New Community STEM Club in Eastville launched

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A new Community STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths) Club run by UWE Bristol academics has launched at the Old Library Community Hub in Eastville.

The first session was incredibly well attended, with around 60 children and their parents and carers getting involved in the various activities on offer.

The Bristol version of Minecraft was especially popular at the club. Developed by the DETI Inspire team, local design and engineering consultancy Atkins, and Science Hunters, it gives children the opportunity to digitally explore, build, re-design and re-engineer their city and the surrounding area.

The Thymio robots were also very well received during the session. The small androids are designed to introduce children to programming and coding through interactive play. There were also a range of “analogue” STEM themed activities available, including construction sets, games, craft and books.

Children taking part in the STEM club

The sessions take place every Thursday at 3.30 and are free of charge. They are run on a drop-in basis with no prior booking required. The activities vary from week to week, depending on volunteer and equipment availability.

The club is co-developed by Old Library volunteers and the DETI Inspire Team at UWE. It receives further support from the STEM Ambassador Hub for the West of England. For more information on how to get involved or how to support the club, please get in touch with hello@theoldlibrary.org.uk or deti@uwe.ac.uk.

UWE Bristol Professor contributes to United Nations report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

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Professor Jona Razzaque (Professor of Environmental Law; Environmental Law and Sustainability Research Group at UWE Bristol) has recently completed a ground-breaking report for the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

Professor Razzaque acted as a Coordinating Lead Author of the Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.  Funded by the United Nations, this landmark report presents a wide range of policy responses to promote transformative change, and contributes to post-2030 Agenda of the United Nations for biodiversity governance. The report involved:

  • 30 Coordinating Lead Authors
  • 150 experts from 50 countries
  • 350 contributing authors
  • 6 chapters. 

The report warns about the danger of the global decline of nature and the acceleration of species extinction at unprecedented rates. The Report finds that around 1 million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction, more than ever before in human history. Amongst the species that are at risk that are highlighted by the Report include frogs and other amphibians (a 40% decline), reef-forming corals (a 33% decline), marine mammals, insects and at least 680 vertebrates.

IPBES Chair, Sir Robert Watson, states “The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.”

The report also tells us that it is not too late to make a difference, but only if we start now at every level from local to global,” he said. “Through ‘transformative change’, nature can still be conserved, restored and used sustainably – this is also key to meeting most other global goals. By transformative change, we mean a fundamental, system-wide reorganization across technological, economic and social factors, including paradigms, goals and values.”

Professor Razzaque adds that “While international biodiversity law has evolved over the years, progress to meet Aichi Biodiversity Targets and Sustainable Development Goals is not satisfactory. Our chapter on ‘Options for Decision makers’ demonstrates that the implementation of 2050 Vision for Biodiversity will require concerted efforts in relation to target setting and policy responses that foster transformative change. Along with existing policy instruments and regulations, additional measures and transformative governance approaches are necessary to address the root causes of the deterioration of nature.

Based on the systematic review of about 15,000 scientific and government sources, the Report also draws on indigenous and local knowledge.

The impact of the Global Assessment has been far-reaching, as it tracks all global, regional, national and local impacts. Find out more about impacts from the IPBES Impact Tracking Database (TRACK).

Some of the Coordinating Lead Authors at the annual meeting

Globally, for example, between 2019-2021, the Global Assessment Report has influenced:

  • 11 new/changed laws or regulations
  • 6 new/changed policies
  • 5 new/changed investment decisions.

In the UK, the following examples highlight the influence of the Global Assessment Report on various decisions and measures:

  • UK government draws on the findings of the Global Assessment in the Green Finance Strategy
  • Welsh Government cancels plans to build £1.6bn highway
  • Members of the Welsh Parliament propose Bill on non-carbon emission public vehicles
  • British Natural History Museum declares Planetary Emergency
  • UK government launches a Call for Evidence on safeguarding biodiversity in the UK Overseas Territories
  • Cambridge City Council declares Biodiversity Emergency.

Professor Razzaque acted as the Coordinating Lead Author and contributed to the following four key outputs; these are available in UWE Bristol Research Repository:

Further reading:

Introducing our research strength focus: Sustainability and Climate Change Resilience

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At UWE Bristol we are proud of our active and collaborative research community of bold and innovative thinkers that are breaking research boundaries.

