Bristol Rising to the Leadership Challenge

Posted on

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 to find out more.

Movement and Learning

Posted on

By Dr Arthur Turner

I have been working with the Centre in Bristol for 18 months and have often looked across from the Executive Development Centre (where most of my work has taken place on campus) at the new building rising on periphery of the site. I wondered about the impact of the new building on the efficacy of the executive programmes we collectively deliver.

In addition, I have been trying to make more space in my small study at home and noticed again the plethora of books I had been collecting over the last five years or so which have walking, movement or the outdoors as their main focus.

Recently I overheard a group talking about a previous workshop and they were debating about where to sit in the room in order to avoid a previous stiff neck induced by the previous day spent staring at a screen! Their comment seems more to do with remembering their physical state rather than the content delivered! This prompted me to think more closely the role of movement in aspects of learning; a role which is often ignored in the pursuit of the sight of a screen (or multiple screens!) as proxy for the structure of a course, programme or module.

Previously, and to explore movement in education a little further, Gareth Edwards and I had been talking and walking together in snatches of collaborative effort. We also have been able to ‘follow’ a group in Wales/Cymru who have been learning with a Welsh company (who only deliver their programme outside and through the medium of walking) in order to see if we can understand what are the significant features of learning enabled through the medium of walking and movement. The group of 12 employees in a public service organisation have been attending two to three-hour mobile workshops on personal effectiveness; one per week for 3 months. Reflective diaries have been being filled out by the participants, along with video and audio recordings of the group, in response to the workshop material/experience and these diaries will be ready for review in May.

Another recent example springs to mind. As part of my work outside of the University of the West of England I was invited to work in the Republic of Ireland just before Easter and commissioned to present a Masters’ level module about leadership, change, innovation and transformation through business excellence models! The delegates were mainly senior managers and top company leaders from public service from both countries on the island plus a further disparate group of other leaders from finance companies, journalists and industrial managers. 18 delegates were present and this was their third session of a 1-month course which had included a 5-day study tour to Boston whose University were co-sponsors of the Masters’ qualification.

What was shocking was the initially almost completely passive nature of the delegates despite their seniority and the ways in which their learning and understanding of the topics had not taken account of significant aspects of space, place and pace. Finding ways of improving their engagement was a challenging, but interesting, process based on me providing a number of challenges to their thought-processes and their activity within the group as they learnt.

Two aspects of this warrant further description and thought.

Firstly, the delegates were separated from the facilitator (lecturer) by a row of tables effectively pinning the delegates in a narrow tube of space bordered by bricks and windows, making movement between individuals really difficult due to the proximity of the wall! Participants at one of the long row could not see colleagues at the other end. The empty space in front of the desks was pretty large (it contained 20 people fairly easily) and then on the opposite wall, by two enormous screens, was the facilitators’ (and for some of the sessions the presenters’) seat.

By re-naming the large space within the surround of the tables and chairs the ‘learning place’ I was able to convince the delegates to move between this more active space whilst maintaining a safer ‘home’/reflective space between the tables and chairs.

The change for the group from passive to active took a couple of hours with candidates initially complaining about having to move or manipulate chairs in awkward spaces. This change in approach illustrated, on some levels, the very topic we were studying – change and transformation – and the emotional attachment we humans have to the status quo.

Using the learning space as described above I created a session so that the group could investigate their understanding of business excellence. I was also able to utilise the artefacts from the pre-planning, namely the paper copies of the slides that each delegate had in their pack, so that we remained true to the curriculum of the module.

I chose four of the most popular models in the pack of printed slides; Total Quality Management, European Excellent Model, Investors in People and the Balanced score card.

Four groups of four were randomly chosen (to help to exclude friends’ groupings) and four chairs were placed together, facing in on each other, at the four corners of the learning space. Two observers from the group were chosen to provide feedback on the process and the learning.

