‘Leadership Resilience’ within creative and cultural spaces and places’. This project is designed to explore how emerging creative/cultural organisations see themselves, and develop resilient and authentic leadership practice in the face of current and ongoing challenges. The project intends to deliver impact in real-time enabling those participating to find solutions to identified ‘leadership’ and ‘organisational design’ challenges with the support of peers.

A further aim of the project is to continue the development of an active network with the creative industries, building on the work of a current (£10,500) UKRI Higher Education Innovation Fund award of which opportunities are provided to current and future students. In addition to assisting in the development of a new cross-faculty teaching offer between the Faculty of Business and Law alongside the Faculty of Arts, Creative Industries and Education.

To find out more about this project, or any of the projects showcased above please email. You can also find out more about other current research projects within Bristol Leadership & Change Centre on our research pages

Please also follow BLCC on Twitter @UWELeadership

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