Our four key research strengths are:  

  • Creative industries and technologies
  • Digital Futures
  • Health & Wellbeing
  • Sustainability and Climate Change Resilience

We want to highlight some of our amazing research to you, so this year we will be focusing on one strength at a time.  For the next few months, we will be sharing with you lots of curated content around our research strength, Sustainability and Climate Change Resilience.

The challenges of global warming, finite resources and shrinking biodiversity could not be clearer – the future of the planet and our world is at stake, and we won’t get a second chance. Net-zero carbon buildings, sustainable mobility, green agriculture, emissions and air quality are just some of the critical issues we are tackling.

Our research focus in this area include:

  • transforming construction, infrastructure and design
  • food security, water management and air quality
  • future mobility, connectivity and place.

To introduce this research strength we are going to share with you two of our Sustainability and Climate Change Resilience research case studies:

Air Quality: Putting people at the heart of environmental changeProfessor Enda Hayes, Professor of Air Quality and Carbon Management

We can’t calculate our way out of environmental disaster. Numbers matter, but more than that, it’s the people who cause the figures to rise or fall that will lead the way. A Europe-wide initiative proves as much, with thousands of citizens having their say and acting on it.

“We’ve become too obsessed with the numbers and we’ve forgotten about the fact that it’s about protecting people,” says Professor Enda Hayes, Professor of Air Quality and Carbon Management and Director of UWE Bristol’s Air Quality Management Resource Centre (AQMRC), and Technical Director of ClairCity.

He refers to the predominant approach to tackling the world’s air pollution crisis, which is linked to seven million premature deaths each year. “We need to think differently about the way we manage pollution, how we monitor it and how we create interventions that can maximise the public health outcome.”

The answer, as evidenced by the Centre’s work, lies in bottom-up democracy – enabling citizens to be part of the conversation.

“People are realising that technology alone will not resolve the problem, we need societal change where we collectively do things differently. It will take time, but we will get there.”

One of the greatest challenges – and most pressing needs – is engaging with hard-to-reach communities, who are often the most adversely affected by poor air quality.

Read the full case study here .

Cycling infrastructure: Changing the way we moveProfessor John Parkin, Professor of Transport Engineering

We all know that cycling is good for us. It improves our physical and mental health, and it’s better for the environment than most other forms of transport. So why don’t more people do it and what might encourage them to take it up? This is where social behaviour meets science, and delivers on sustainable change.

“A key part of what we do is to develop evidence that influences policy, educates and informs the transport profession, and contributes to design practice,” says John Parkin, Professor of Transport Engineering and Deputy Director of UWE Bristol’s Centre for Transport and Society (CTS).

“Our core activity is gathering and interpreting empirical data to identify changes in transport provision that will encourage pro-social behaviour change,” says John, who along with his colleagues, is helping to bridge the gap between social priorities and transport infrastructure.

CTS has studied the motivations of travellers in 18 towns and cities in England, which revealed that they are more likely to take up cycling where there is greater investment in providing safe, comfortable and attractive routes.

Further studies into the travel choices of the over 50s, as part of the CycleBOOM study, echoed these findings, as does research that shows the need for cycle routes separated from both pedestrians and motor traffic.

Read the full case study here.

Find out more about our Sustainability and Climate Change Resilience research strength here.

UWE Bristol Researchers work with National Allotment Society to share knowledge about water and drought

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A group of UWE Bristol researchers, Dr Neil Phillips, Dr Sarah Ayling and Professor Lindsey McEwen have been been working with the National Allotment Society (NAS) to promote water efficient behaviours and drought resilience on allotments.

Professor McEwen leads on the NERC DRY (Drought Risk and You) project which explores how droughts and water shortage can impact on the environment, agriculture, infrastructure, society and culture.

The DRY project was founded in April 2014, with the aim to develop an easy-to-use, evidence-based resource to inform decision-making for drought risk management in the UK. They draw together information from multiple perspectives on drought science, stakeholder engagement, citizen science and narrative storytelling to better understand drought risks, while other studies have focused on mathematical modelling of drought risk.  They gather data, stories and deliver events and provide workshops to support their mission.