Very closely timed, the session allowed each group ten minutes to debate their business excellence models based on two things: their own experiences and the collection of slides that covered their topic. After ten minutes the group had further 5 minutes to consolidate their thoughts and to appoint an emissary to visit the other groups in turn. The emissary moved clockwise to the next group after ten minutes – five minutes of which was to discuss their ‘own’ model and the other five minutes to listen to the views of the group they were visiting. This movement continued until the emissary was back to their original group whence they had to teach their group what they had learnt on their travels. This invented technique, which the group jokingly called ‘Arthur’s quadrangle’, was characterised by a lot of movement, intense concentration and a lot of voices engaged in noisy, focussed debate, challenge and opinion. A real contrast to the silent acceptance of a previously delivered section of the programme.

A second way in which movement was incorporated in the group’s learning was through an adapted psycho-geographical approach by asking the delegates to wander purposelessly around the centre of Dublin (as opposed to walking directly from A to B for a distinct reason). Taking change as the topic they were asked to notice something about changes in the City that might be revealed around corners, in hidden ‘city-scapes’ or juxtapositions of unusual and frequently unseen objects or buildings! This induced a good deal of reflective work on the topic of change and the group presented back to the plenary session in any way they felt was helpful. This included a hand-drawn picture, an acted session in front of the group using a shawl, a fine description of watching traffic lights change for half-an-hour and many people took photos on their ‘phones and as they presented back to the group used a Whatsapp group so that all the group could see the image being discussed.

All this has made me ponder on the ways in which we in the faculty use space, place and pace to engage our learners in a more dynamic form of learning. I have been wondering how much more effective it might be follow the ideas of teachers such as Parker J. Palmer to be able to intuitively and flexibly command the interest and participation of group members by adding regular movement and, what Stephen Zaccaro calls, experiential variety more into our teaching and interaction. With large groups of undergraduates this may be impossible but with smaller executive groups or tutorial groups this adaptive approach may be perfectly and continuously possible.

Dr Arthur Turner




Cake in the Office – health hazard or edible symbols of collegiality and teamwork?

Posted on

By Dr Harriet Shortt

A longer than average blog post, but it’s about cake, so it’s important…!

I am sure many of us are familiar with cake in the office – cakes to celebrate a colleague’s birthday, cake sales for fundraisers in the office canteen, exotic sweet treats brought back by co-workers returning from holiday, and office bake-offs between competitive teams.

The BBC reported last year that this ‘office cake culture was a danger to health’ and the Royal College of Surgeons argue ‘workplace cake culture’ is impacting the health of workers in the UK, citing obesity and dental problems as key issues caused by such activities. The latest report from the Royal Society for Public Health (published in August 2016) discusses the impact of rush hour commuting on our health and well-being and notes that unhealthy food and drinks that are made available by outlets in train stations during our commute is potentially adding ‘an average of 767 calories’ to our diets each week. And only in January of this year, The Telegraph reported that civil servants had been warned that ‘office cake culture could be a public health hazard’ by a blog post written by a member of the Treasury’s ‘Wellbeing Workstream’.

Whilst I am not disputing the issues raised in these reports – they highlight important timely and relevant concerns around the health of the UK workforce – I would like to raise some further questions and thoughts about what other role cake plays in our offices today. Office cake culture isn’t just about health concerns – my argument here is that food plays a vital social, cultural and political role in office life and organisations should be considerate of the relationships and interactions that are centred around food.

I have been doing some research in a large public sector organisation about the food and drink consumed in their office – or more specifically, their new open-plan office. I am exploring the interconnectedness of food, work, people and space and considering how the ‘foodscape’ (where and how people encounter food in the built environment) of the workplace influences food consumption and social interactions at work. I have been asking: In what ways does space influence where we eat, what we eat and with whom? What is the role of food in our organisational environment and how does it impact everyday spatial practices? How might formal and informal eating practices alter our everyday experiences of space at work?

To help address some of these questions, I asked the staff I worked with to take photographs of their daily interactions with food in the office. They took photographs of food in the canteen, home-made cakes on desks, tins of biscuits on locker tops, and where they made tea and coffee. They talked to me about what meanings these held and why they were important in their everyday lives.

