A practice perspective: Facilitating a LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® workshop

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Senior Lecturer in Strategy and Enterprise, Pam Seanor recently hosted a workshop for NMI, a payment solution company, in Lego ® Serious Play®. Read her account below:

Written by Pam Seanor

Between practice and theorising

Serious-playing with Jayne Purcell, Service designer, we facilitated a day workshop with NMI – “You’ve probably used NMI’s software when booking a train ticket, paying for parking, ordering a burger or most recently making a contactless charity donation, without realising it! NMI develops the most trusted payment software for mobile, online, and in-store payments that is relied on and used by millions of people worldwide, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year” ( https://bristolcalling.com/company/nmi/ ).

As such, the organisation has explicit creative processes and outputs that come together worked on by differing teams. Further, NMI have recently been engaged in a merger and are now part of global organisation with offices in Chicago, IL, New York, NY and Salt Lake City, UT. The Bristol office wanted to try out LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® with the intention to come together over their working within a changing work culture, how they work and how they are going forward as the organisation grows.

We created a space to exchange ideas and develop awareness of differing perspectives and complex themes that encompass social aspects of group practices and activities aiming to reach out to the members of the organisation (Nicolini & Monteiro 2017). Based this encounter, we address the following applying a practice-based approach to entrepreneurship (Nicolini 2012) in part using Lego bricks to play seriously and in part to reveal collective critical reflection.

LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® (LSP) is a process underpinned by theorizing and there is increased interest of how academics are using it and more widely serious play with a purpose (Statler et al. 2011). For instance, Gauntlett (2015) stated “it is a playful method of differing applications to help gain insights in to personal and collective understanding of a problem as well as imagine possible futures”. The process has common ground rules/ etiquette: posing the question – the purpose of the workshop; constructing models; sharing and listening to others; reflecting (White paper on LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® 2013). Both Jayne and I are trained LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® facilitators. Where Jayne has been a Certified facilitator for a decade, I became an LSP facilitator in January. We have been collaborating to devise skills workshops and structured tasks and prompts for learning ePortfolios in my enterprise & entrepreneurship modules with undergraduates – so I had been practicing playing with Lego with large numbers of students. Even so, it was a little daunting taking a low-tech tool like Lego to a creative/high tech organization, including members of the Chicago office who travelled over.

And, as a critical researcher I want to speak to how challenge is a central part an LSP workshop. Statler et al. (2011) noted the paradox of serious play as a process of working through paradoxes rather than removing all tensions and contradictions that arise in everyday work practices. On the one hand, I am really interested in working with organization to create “other” spaces for play (Hjorth 2004), on the other hand I am hesitant to promote play as an outcome similar to how organizations like Google seem to be using it managerially to keep people at work to be more productive (Ashton & Giddings 2018). However, as a facilitator, my role is not to intervene, nor to promise participants specific organizational outcomes from the workshop.

It was not possible for all members of NMI to take part; the workshop was 5 groups of 10 participants at each table. These groups were arranged by a member of the NMI team as they often work together on projects in the organisation.

The workshop offered an opportunity to engage in play activities that they would not normally do in work and differing types of social encounters (e.g. to the worst holiday model build we had one participant share a poem of this family holiday – An ode to a dead cat).

We had initially intended to move members of teams around during the day; however, we felt some flexibility was needed and discussed this with the organiser and chose to keep within teams to better draw people out. After the morning practising how to play the LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® way, the afternoon was focused on play and “the spirit in which we do what we do, the feel of the team”.

Taking care not to include any people in these images, photographs were taken of models metaphorically representing some of the real-world concerns about working at NMI. The focus is the model. Each post-it note is a few words to describe the key point of their model. Prior to the photos being taken by one of the members of the NMI team, permission was asked to use them in this blog.

Anyone not wishing to be included was asked to speak with one of us as facilitators. And, the draft of this blog was sent for approval prior to circulating. In the spirit of participants telling their own stories, rather than me as a researcher crafting the narrative, the following are examples of differing metaphors to represent their ideas.

Before, I want to highlight that we offered a day for the workshop 9.30AM – 4PM to give participants the opportunity to get used to playing and to play. Even with this time, we could not cover all that we hoped, and we agreed with the organiser that this was a useful starting point from which he could take forward ideas emerging.