During the DRY project they started to appreciate the potential of growers to act as harbingers of drought in their communities – being sensitive to available water for plants and hence periods without rainfall and to dry soils. They concluded that growers and allotment holders are therefore great potential contributors to ‘drought thinking’ in their communities, which is important in building local resilience to future drought and water scarcity.

As a result of this DRY and the National Allotment Society have co-produced a set of seven fliers that share knowledge about water and drought. These were launched by NAS in National Allotments Week 2021 (9-15 August).

The titles are:

Neil Phillips also took part in a webinar “Water Harvesting on Allotments, with Climate Change in mind” as part of the National Allotment Week , which was well attended by keen growers from across the country.

He said:  

“The presentation and subsequent discussion supported new thinking and debate around rainwater collection and use on allotments. Attendees expressed particular concerns over the use of sprinklers on some allotment sites (sprinklers can waste up to 90% of the mains water) and the likelihood of water companies increasing water charges in the near future. The importance of encouraging water efficient growing methods and considering local conditions was emphasized. The potential to extract water from other sources such as wells, rivers and lakes via solar-powered pumps was considered. There was considerable interest in optimised rainwater collection, storage and distribution structures as a novel solution with requests for detailed costings and evaluation via an onsite trial. “

University Enterprise Zone Spotlight: The Health Tech Hub

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The Health Tech Hub is one of four areas that make up UWE Bristol’s University Enterprise Zone. The below spotlight explains about their purpose:

The Hub’s mission is to advance innovation in healthcare, to invigorate the growth of UK companies and to improve the quality of life for citizens. The Health Tech Hub team identify and create opportunities for businesses, universities and the healthcare sector to work together to solve the demanding problems faced by the healthcare sector in the UK and globally.

The Health Tech Hub is located in UWE Bristol’s University Enterprise Zone. Its founding partners are UWE Bristol, University of Bristol, Sirona Care and Health, P3 Medical Ltd, Designability and the West of England Academic Health Science Network.

Their skilled staff are well-placed to advance innovation, by supporting each company we work with to develop their technology solutions. In their purpose-built world-class laboratories, complete with the latest equipment; our dedicated team of experts are able to support companies with precision, utilising their accumulative experience across the industry, academia and healthcare sectors.

The projects undertaken in the Hub are hugely diverse, from developing a sensor for detecting Urinary Tract Infection, to running sophisticated spectral analysis of cells undergoing stress. Other projects included characterising novel biocompatible materials and integrating electronic systems into assistive technologies such as a “Smart” walking stick for people with Parkinson’s disease.

The real asset of the Hub is the creativity, enthusiasm and knowledge of the staff. The practical support shown at all levels has been second to none. Using the facilities has been very useful in terms of gaining access to professional and state of the art lab and workshop facilities to conduct initial tests and experiments in a highly sensitive and controlled environment. As a start up SME with limited capabilities, such resources are invaluable for us to be able conduct high quality and competitive R&D to develop our ideas further.

Habib Patel, Founder of Fullfat Technologies | fullfattech.com, based within the Health Tech Hub


For more information about the Health Tech Hub go to their website. The University Enterprise Zone is made up of the Health Tech Hub, Future Space, Launch Space and the Bristol Robotics Laboratory.

Knowledge Transfer Partnership Case Study: Powerline Technologies

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The Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP) scheme is a UK-wide programme helping businesses to improve competitiveness and productivity. A recent graduate is placed within an organisation to help solve a business problem, with access to our academic expertise.

The below case study is from our KTP with Powerline Technologies:

About Powerline Technologies 

Powerline Technologies (PLT) part of Fundamentals Ltd (power systems technology specialists), is delivering next generation Smart Grid Low Voltage (LV) and Medium Voltage (MV) distribution automation solutions to utilities and distribution System / Network Operators (DSO/DNO) worldwide.

Underground cables (UG) are used in locations such as urban areas where overhead lines rights of way is not available, in areas where local or state regulations override economic considerations, near airports, city centres and other locations where an overhead line may endanger lives, and in scenic areas where appearance is an important consideration.

Installing underground lines can cost 7-10 times more than overhead lines. Underground cables are buried at a depth of 450mm to 1200mm depending on the working voltage level. For example, 415 V (450mm) 11 kV (900mm) and 33kV (1200mm).