Some of the findings show how formal, designated spaces for eating and drinking, such as the canteen and tea stations, are popular with many workers. Eating lunch in the canteen with groups of friends is a daily ritual and provides opportunities to talk about personal lives, gossip, and a time and space to share hobbies and interests. The tea stations, designed by management and the architects to provide a space in which workers could meet whilst making a hot drink, are identified as ‘nice chatting areas’. However, although the tea stations provide a space to share a few words with colleagues and allow for chance meetings with others, due to their central public location in the open-plan office conversations here are brief and inhibited by the visible and audible nature of the space. Participants noted these drinking spaces were neither suitable for private or work related discussions.

During our discussions, workers reflected on their new open-plan, hot-desking environment and told me they felt this workplace design impacted negatively on teams and working practices: ‘…we just don’t get the banter around the office…not social banter, but I mean sort of asking for advice on what we’re doing…now we’re hot-desking it can be isolating…and there are too many people around’. In amongst these feelings of isolation, what these workers really appeared to value was the informal, ad-hoc sharing of food at desks and on locker tops in walkways and corridors. It is the ability to share food across this new office space that workers identify as key to bringing people back together and reconnecting conversations. Sharing food in this way is an important catalyst in promoting work based discussions and internal networking; ‘…people come and see us when we have food! It gets people talking…’ and ‘…cake, it’s really important…it breaks up the day, gives us a treat…it impacts on morale in a big way’.

It is worth reflecting here that, as a number of researchers have noted, open-plan offices are often designed with collaboration and teamwork in mind, yet here we see the word ‘isolating’ being used to describe how this new open-plan space is experienced by its users. It is somewhat ironic that workers feel isolated with ‘…too many people around’. Nonetheless, it seems it’s the combination of both open-plan space with food that produces a collaborative working environment for these workers. Indeed, one employee describes the placement of food on locker tops as how people ‘…display their wares and encourage people to talk more’ and how this ‘…encourages passers-by to stop, talk a bit of shop, eat and move on’.

Paradoxically, despite all the talk of talk, social interactions and connecting over cake, workers also identify the inability to eat alone as problematic. The very sociality of eating poses privacy issues for some and the open-plan, hot-desking environment presents particular challenges. Some identify the canteen as a space where the ‘pressure to talk’ is unwelcome. The canteen has been designed and is used by many as a social space where bench seating and long tables promote conversation and create a setting where meals are eaten together. Yet, for example, one worker told me ‘…I just want go and sit and eat my lunch and get back to work’ and is frustrated there is no opportunity, or rather no space, in which he might dine alone. The spatial and social expectations in the canteen are such that talking over lunch is a prerequisite. Indeed, a number of workers deliberately choose to eat lunch at alternative times of the day in order to avoid eating with others.

Consequently, alternative spaces for private dining are frequently sought out. Almost half the workers I spoke to took photographs outside the office, at various locations in the nearby city centre that captured where they liked to eat, including cafes, parks, and benches by the river: ‘…I can…sit on the green and have a bit of peace and quiet and eat my sandwich’. Others talked about finding alternative meeting and eating spots in cafes so they could ‘…talk about sensitive materials…’ over lunch or ‘…have a bit of a gossip…’ As we heard, the tea stations offer a nice chatting area, but as one worker said ‘…you’ve got to be careful because obviously now we are open plan, everyone near that area can hear what you’re saying!’ It seems only certain sorts of conversations can be had over food in the office and if privacy is required, alternative eating spots are pursued.

So far, my research has unearthed a complex picture of the foodscape of work – it throws new light on the appropriation of space in the office, re-defined by workers as informal eating locations and spaces for informal munching and chatting, vital for their morale, team communications and internal networking. It has also emphasised that the boundaries of a workplace foodscape are fluid and that we don’t just eat in the office and we don’t always want to eat with others. Sometimes solace is sought and eating a sandwich alone offers workers rare moments of contemplation and reflection in an otherwise impermanent, visible, and public working world.

