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).

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.

 

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.

10th Developing Leadership Capacity Conference hosted by UWE Bristol

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Last week saw the Business School host the 10th Developing Leadership Capacity Conference (DLCC)with around 70 participants attending to present ideas and share knowledge. The DLCC was originally developed with the aim of having a combination of those interested in researching the area of leadership learning and development and those interested in new ideas for practice, and this year, on the conference’s 10th anniversary, we believe we had a healthy mix of both. We also introduced a case study stream and a workshop stream this year to really engage practice with academic ideas discussed in a third stream.

We also had an  international feel to the conference this year with participants coming from as far afield as Canada, Ghana, Saudi Arabia and Australia. This year we were particularly interested in innovative and creative approaches to learning and developing leadership and we had a stimulating conversation across all groups over the two days on this theme. We also had keynotes from Professor Carole Elliot (Roehampton University) on Women’s Leadership Development, Dr Kevin Flinn (Hertfordshire University) presenting on a complexity approach to leadership learning and Professor Paul Hibbert (St Andrews University) who presented on an aesthetic approach to understanding leadership experiences. The keynotes are pictured below with the conference hosts and founders Dr Doris Schedlitzki and Dr Gareth Edwards and the Director of the Bristol Leadership and Change Centre, Professor Richard Bolden.

 

 

Talking Leadership on Ujima Radi.

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In March 2018 the topic of the month at Ujima Radio was Leadership. Alongside a range of local and national speakers Professor Richard Bolden, Director of Bristol Leadership and Change Centre, discussed the work that he and colleagues are doing in Bristol and beyond. In a wide-ranging conversation Gail Bowen-Huggett, presenter of The Babbers Show, invited his views on topics including African leadership, distributed leadership, leadership of place and inclusive leadership.

Amongst the initiatives discussed were UWE’s role in developing and delivering the Bristol Leadership Challenge and their involvement as academic partner in the Bristol Golden Key and Building Leadership for Inclusion initiatives.

The interview was first broadcast on 19th March 2018 and can be listened to in full by clicking here.

‘Of course, trust is not the whole story; narratives of dancing with a critical friend in social enterprise-public sector collaboration’

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Hot off the press! Our BLCC member Dr Pam Seanor has published the following chapter:

‘Of course, trust is not the whole story; narratives of dancing with a critical friend in social enterprise-public sector collaboration’  in Pascal Day and Chris Steyaert (Eds) Social entrepreneurship: An affirmative Critique, Cheltenham UK and Northampton, MA, USA, Edward Elgar Publishing, pp. 159-181

Pam tells us, “The chapter began from hearing a story told at an academic conference. The story stayed with me and led me to query the adequacy of academic narratives which frame trust in univocally positive terms by conceiving it as an essential lubricant in collaborative relations between social enterprises and government. Based on interviews with social entrepreneurial practitioners and government officials in England, it shares the “everyday” stories where trust, rather the forming a linear and stable “thing”, is a fluid, constantly changing and contested social practice. Shedding light on the co-implication of trust and control, and the ubiquity of distrust, “calculative trust” and practitioner resistance, the chapter works as an injunction to rethink the centrality of trust in everyday life of social enterprises.”

Pam welcomes conversations with practitioners of their everyday aspects of social enterprise and social entrepreneurship: Pam.Seanor@uwe.ac.uk

Behaviour change in the illegal wildlife trade.

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By Dr Fiona Spotswood.

 

Recently I was invited to speak and take part in a policy workshop at Cambridge University on the Illegal Wildlife Trade. The event was coordinated by Cambridge University’s Science and Policy Research Centre, TRAFFIC and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The idea was to explore ideas in the run up to the main conference on the IWT, this autumn in London. This was the first time I had been involved in this topic, and it was a fascinating few days.

My contribution was as the expert in behaviour change. I presented some ideas around different theoretical assumptions underpinning behaviour change interventions and policies. I have presented this same talk in many different contexts, but normally it relates to physical activity or sustainability. The context of pangolins and rosewood was a first for me. However, the same theoretical contexts were highly prevalent. Can we think about the consumption of pangolin scales or rhino horn as a deliberated, conscious consumer decision, or is that decision embedded in established routines? These questions are at the heart of all my research into the way people enact everyday behaviours and answers many of our questions about why people get ‘stuck’ into different habits. Often, the people want to budge those habits, but sometimes they don’t.

The consumer context of the illegal wildlife trade is complex. For some consumption activities, the illegality of the purchase is part of the appeal. For others, there is confusion and mystery about the law. Rosewood is a good example. We know little about the consumer demand for illegal rosewood. It may be that rosewood furniture is part of a set of traditions that have nothing to do with its protected status. Understanding the practices in which rosewood furniture consumption is a significant moment would be a first step in identifying how to shape these practices and kerb consumption to within sustainable limits.

Practice theory offers insights into how behaviours happen and how they can be tackled. Often, the answer does not lie with persuasive approaches, although these can be an important ongoing focus. However, persuasion alone is unlikely to shift ingrained cultural routines and collective conventions. A good example of an intervention for the IWT which could easily have been designed using practice theory (although I should note was not) relates to the tradition use of shark fin in large, formal Chinese banquets. Shark fin has connotations of wealth, status and grandeur, so attempting to persuade banquet consumers, such as the ‘mother of the bride’ to forgo the tradition is unlikely to work. However, working with conference, wedding and party organisers has seen a shift in the way the banquets are planned and ‘framed’ to consumers. Alternatives have been offered and shark fin has gradually been consumed less and less on these occasions. Gradually, the collective conventions surrounding shark fin consumption have shifted so that its consumption is seen as outmoded.

Behaviour change is a complex area, but practice theories show time and again how embedded our ‘decisions’ are into our culturally significant routines, and how little we ‘decide’ about consumption activities which are just part of how our worlds work.

Dr Fiona Spotswood

@fispotswood

www.fionaspotswood.uk

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