If a fault occurs in the UG cables, excavation of the exact fault location is of paramount importance in terms of time, cost and customer satisfaction, etc. Also if the outage duration is longer than a certain period the Distribution Network Operator (DNO) is obliged to pay out compensation to customers.

In the United Kingdom, there are 15 distribution network operator (DNO) regions. The 14 different district networks are managed by six operators, while one operator controls the distribution network in Northern Ireland (Figure below). The length of UG cable used by distribution companies depends on the coverage area of the DNO.

Determination of the exact fault location depends on accurate models of the cable and its associated arc. This project investigated both models mathematically for Powerline Technologies. These models will enable the PLT’s machine learning algorithm to pinpoint the fault location for direct and immediate dispatch of repair crews to the location. It will also minimise multiple excavations, cable cutting and ground re-instatement.

The challenge the KTP was set up to address

Powerline Technologies (PLT) has developed a Low Voltage (LV) three core cable simulation model. The challenge now was to onward develop four core cable model and the arc model to increase its simulation accuracy.

1) Solid Aluminium Conductor 2) XLPE Insulation 3) Rubber Layer 4) Waveform Copper Wire Earth 5) PVC Sheath

Why KTP was the right mechanism to achieve this?

Powerline technologies’ AI-based underground cable fault diagnostic and location equipment relies on an accurate digital model of the LV network to produce data to train the AI algorithms. This KTP enabled PLT to embed the developed cable model into the machine learning fault algorithm module.

What changed as a result of the KTP?

The KTP’s focus was to improve two key aspects of underground cable model:

  • The four-core MATLAB cable model with its associated parameters for integration into PLT’s existing MATLAB network model.
  • Improved arc fault models and their integration with the designed four-core cable model to more realistically represent the fault process within distribution network underground cables.

Outcome – Impacts & Benefits

For Powerline Technologies:
  • The four-core MATLAB cable model with its associated parameters for integration into PLT’s existing MATLAB network model could be scaled up and validated.
  • Widened understanding of suitability of various arc models in particular events.

“In addition to the modelling improvements, the KTP project showed how a collaboration between UWE and a research focused technology SME could increase the latter’s knowledge and understanding of a challenging problem.”

Dr Simon Le Blond, Power System Specialist, PLT

For UWE Bristol
  • Have further experience of data analysis and field measurement validation
  • Gained knowledge how to train the AI algorithms for fault diagnostic and location

“Able to take gained knowledge from the KTP project to the classroom for the students. A seminar group has been taught, one of the benefits from the KTP.”

Dr Hassan Nouri, Reader FET Engineering,Design & Mathematics,UWE Bristol

For the KTP Associate:
The KTP Associate Dr Le Trang

The KTP Associate has gained new knowledge in training and accessing the simulation software programmes and experience in handling the field measurement data.

“The KTP gave me the opportunities in skill training such as project management, team working, etc. These skills have not only helped me in managing the current project, but also support me in future career. In my role as an associate, I expanded my knowledge in solid technical and soft skills. I received a lot of support and valuable comments from a KTP adviser, academic and company supervisors”

Dr Le Trang, KTP Associate,UWE Bristol/PLT

View the full case study below:

To find out more about a KTP with UWE Bristol, please see here.

Social Sciences – The lynchpin for conducting real-world research?

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Guest blog post by Professor Kieran McCartan, Professor of Criminology, UWE Bristol

All research, even theoretical research, has a real-world basis. Research helps us understand the world and our role in it better. Therefore, at the core of all research conducted at UWE Bristol should be people and social life. The social sciences, therefore, are central in developing and adapting a range of different research ideas, methodologies, and products so that they have real world validity and can be used more effectively in practice. The social sciences are the study of social beings, social lives, and social interaction; they are the disciplines that connect our psychological, social, and cultural worlds. The social sciences provide context, and understanding, to our behaviours and actions. This means that all research has a social component to it – whether it be Engineering or Art, Food Technology or Fine Print, AI or Architecture – because humans, and the human experience, are at the heart of all these.