In this current climate of health and well-being programmes and the drive for a healthy workforce, organisations might wish to take heed of the complex meanings of food across the landscape of work before implementing such programmes or raising alarm bells that cake in the office is a public health hazard. Indeed, other discourses around health and eating at work promote messages that food should only be consumed in designated eating spaces, and not at ones desk. This comes from other health and safety perspectives where workers are encouraged to take ‘proper breaks’ and avoid working through lunch breaks as well as organisations who demand a clean and tidy office, with clear rules ‘not to eat at your desk’.

However, if organisations are serious about understanding the eating habits of their employees, they should understand that food matters at work, but not just in the canteen and not just in relation to health. If organisations wish to remove food from parts of the office, they should be mindful that they are potentially removing the very catalyst that promotes sociality at work and confiscating edible symbols of collegiately.

In addition, organisations must be wary of their disciplinary approach to eating in the office and how, perhaps, this undermines the needs of some workers and marginalises others’ food choices and behaviour. We might reflect on the lack of space in which workers are able to eat privately and consider that eating at ones desk is perhaps less about working through a lunch hour, and actually more about simply creating a personal space in which to eat alone and enjoy a moment of peace and quiet.

I hope that some of the questions I raise here, and in my research, may provide a starting point for other, future research into food, eating and the workplace – we might want to consider; what do the foodscapes of homeworkers look like and how are they experienced? How are foodscapes experienced and constructed by workers on the move or flexible workers without desks or offices? To what extent should we be concerned with ‘office cake culture’ given its social, cultural and political importance for workers? It is with these questions in mind that I end this blog and ponder over the future of food in the workplace, over a sandwich and coffee at my desk.


Harriet’s research will be published in a book later this year: Kingma, S., Dale K. & Wasserman, V. (Eds.). Organizational space and beyond: The significance of Henri Lefebvre for organizational studies – an edited collection. London: Routledge. Harriet will be discussing her research at the 12th Organization Studies Summer Workshop ‘Food Organizing Matters: paradoxes, problems and potentialities’ in Crete 18th -20th May 2017. Harriet is also supervising UWE Bristol Business School dissertation student Susannah Robinson, who is exploring the culture of food at work in a multinational organisation in London.

This blog has also been published by the national development organisation Work Wise UK:





Serving yourself: value self-creation in health care service

Posted on

By Dr Fiona Spotswood

Yesterday, March 1st, the Bristol Leadership and Change Centre at UWE held the first seminar of 2017. Our external speaker was Singaporean Nadia Zainuddin, who is a lecturer and researcher at the University of Wollongong in New South Wales and is a member of the university’s Centre for Research in Socially Responsible Marketing. With a PhD in social marketing and a background as one of the leading thinkers in responsible and social change marketing in the region, her research interests lie predominantly in the area of health services, with a specialised focus on customer value creation.

The presentation Nadia shared was based on a paper she published in Services Marketing last year; “Serving yourself: value self-creation in health care service”. Her quantitative study rigorously explored the nature of self-service health screening, with a focus on bowel-screening; a home-kit type of screening with a high emphasis on customer input. Her findings, based on structural equation modelling, demonstrate that consumers can self-create value, leading to desired outcomes of satisfaction with the consumption experience and behavioural intentions to engage with the self-service again in the future.

Nadia explained the significance of her work for social marketing; that a key role of the discipline is to create conditions in which desirable behaviours are voluntarily undertaken. This prompted an interested debate in the seminar about the different roles of social marketing in the behaviour change context; as a mechanism for persuading and motivating, and as a mechanism for creating and shaping practices. These approaches are both important parts of the behaviour change and social change picture.

Further discussion from an enthusiastic audience centred on the applicability of the self-value model to complex practices like ‘commuting’, where the layers of value that could relate to audience participation are also entangled with infrastructures, institutions, skills and spatial and temporal sequencing as well as attitudes and beliefs. This leads me to wonder about the theoretical implications of the positioning of value – as something within a particular practice, or something held by the actors themselves.