WELCOME – A model of feeling welcomed – a few participants newly joined the team – of the team engaged in their open plan office and sitting with their computer screens in front of them and of taking the time to be welcoming.

BRISTOL FOOD & DRINK – This model depicts the area near the office. The location is in the harbourside reflected with the bridge and one of the harbourside cranes created to show the value of being able to go out for coffee/lunch in these areas and of the value of regularly seeing sea birds (and of socialising after work).

COMPASSION – this model holds 2 key metaphors, the rainbow towers and the ladder above as bridging together the organisation. This also reflected other models that were of diversity and balance and valuing members of the team – here represented by many mini figures.

KNOWLEDGE & WISDOM – A concern of change for one was nurturing and maintaining the knowledge and wisdom shared by people who have long worked in the organisation represented by this tower/library build.

At the end of the afternoon, every shared model was placed and presented first one, then the next, and then next, on an empty table and briefly explained by a member of the team creating it. All participants were asked to gather round the table, to listen and once every model had been presented to have a look round. This process was to allow space for all ideas to be heard. These models can be seen in the link, motion image of the shared models created by all of the teams.

Learning -awareness- collective reflecting

Gutzan and Tuckermann (2019) noted “Although scholars have begun theorising the social notion of collective reflection in organisations, empirical studies illustrating these often-neat theoretical conceptualisations are still rare”. Through the use of Lego, as above, a few common themes were raised and heard – one of the members of the Chicago office commented that she had no idea people felt these ways. Feedback after the workshop was generally positive (NMI created a quick and dirty survey to capture participant views).

We did not assume that collective reflecting would only occur on the day. Instead, that it would be ongoing to improve organizing at NMI. Rather than my words, I offer an email from one of the management team who organized the day of listening to the messages from the day and reflecting afterwards –

In short; the event was a great success.  We were really encouraged by the feedback and the response.  Both during the day and afterwards.  Personally, I think it was a 10 out of 10.  I don’t think I could have hoped for much more.

Having discussed it with a few people, they did find it difficult to transition from literal to symbolic.  Maybe it’s related to the type of people that computer science and maths attracts – I’m not sure.  Irrespective, many broke through and it was clear that as the day progressed people were increasingly engaged (…) By the time that we reached the final model everyone has loosened up and were contributing something.  The final model “build” where everyone put something on the table and spoke was really interesting.  There was a great feeling of culture, purpose and it highlighted to myself and Matt what was important to the staff at this time.  Clearly culture and location!  Our office move was always going to be about maintaining our identity and culture, and it was clear that location would be very important, however during that particular session the real importance came to the surface.

We may well buy some Lego for the office.  It’s on the list of things to discuss …

As such, NMI are not only seeking new location and also creating “other spaces” for play. Too, we are discussing the possibility of further serious play sessions for other members of the organisation. One aspect that somehow escaped mention in planning conversations and a meeting before the workshop was of the intended move of the office location. In hindsight we might have built more in to the intention of the day in this seemingly contradictory objective of a move and of the challenge of creating an “other” space.

This blog has been written to grapple with the paradox that Matt Statler and his colleagues speak of in serious play that might bridge between theory and practice and to provide a point of contact for future research of how we might make the challenges in theorising of serious play and collective reflection more useful for practitioners, and what we as academics might learn from practitioners. If you are interested in discussing these ideas of how serious play might contribute to critical approaches to organisation studies and/or creativity throughout the organisation to address challenges as part of the stream of entrepreneurship as practice, please contact Pam Seanor – pam.seanor@uwe.ac.uk

Thanks to Nigel and Emily for the use of his photographs and for inviting us to work with you and members of the team at NMI Bristol.

Dr Jenna Pandeli takes part in BBC world service podcast

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Senior Lecturer in Organisation Studies, Dr Jenna Pandeli was invited to take part in a panel discussion on the BBC world service podcast ‘In The Balance’.

Alongside Nila Bala and Chandra Bozelko, both prison reform advocates from the US, they discuss global prison labour and its exploitative potential as well as offering potential solutions to develop prison labour into something that is rehabilitative and better for society. 