This increased recognition of the importance of the social science perspective is reflected in the external funding landscape. More and more funding calls with ‘hard science’ remits require that academic teams include those from the humanities and social sciences to bring this much-needed perspective to addressing the challenge at hand.

At UWE Bristol, we research a range of social sciences and in doing so add nuance to policy and practice, which means that we can add to ongoing and novel research across a number of disciplines. Our research strengthens external research bids, adds new dimensions to research and publications, and expands the parameters of UWE Bristol’s role as a civic, community based, practice-based university. Social scientists are spread and integrated throughout the UWE Bristol academic diaspora – you find them in every faculty and department.

However, the largest congregation is gathered in the Department of Social Sciences, in the Faculty of Health and Applied Sciences, where the Social Science Research Group (SSRG) is based. The SSRG has over 91 members drawn from disciplines as wide as Philosophy, Sociology, Criminology, Social Psychology, Counselling Psychology, Psycho-social studies, Politics, International Relations, Policing, and Social Work. The SSRG is split into five themes with cross cutting, qualitative research methods expertise:

  • The World, Meaning and Human Action research theme investigates and employs the interaction between philosophical thought and cultural, political and critical practices, with a particular emphasis on the collective project of human flourishing.
  • The Global Security and Human Rights research theme draws on work on global security, human security, human development and human rights. Key cross-cutting dimensions are around gender, health, governance, security, human rights, exclusion, vulnerability and resilience, and migration.
  • The Crime Risk and Society research theme gives voice to the experiences of victims, offenders and professionals within the Criminal Justice System (CJS) and critically engage, challenge and inform criminal justice policy and practice.
  • The Psycho-social Studies and Therapeutic Practices research theme studies the way in which psychic experiences and social life are fundamentally entangled with each other.
  • The Identities, Subjectivities, and Inequalities research theme is a collective of researchers who focus on exploring the ways in which identities, subjectivities, and inequalities are produced by exploring how individuals make sense of their selves and the worlds they inhabit as well as on wider social practices and discourses.

How can the SSRG, and social sciences more broadly, add to your research moving forward?

  • Maybe you need to conduct social research (qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods) to preface, support or evaluate the impact of your research or product?
  • Maybe you need access to and representation from diverse populations to test your product or innovation?
  • Maybe you need advice about how to approach and work with frontline professions so that your research can be implemented in the community?
  • Maybe you need support in working with policy makers so that your research and innovations get used in practice?
  • Maybe you need a social, cultural, or psychological lens to add nuance to a new or ongoing project?
  • Maybe you need to understand why different communities, cultures, or populations react differently to the product or innovation that you are developing?

We live in a social world where people are the core users of much of the research and innovation developed at UWE Bristol, therefore the social sciences provide a lynch pin for bringing in expertise to make sure that all the research done at UWE is applied and fit for purpose.

If you are a social scientist interested in joining the SSRG or a colleague at UWE Bristol interested in collaborating with SSRG members please reach out.

Prof Kieran McCartan, UWE Bristol

UWE Bristol researchers join forces with UK agri-tech experts to develop salad saving robot

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The Centre for Machine Vision (CMV) at UWE Bristol have joined forces with Agri-tech and machinery experts at Grimme, Agri-EPI Centre, Image Development Systems, Harper Adams University and two of the UK’s largest lettuce growers, G’s Fresh and PDM Produce, in the new Innovate UK-funded project to develop a robotic solution to automate lettuce harvesting.

Whole head, or iceberg, lettuce is the UK’s most valuable field vegetable crop. Around 99,000 tonnes were harvested in the UK in 2019 with a market value of £178 million. But access to reliable seasonal labour has been an increasing problem, exacerbated by Brexit and Covid 19 restrictions. Early indications are that a commercial robotic solution could reduce lettuce harvesting labour requirements by around 50%.

The team from the CMV consist of Antonella Camilleri; Dr Mark Hansen and Professor Melvyn Smith.

Thom Graham,Vegetable Specialist at lead projects partner Grimme said: “One of the greatest challenges facing the horticulture sector is sourcing sufficient seasonal labour to conduct their harvest commitments in a timely manner. In addition, rising cost of labour with no increase in retail price has squeezed margins. Growers are looking at solutions that can reduce labour input costs and maintain their resilience in the sector and we hope our expertise can help.”