The Bristol Leadership and Change Centre thanks Nadia for her presentation and wishes her best of luck in the next few months as she conducts further research in this are while on sabbatical in Glasgow. If you are interested in taking part in the BLCC seminar series – as a speaker or delegate – please get in touch at


US – Mexico borderland communities are resilient – says Dr Hugo Gaggiotti

Posted on

Dr Hugo Gaggiotti, an academic from UWE Bristol and member of the Bristol Leadership and Change Centre who has extensively studied communities on the borderlands between the US and Mexico, says these communities’ strong cross-border cultural identity and economic ties make them undaunted by the possibility of a physical wall.

Dr Gaggiotti has worked extensively with border communities such as Ciudad Juárez in Mexico, which has experienced rapid growth in youth employment in assembly plants known as maquilas, which have been set up, mostly by US carmakers, aerospace and pharmaceutical companies. Maquilas are ways for multinational, mostly American, companies to carry out labour-intensive work in Mexico, such as car dashboard wiring assembly, without having to pay import or export taxes.

Dr Gaggiotti’s research is part of a British Academy of Social Sciences-Newton Fund funded project aimed at providing support for youngsters and families in Mexican-USA borderlands.

Working with Mexican researchers, he met and interviewed 100 people living on the crossover points of El Paso-Ciudad Juárez to identify the socioeconomic needs of the working populations in this borderland region of rapid population growth.  In the maquilas, the workers are predominantly young women.  Over the last ten years, unprecedented levels of violence in particular to women and youngsters have been recorded.

Dr Gaggiotti says, “I interviewed many young (especially Mexican and Mexican-American) families as part of this research and far from being scared of a solid divide, people living on both sides of the border show no anxiety, as many believe a solid structure would indeed unite the border populations in a common claim.  People living and working in this vicinity feel that their identities are enshrined in a cross-border culture.  Many Americans living in these regions are second or third generation Mexican and many Mexican Americans feel this is part of the same country.

“The border region is defined as the land that stretches 100 kilometres either side of the frontier. People on both sides rely on each other for work and many US states on this line, like California, consider this area as a single economic region, with commuting for work taking place in both directions and several businesses in the two countries relying on this movement.

“I think a wall would simply encourage business owners on both sides to accommodate their companies to facilitate movement and would fuel their workers’ determination to continue to move across the border, for work, educational or family reasons.

“In the US, the country’s 50 States also wield power, especially where their borders are concerned. For instance the city of El Paso in Texas, which borders with Ciudad Juárez, is organised to favour transit of people and cargo from one country to the other. The University of Texas at El Paso indeed relies heavily on Mexican students, who as long as they reside within the border limits, pay the same tuition fees as Americans.  To facilitate their border crossing, it issues them with bespoke university ID cards.  If you build a wall, you immediately need a door for people to pass through.”

Dr Gaggiotti is also helping local academics to develop the robust research methods needed to observe the issues posed by these organisational structures and the social impacts on these rapidly growing bi borderland cities.

Dr Hugo Gaggiotti is an expert in Organisation Studies, Intercultural Management and Leadership in Pluri-ethnic Environments.  He is a member of the Bristol Leadership and Change Centre in the Faculty of Business and Law at UWE Bristol.

The project title for this piece of work: Organising in the borderlands: applying research to support families, children and youngsters in Mexican-USA borderlands (Ciudad Juárez, Mexico)

Press Office details: For further information, images or interviews, please contact the UWE Bristol Press Office on 0117 3282208 or

Paradoxes of Leading and Following: lessons from Trump and Brexit

Posted on

By Professor Richard Bolden.

For anyone who believes that leadership and management are rational processes, where the most skilled and experienced leaders will succeed and the best strategies and plans are implemented, the events of 2016 will come as a surprise.

In the last few months the UK Referendum on membership of the European Union and the US Presidential Election have proven the vast majority of experts and pundits wrong. These have been described as ‘black swan’ events that push us to fundamentally reassess the basis on which we make judgements of what is and isn’t possible.