You can listen again to the podcast here

Unlocking Performance through Employee Engagement Conference

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On Tuesday 25 June Bristol Business School hosted the ‘Unlocking Performance through Employee Engagement Conference’ in collaboration with Engage for Success, CITB and ILM. This was the first Engage for Success conference hosted outside of London, and it was fantastic to hold it here at UWE Bristol welcoming over 170 external delegates to the Business School.

The main theme of the event was around harnessing the skills of people and resources to reach new levels of engagement to boost productivity and save costs. There was also a focus on creating and sustaining employee engagement during challenging times, and with limited budgets, as often experienced by SMEs.

The event was chaired by Dr. Gareth Edwards, Associate Professor of Leadership Development at UWE Bristol, whilst Noordin Shehabuddeen, Director of Bristol Business Engagement Centre at UWE Bristol, welcomed the delegates, who came from a variety of professions from within the South West including the construction industry, accounting and finance, and local government.

The conference was treated to some excellent keynote speakers focusing on the necessity for employee engagement now more than ever, to case studies from baby food manufacturer Ella’s Kitchen to Wilmott Dixon, a local construction company, who were recently ranked the 4th Best Company to work for by the Sunday Times.

There then followed a series of interactive workshops led by invited guests who are also ambassadors for Engage for Success, and a rather intriguing energiser event led by the Creator of Joy at Inspire me, who was able to create a credible rock choral version of ‘Aint No Mountain High Enough’ in just 20 mins – definitely an occasion which you had to be part of to actually believe.

The event concluded with a keynote address from Andrew Sandiford, Managing Partner of local accountancy firm Bishop Fleming, followed by a panel discussion to answer questions submitted by the delegates throughout the day. It was evident that employee engagement is everyone’s responsibility, and many of the questions centered on how to do this if given little or no budget, as well as strategies as to how to gain support from the cynics and buy-in from senior management. Support was certainly gained by everyone present, and we were delighted to have hosted such a fantastic event.

Notes on the International Conference on Clusters and Industrial Districts and the VI International Conference of MOTIVA

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Guest blog post from Berrbizne Urzelai Lopez De Aberasturi, Lecturer and Team Coach Team Entrepreneurship

CLUSTERING 2019

I am part of the Organizing and Scientific Committee of Clustering: International Conference on Clusters and Industrial Districts. This year we organized the 4th edition of the conference in the faculty of Economics of the University of Valencia, Spain (23th-24th May).

The event includes a variety of activities around local contexts and globalization, the phenomenon of geographical agglomerations of companies and individuals, and organizational models such as industrial districts and clusters. One of the differentiating elements of this conference is its interdisciplinary nature. It focuses on clusters but from very different perspectives (economy, marketing, history, geography, internationalization, sociology, etc.).

This year the conference included Pre-conference activities, Roundtables, Conferences, Doctoral Workshop and Parallel Sessions, and gathered 100 participants from 20 countries. In this edition, we were especially interested in work that focused on the Human and Relational Resources of the territory. The different papers presented intended to show that, in a globalized and virtually interconnected world, clusters and people are determinants to explain the heterogeneity observed in the growth of companies and regions.

On 24th of May I presented my paper “Managerial perceptions on the value of Country-of-Origin Clusters” in a parallel session around Multinational Companies, and Global Value chains. After my presentation I was a speaker in a roundtable around “remote workforce connected and sharing knowledge”, along with Barbara Covarrubias (University of Applied Sciences, Vienna, Austria) and Alejandro Sanchez Cuenca (Deputy Head of Arcelor-Mittal). The session was chaired by Lourdes Canós-Darós (Polytechnic University of Valencia).

MOTIVA 2019

I was invited as a keynote speaker in the VI International Conference of MOTIVA (28-30th May). This year, it is the 20th anniversary of MOTIVA, and the focus of the conference was on young Enterprises and the role of universities in promoting this. There were 42 papers presented, and 100 participants from 12 countries.