Dermot Tobin, Managing Director of Farming at PDM said:

“For many decades our business has relied on seasonal labour for harvesting lettuce. Nearly all the lettuce you see on UK supermarket shelves is cut by hand. Sourcing labour is getting really challenging and with wage inflation rising far quicker than return to grower prices margins are really tight. Our industry needs to embrace robotic technology to reduce our reliance on labour so being involved in this project is of the utmost importance to our business.”

Richard Ellis, Innovation & Research Project Manager of G’s subsidiary Salad Harvesting Services Ltd. said:

“The process of lettuce harvesting has continuously evolved over the past 30 years, with harvest, packing, date coding, boxing and palletising all completed in the field, within minutes of the crop being cut. The cutting process of an iceberg is the most technically complicated step in the process to automate. We are encouraged to be involved and see the results of this project which offers the potential to reduce reliance on seasonal labour.” 

The project will adapt existing leek harvesting machinery to lift the lettuce clear from the ground and grip it in between pinch belts. The lettuce’s outer, or ‘wrapper’, leaves will be mechanically removed to expose the stem. Machine vision will then identify a precise cut point on the stem to separate lettuce head from stem.

A prototype robotic harvester will be developed for field trials in England towards the end of the 2021 UK season, in around September, then at G’s Espana.

Lettuce is also a valuable crop in Europe and the US. 123,000ha of lettuce and chicory was grown in the EU in 2018[i] with similar areas in the US. These areas have similar issues of access to seasonal labour, offering a significant potential market for the lettuce robot.

The Centre for Machine Vision is part of the Bristol Robotics Laboratory. They solve real-world practical computer vision problems. Their particular excellence lies in realising real-world working demonstrators using state-of-the-art (2D and 3D) machine vision and multispectral imaging, combined with the latest machine learning techniques to solve challenging real-world problems.


[i] FaoStat, 2020




UWE Bristol academic publishes study exploring which aspects of treatment IAPT service users most value

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Working with UWE Bristol graduates from both undergraduate and Masters programmes, Dr Miles Thompson, Senior Lecturer in Psychology and co-lead of the Psychological Sciences Research Group (PSRG), publishes a study exploring which aspects of an low-intensity Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) intervention delivered through Improving Access to Psychological Therapy (IAPT) contributed to successful outcomes from the service user point of view.

IAPT services are not without their critics, but the aim of this mixed methods study was to both identify the elements of interventions which contributed to successful outcomes from the service user point of view, and also to attempt to frame the results within the common versus specific factor framework. Common versus specific factors refers to a sometimes acrimonious debate within the psychological literature about what matters most: common factors which are present in all therapies, or specific factors which are only found in certain interventions.

Eight participants took part in this multi-stage research which used both qualitative interviews and a quantitative questionnaire. In stage 1, participants spoke freely about any factors that played a role in their successful treatment as they saw it. In stage 2, participants were given a list of possible contributors to therapeutic change, to encourage them to consider factors they may not have otherwise thought of. Finally, in stage 3, participants were invited to reflect on whether their answers to stage 1 had changed at all following the stage 2 questionnaire. Interestingly, participants did not significantly change their answers after stage 2, and felt their initial responses reflected the most helpful aspects of their therapy.

Five overarching qualitative themes were identified in the data. Three relating to common factors – i. insight, ii. talking and iii. therapist qualities and two relating to specific factors – i. responding differently to thoughts and feelings and ii. tasks/activities. Importantly, all participants spoke about the importance of both common and specific factors. This may suggest that both factors, not just one or other, play an important role in successful outcomes.

It also seems important to note, that “talking” was a key factor in successful outcomes from the service users’ point of view. Some research into IAPT notes that allowing service users the space and time to talk can sometimes be constrained. This study highlights the importance of allowing talking to happen in all its fullness.

Future research that gains a fuller understanding of service user perceptions into why their interventions were successful may provide more evidence about what aspects of treatment are important. This may both increase our understanding of therapeutic processes and help us improve real-world outcomes.

The full publication is freely accessible to all both online and to download here.

Research Spotlight on Bristol Leadership & Change Centre

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Over the next few months, we will be bringing you Research Spotlights on some of our research centres and groups to give you and understanding of the work undertaken within each area.