How is it that a ragtag group of politicians, promoting evidence that members of their own campaign team described as patently wrong[1], could mobilise the British public to vote to leave their most significant economic and cultural partnership? How is it that arguably the least qualified candidate in US electoral history, whose words and actions alienated large parts of both the electorate and his own party, defeated one of the most qualified and experienced?

To begin to understand such situations requires us to take a long hard look at the nature, function and purpose of leadership in contemporary society. It requires us to reappraise the common assumption that ‘leadership’ is all about ‘leaders’. Whilst analysis of the characteristics, qualities and actions of Trump, Clinton, Johnson, Gove, Farage, etc. will generate certain insights (probably reading like a Shakespearean drama) they offer little real understanding of the wider contextual factors that contribute towards and create such possibilities.

In his epic novel War and Peace, Tolstoy famously argued: “to study the laws of history we must completely change the subject of our observation, we must leave aside kings, ministers, and generals, and study the common, infinitesimally small elements by which the masses are moved”. Analysis of voter statistics for both the UK Referendum and the US Election demonstrate significant variations by demography – with outcomes in each case strongly influenced by the voting patterns of older voters and those living in more deprived areas[2].

To understand leadership we must also understand followership – not only the popular view of people who willingly ‘follow the leader’ but also reluctant followers and those who do not even consider themselves ‘followers’ at all. It is likely that many who voted for Trump and Brexit did not believe what they were being told from either side of the campaign but, with limited options and a genuine desire for change, did what they could to get their voices heard and to kick back against the establishment.

2016, more than ever, reminds us of the need to revisit our assumptions and to reconsider the extent to which current theories, practices and approaches enable individuals, groups, organisations and communities to develop and enact responsible and sustainable leadership. The inherently paradoxical nature of leadership, and the challenges and opportunities this poses, is the theme of our book Leadership Paradoxes: Rethinking leadership for an uncertain world, which was shortlisted for the Leadership and Management textbook category of the CMI Management Book of the Year award. To find our more please visit the companion website

Richard Bolden, Professor of Leadership and Management, UWE, Bristol

Twitter: @bolden_richard; @lshipparadoxes

[1] The Leave campaign famously travelled the country in a bus sporting the slogan ‘We send the EU £350 million a week, let’s fund our NHS instead’ – both ‘facts’ that were widely understood to be incorrect and misleading, and which were dismissed out of hand in Nigel Farage’s first press interview following the referendum result.

[2] See, for example, the following analyses from the BBC: and

Tools for Change

Posted on

By Dr Fiona Spotswood

I’m never happier than wallowing in practice theory. I love grappling with the intricacies of the original thinkers in my field – Bourdieu, Schatzki, Giddens – and wading through their dense language, pondering the implications for my data of their carefully articulated thoughts. At present I’m working with data from depth interviews with Strava app users; amateur athletes who track and monitor their running and cycling data. I’m embedded in Foucauldian analyses of surveillance society, M-health studies and the affective detail of practice theoretical accounts.

But I’m also really interested in the implications of theoretically-driven academic research on behaviour change practice. I would not be satisfied if my leather arm-chair ponderings (see pic above!) about – and using – practice theory did not form part of a growing evidence base that has the power or potential to support a shift in the thinking of policymakers and practitioners of behaviour change. However, there is a significant problem with the impact that journal articles have on practice. Generally they don’t. Rather, translational work is required. This can be in the form of conference presentations, blogs and magazine publications, but a further very effective translational method is the ‘toolkit’.