MOTIVA is a Spanish and Latin American network of academics that want to promote entrepreneurship and enterprises that contribute to the social welfare in those countries. It was created in 1999 and now it gathers academics from various countries: Costa Rica, Mexico, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Argentina, Chile and Spain. This network aims to:

  • Promote an entrepreneurial culture
  • Organize international gatherings and conferences
  • Share and transfer entrepreneurial projects and successful cases
  • Develop teaching methodologies and resources around the creation of enterprises and entrepreneurship.

My presentation was on 29th (11.30-13.00) and the title was “Experiential learning: Team Entrepreneurship”, as it was focused on teaching experiences, practices and methodologies. I talked about Team Academy, our TE course in UWE, and the fundaments and pedagogy behind our teaching and learning philosophy. The session was chaired by Marisa Quintanilla (UVocupació, UV, Spain).

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

#myUWEBBSview …a new collaborative research project with ISG, Stride Treglown and Bristol Business School, UWE.

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An exciting new research project is now underway at Bristol Business School and Law School.

We would like all UWE Bristol staff, students, services and visitors to get involved.

Over the next year, we are asking everyone to take photos to show how they are using the building and how they feel about the building.

Participants can then post their pictures on Instagram using #myUWEBBSview and in the comments box, tell us what the picture means to you.

Or, you can email your pictures and comments to myUWEBBSview@uwe.ac.uk

Check out our project website for more details: www.myUWEBBSview.com

The research project is led by Dr Harriet Shortt, Associate Professor in Organisation Studies, in collaboration with ISG, the contractors, and Stride Treglown, the architects of the building.

Stride Treglown have also featured the project on their website.

Watch this space over the next year for more details!

Bristol Rising to the Leadership Challenge

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Delegates discuss the need for a citywide approach to leadership (Front row, right to left – Tracie Jolliff, Mayor Marvin Rees, Cllr Asher Craig, Sarah Minns, John Simpson)

12 May 2017

Today marked the launch of Bristol Leadership Challenge (BLC) – a dynamic new initiative to mobilise the leadership potential of the City to address its most significant and entrenched challenges. Inspiring speeches by Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, Tracie Jolliff, Head of Inclusion and Systems Leadership at the NHS Leadership Academy, and John Simpson, Independent Chair of the Golden Key partnership, highlighted the need to think and work differently in order to address inequality and embrace the creative potential of all who live and work in Bristol. A ‘systems leadership’ approach, where there is genuine commitment to working collaboratively in order to address shared challenges, offers the only realistic way forward in a resource-constrained environment yet requires courage in order to take a stand for what matters.

For the past eight months Professor Richard Bolden and colleagues from Bristol Business School at UWE have been supporting a consortium of Bristol-based organisations, convened by Golden Key and the Mayor’s City Office, in developing the Bristol Leadership Challenge. The programme, starting in October 2017, is designed for current and aspiring leaders from across statutory, voluntary and business sectors in Bristol, who have the motivation and potential to make a lasting contribution to leadership of the City. We are seeking to literally ‘change the face’ of leadership in Bristol, leaving a lasting legacy through the programme’s focus on a specific challenge (mental health in the first year) and developing a network of committed, engaged and competent system leaders.

The programme will be delivered by staff and associates from Bristol Leadership and Change Centre (UWE) in collaboration with the Leadership Centre (London). Sessions will comprise a mix of experiential, conceptual and practical activities facilitated by a highly experienced team.  Participants will hear from experts in the field and develop their capacity for systems leadership by working on a real-life citywide challenge, reporting their findings and recommendations to key stakeholders from across Bristol.

If you, someone you know, or your organisation is interested in participating in or sponsoring this programme, please contact fbl.cpd@uwe.ac.uk to find out more.

The new Bristol Business School building wins award!

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ISG won two awards at the Constructing Excellence South West Built Environment Awards 2016. The awards ceremony was held at The Bristol Marriott Hotel on 20 May and attended by over 400 people. There were 15 award categories on display – showcasing the very best work in construction from across the South West.

 

Image of Construction: UWE – Faculty of Business and Law Building

 

BIM Project of the Year: UWE – Faculty of Business and Law Building

The project will now go forward to the National Constructing Excellence Awards, to be held in London in November.

via ISG win 2 awards for FBL new build — Faculty of Business and Law New Build Project