This first spotlight focuses on the Bristol Leadership & Change Centre:

Bristol Leadership and Change Centre (BLCC) is a research centre within the Bristol Business School, with 52 members including 32 faculty members, 8PhD students and 12 visiting fellows/professors. BLCC has built a thriving community of academics, practitioners and students all actively engaging with and exploring the complex nature of leadership and change in contemporary organisations and society.

The focus of their work ranges from promoting leadership and organisational change in the NHS, to supporting people with complex multiple needs in Bristol, developing entrepreneurial learning in Turkey and supporting malaria elimination in Southern Africa.  Such examples demonstrate the potential for inclusive and collaborative leadership to build a shared sense of purpose and commitment that makes a real positive difference to the lives of many people. It is a welcome antidote to the myth of the hero leader and the divisive and destructive practices that feature all too often in news and social media headlines.

Within the Centre members focus on key research themes based around the question ‘How to mobilise and sustain responsible change in complex and uncertain contexts?’ Their research sits within four broad themes:

  1. Leadership & Followership in a Changing World: including responsible and sustainable leadership; complexity, paradox and ambiguity; distributed, shared and systems leadership; and alternative ways of organising.
  2. Cultures of Leading and Organising: including equality, diversity and inclusion; space, place and time in organisations; language and indigenous leadership; and power, influence and identity.
  3. Leadership and Organisational Learning and Development: including ethics, wisdom and spirituality; action research, collaborative enquiry and evaluation; leadership & Management Learning; and coaching & Mentoring.
  4. Behaviour Change and Social Influence: including social Movements; Systems Change; Social Practice Theory; and Creativity, innovation and enterprise.

The following projects showcase a snippet of the work they have been involved with over the last two years, but please visit the research pages to find out more.

Case Study 1: Our Work with the NHS Leadership Academy

Bristol Leadership & Change Centre is involved with a number of projects with the NHS Leadership Academy, below we have showcased two of the projects they are currently working on.

Project 1: Leadership Landscape in London – Learning from the pandemic to inform future leadership development – Richard Bolden, Professor of Leadership & Management

Leadership Landscape in London is led by Professor Richard Bolden and has been commissioned by the NHS London Leadership Academy to capture learning and insights from the Covid-19 pandemic to inform the design and provision of leadership development interventions for NHS staff (and affiliates) across the health and care system in London. 

The NHS in England is facing a series of substantial challenges that raise questions about what kind/s of individual and collective leadership capacity is/are required and how this can be most effectively developed within the current context.

The overarching research question for this study is:

‘What has the pandemic revealed about the nature and purpose(s) of leadership in health and care and how effective leadership capacity can be nurtured for the future? ‘

Through a mixed method, qualitative study, we aim to capture a diverse range of perspectives on issues including:

  • How leaders, managers and staff across the health and care sector within London have been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • How individuals, teams, organisations and the wider system have responded to the challenges and what learning and insights have emerged.
  • Where there are examples of innovation and adaptation that could be drawn on to inform future leadership and/or management practice and development in London and beyond.
  • What gaps/limitations have been revealed around current leadership/management capacity and support and what needs to be done to address this.
  • How to begin addressing the trauma and inequalities revealed by Covid-19 through the creation of spaces for open and honest discussion and opportunities for reflection on lived experience.

Findings will be presented in a report to the NHS London Leadership Academy and partners to review, revise and develop leadership and management development provision in the region.

Project 2: Nottinghamshire Integrated Care System OD Collaborative – Carol Jarvis, Professor of Knowledge Exchange & Innovation

Given the well documented and significant challenges facing the Health and Social Care system, organisations need to develop new and different ways of doing things to sustain their success, and this includes tapping into the potential of their staff to develop creative, innovative and technologically advanced ways of working and caring for patients and service users.

Nottingham & Nottinghamshire Integrated Care System (ICS) is leading the way on integration to close the gap in health and wellbeing outcomes against a backdrop of limited finances, increasing population numbers and increasing numbers of people living in ill health. To support this, partners are working as an Organisation Development (OD) Collaborative across the whole system to develop well supported, informed and involved leaders and services that have the ability to influence the wider system into working effectively with partners across health, social care and the voluntary sector to provide joined up patient/service user care.