Recently, I have been working with research and analysis consultant Andrew Darnton. He has been advising government departments and public bodies on behaviour change theory and practice for two decades. He is best described as a ‘knowledge broker’, attempting to translate complex academic theory and empirical studies into usable formats for policy and practice. He is the author of two particular ‘tools’ which I am using more and more. The first is ‘ISM’ (individual – social -material), which is a neat mechanism for practitioners and policy makers – who require no theoretical knowledge – to conceptualise and plan behaviour change interventions in a theoretically-underpinned way. The model forces the thinking-through of a behaviour change problem to take a practice-driven approach. It de-centres the individual, considers the materiality, temporality and sequencing, as well as socio-context that frames the performance of practice. It is fun to do, easily achievable and has produced a suite of demonstrable results across many areas, like the reduction of outdoor defecation in Brazil, reduced meat consumption or reduced teen drinking in Scotland.


The second model I’ve been working with, again one of Andrew’s, is ReValuation. As a practice theorist, I am so often asked how the theory has been or can be applied, and how to evaluate the impact of a practice-theoretical intervention. In truth, the evidence of practice-driven intervention design is thin on the ground, although a team at UWE and a team at Tatu University in Estonia are developing school culture-change programs to consider the implications of a practice-theoretical approach. One of the central problems of any practice-based approach to social change is evaluation. A linear model of behaviour change is inherently appealing to policy and practice because linearity can more easily be measured. An example is the BMI change in users of a self-monitoring health app. Rather, making subtle shifts across a complex system, like a primary school, might have deep-rooted effects that aren’t visible, or only manifest in the future, or have wholly unintended consequences.

ReValuation does not require its users to understand systems theory, practice theory, complexity theory or have any grasp on evaluation methodology or mechanisms for reporting and measurement. It simply allows for a range of indicators to be collaboratively identified which capture the full value of any intervention, and that can include ‘soft’ outcomes which are captured through story telling and anecdote. It also allows for hard stats to be ‘calculated’, and the potential future value of work to be captured. It speaks to the needs of multiple audiences.


I have been teaching these tools on the Behaviour Change module of UWE’s MSc Sustainable Development, and using them in some recent engagement work. It has been fun, and challenging, stepping away from the theory and allowing the tools to do the work. The enthusiasm with which public audiences have received these models has further emphasised the need for academic researchers to move beyond the peer reviewed journal article. With the Impact agenda this is already embedded in our academic worklife, but it has been nonetheless valuable for me to be reminded of the usefulness of translational tools, which make theory work for the right people in a pragmatic way.

Lego Serious Play – on its way!

Posted on

Morning all!

As some of you know, we have been successfully using my small box of Lego and childhood Duplo for some time as a resource on a variety of Bristol Business School modules and programmes… Interventions for Creativity and Change, Coaching in Organisations, Team Entrepreneurship, Organisational Leadership. I know many of us have found this is a useful and effective resource with which to encourage students to think about leadership identities, organisational change and development, team building and so on.

In particular, I have often used this Lego in connection with David Gauntlett’s work on creative methodologies and found it to be a great way to explore organisational change with many of my postgraduate Leadership and Management students. Check out these links for more info:

However, I’ve always felt we really needed the full Lego Serious Play kit…and recent student feedback has suggested we need a wider range of bricks! Not only so we have a bigger and better resource that we can all share, but so the pieces and bricks in the kit are more aligned with our requirements for ‘organisation studies’ teaching and student reflection; we need trees, figures, ladders and animals in order to engage with the ‘metaphorical’ foundations on which this ‘strategic play’ is based.

So, great news! I have just heard that our purchase of 1 ‘Identity and Landscape’ kit has been approved and is on its way! This is the kit: and it should be with us by the end of September. So, if you fancy using it, trialling it, or you just want to find out more about how this resource could be integrated into your teaching, just let me know!

For more information on Lego Serious Play and how it works and why, follow this link

There are also a variety of research papers/ books listed on the site that you might find useful, including:

  • Oliver, D. and Roos, J. “Constructing Organizational Identity”. Imagination Lab Working Paper 2003- 10, Lausanne, Switzerland, 2003
  • Oliver, David and Roos. Striking a Balance: Complexity and Knowledge Landscapes. McGraw-Hill, 2000
  • Roos, J., Victor, B., and Statler, M. “Playing Seriously With Strategy”. Imagination Lab Working Paper 2003-2a, Lausanne, Switzerland, 2003
  • Said, R., Roos, J., and Statler, M. “Lego Speaks” Imagination Lab Working Paper 2002-7, Lausanne, Switzerland, 2002
  • Gauntlett, David. Creative Explorations, New approaches to identities and audiences, Routledge, 2

A crafty start to the week!

Posted on

Br Dr Harriet Shortt

This is for anyone interested in crafting, the NHS, midwifery, dignity in care-giving professions, and creative/ arts-based methods…and if you can knit or crochet, please read on, your help is needed!

My friend Jenny Hall, who used to work here at UWE and is now at Bournemouth, has a lovely website and writes a fantastic blog on her academic crafting/ quilting work and midwifery. I thought some of you might be interested in her recent blog on the experience of women during the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin and the commemorative quilt that has been made to remember these women and ‘celebrate their life-long involvement with struggles for equality, nationalism and social justice’:

Another amazing project Jenny is involved in is ‘The Knitted Midwife’. There are now a shortage of 3500 midwives in this country! So, to raise awareness about the shortage of staff in this remarkable profession, people are getting together to knit (or crochet, or felt) 3500 mini midwives for The Royal College of Midwives conference that is taking place in October. Please see details here:

If you could share details of ‘The Knitted Midwife’ among your connections it would be wonderful, as most of us have had contact with a midwife at some point! The blog link is above and they have a Facebook group: and you can follow the project on Twitter @knittedmidwife #knitamidwife

The project organisers are also kindly asking that any knitted contributions come with a short message from their maker as to why they have got involved; the stories are being gathered for future research work.

Thanks everyone!

Women, dress, leadership and the 1980s

Posted on

Br Dr Harriet Shortt

Hello everyone!

Well, it’s September already and the start of a fresh new term for many of us. I hope you have had a great summer of holidays, rest, writing, teaching, planning, thinking, conference inspiration and everything else in-between!

I thought I’d kick start the new academic year with some good news…and a tiny bit of self-promotion! There’s a great new book out: “Gender, Media, and Organization: Challenging Mis(s)Representations of Women Leaders and Managers”. It is currently available to order at, and will be available to order on all major online retailer sites throughout the world within the next 60 days. Please see documents attached (below) for more details…and feel free to share these with your networks.

I’m really proud to say that I have a chapter included in the book: Dress and the Female Professional: A Case Study of Working Woman with my lovely colleagues Ann Rippin, University of Bristol and Samantha Warren, Cardiff University. I’m also pleased to say that the chapter is based on the analysis of the 1980s Working Woman magazine; a set of magazines that my Mum, Lesley Shortt, had kept in her study since the invention of shoulder pads and passed on to me several years ago “just in case they were useful…”. So, thank you Mum, they were…and this is what we did with them…

Abstract: Women and their clothes have always been a serious matter (Hollander, 1993). Using a visual social semiotic approach (van Leeuwen, 2005), in this chapter we undertake a “rich viewing” of 1980s cultural texts to explore the performative heritage of gender through the adoption of clothes, make-up, and accessories. This is a timely investigation because today’s 40-something women leaders and managers were socialized into their understandings of being “professional” women as a result of the proliferation of print, TV, and film images in the 1980s (see for example, Baby Boom, 1987; Working Girl, 1988). Through these images, women were instructed in the arts of tackling men’s dominance in the workplace through the adoption of shoulder pads, “big hair,” and sharp suits. They are now playing out these roles as managers in an increasingly surveillance-oriented world due to the growth of the internet, social media, and readily available digital image technologies. These media enable a (damaging) hyper-visible and obsessive focus on women professionals’ appearance; for example, politicians in the press are assessed on their fashion sense before their ministerial skills and abilities (Greenslade, 2014). At the same time, self-help texts for female professionals continue to be full of advice stressing how women should look the part if they want to succeed (Kenny and Bell, 2011).

So, anyone interested in clothes, women, leadership and 1980s fashion…enjoy!


WomanandLeadershipcombo4Gender, Media and Organization