In preparation for the introduction of ICS’s on a formal footing in 2022, a team from BLCC led by Professor Carol Jarvis has been commissioned by NHS Midlands Leadership Academy (Leadership and Lifelong Learning) to conduct a pre-diagnostic study. This research seeks to develop recommendations, grounded in a robust investigation of current and best practice, that will support the implementation of a sustainable, system-wide community of practice, with an emphasis on cultural development; service improvement/innovation methodologies; and leadership and in support of providing joined up patient/service user care.

Case Study 2: Shaping the Teaching & Researching Environment in Turkey – Selen Kars, Senior Lecturer Organisation Studies

In 2020, Arthur Turner, Carol Jarvis, Harriet Shortt, Hugo Gaggiotti and Selen Kars designed and delivered a one-week workshop on “Creativity in Research” to over 30 management researchers across Turkish universities. This workshop forms part of the Knowledge Exchange Partnership with Izmir University of Economics (Turkey) Faculty of Business, funded by British Council Newton Fund Research Environment Links and was led by Selen Kars. It aims to transfer UWE Bristol Business School’s three areas of distinctiveness to the lead project partner, Izmir University of Economics to improve the partner’s research environment. More information about the project can be found here.
During the week-long programme of synchronous and asynchronous sessions amounting to 24 hours of interactive material, Turkish management researchers were introduced to a range of creative approaches to management research from finger puppets to collage, from photography to storytelling. They discussed examples from their own practice and co-reflected with participants how these approaches can be adopted to participants’ own area of research. The workshop was received with enthusiasm and resulted in four research ideas that participants are keen to forward in collaboration with the workshop team, and has also been nominated for higher Education Council Turkey’s Outstanding Performance Award.

Case Study 3: Improved Healthcare service delivery for infectious diseases in Africa – Peter Case, Professor of Organisation Studies

Professor Peter Case secured a prestigious Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant (in collaboration with the Malaria Elimination Initiative research centre based at the University of California, San Francisco) to assist the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MOHCC) in Zimbabwe to improve HIV prevention. The project, entitled ‘Optimizing Stakeholder Operating Models for HIV Prevention in Zimbabwe’, is running from June 2020 to December 2022 with an overall aim of integrating prevention services and moving them forward in a more sustainable way. Using a variety of methods, such as, key informant interviewing, participatory action research and action learning, the study will focus, in particular, on the transformation and integration of Voluntary Male Medical Circumcision (VMMC) services. The research objectives are to:

  • Identify and quantify the barriers and enablers for uptake of key VMMC and prevention program responsibilities.
  • Identify the current state of motivation, organizational and individual ability to change stakeholder operating models, and organizational intervention gaps to achieve sustainability. 
  • Identify the drivers (e.g. incentive structures, information, and other triggers) to achieve a sustainable HIV prevention and VMMC program.
  • Segment community and system stakeholders by their behaviour towards the uptake of VMMC program responsibilities in order to better target interventions.

Engaging the Community and Society

Alongside research projects, BLCC engages with the wider community through a number of projects including;

Unleadership

“In integrating unleadership into organisational life after the pandemic, we anticipate a flourishing of creativity and the humanising of our workplaces to accommodate the human spirit.”

Covid-19 has brought unprecedented disruption to our lives and workplaces. The leaderly acts that have emerged have often been from unexpected places and have achieved outcomes that inspired us. Professor Carol Jarvis and Selen Kars have characterised these acts and associated practices, descrbing them as ‘unleadership’ (Jarvis et al, 2020; Kars-Unluoglu et al, under review). 

Unleadership Logo

Carol and Selen are curious about how these leaderly practices can allow communities and organisations to tap into their latent leadership potential.  Through seeking out the less obvious and illuminating the spaces in-between they want to create a new movement for unleadership. They will collaborate, reflect upon and be inspired by the leaderly actions of others co-creating innovations that keep developing the concept and practices of unleadership.

Through a series of participative, co-creation workshops and interviews of unleaders they plan to create a resource for others to draw on as we all strive to build back and organise ourselves differently in the future.

To join the Unleadership movement follow us on Twitter @Unleadership.

Find out more about the work undertaken by the members in Bristol Leadership and Change Centre below: