Current and recent research projects
Details of current and recent projects are summarised below. For further details please contact the relevant person or get in touch if you would like to discuss how we might support you in your own research. For research reports and publications please visit our publications section.
1. Leadership and followership in a complex changing world
Bristol Golden Key local evaluation
In 2014, BLCC was commissioned as local evaluator for Bristol Golden Key - an eight-year programme (running until 2021), funded through the Big Lottery Fulfilling Lives initiative, that aims to unlock access to services for people with complex multiple needs, including homelessness, mental health problems, drug/alcohol dependency and criminal offending behaviour.
Golden Key is a partnership of statutory and not-for-profit agencies across Bristol (including NHS, police, probation, City Council, Second Step, Bristol Drugs Project, St Mungos and 1625ip) who are piloting new approaches to service delivery and mobilising systems change to ensure a lasting legacy for the city and its most vulnerable residents. Read the evaluation reports and updates here.
Collaborative and creative decision making in times of uncertainty
Nadine Tchelbi has been running workshops for the Environment Agency to develop ‘negative capability’ in order to facilitate collaborative and creative decision making in times of uncertainty.
To find out more contact: Dr Nadine Tchelbi
Evaluation of Systems Leadership: Local Vision
In 2014-15, BLCC was commissioned to evaluate the Systems Leadership: Local Vision initiative, where partner agencies in health, local government, police, voluntary sector and others worked together to address issues, such as intergenerational obesity, dementia, and the integration of health and social care services. The project was commissioned by a consortium of organisations including the NHS, Public Health England and the Leadership Centre for Local Government, and has informed the recent NHS framework for action on improvement and leadership development. View and download the final report.
To find out more contact: Professor Richard Bolden
Leadership and engagement in the construction industry
This research project is a collaborative partnership between Bristol Leadership and Change Centre (BLCC), the Leadership and Engagement Thought and Action Group (TAG) (part of Engage for Success) and Henley Business School and was conducted on behalf of the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB). The research investigated links leadership with engagement in two large firms within the construction industry and highlights practical steps that can be taken in further developing engagement within these organisations and others in the industry. Key factors associated with high levels of engagement were - shared/distributed leadership, the ability of manager’s to maintain team direction and the ability to manage team boundaries. The full findings will be published shortly.
To find out more contact: Dr Gareth Edwards
Leadership paradoxes in Singapore public services
This project, commissioned by the Singapore Civil Service College in 2016, explored the paradoxes and tensions experienced by public sector leaders/managers in Singapore, their thoughts on potential causes, and coping strategies they have developed to deal with them. The work has resulted in the development of a framework for conceptualising paradox and continues to inform leadership and organisation development programmes within the Singapore Public Service.
To find out more please contact: Professor Richard Bolden
2. Cultures of leading and organising
Wandering about Bristol
The Wandering about Bristol project is a series of three urban wanders from 2015 to 2018 to re-imagine a "green" city. We attempted to create thinking spaces and drew upon the thinking of Henri Lefebvre’s triad of space (perceived, conceived, lived). We did not expect everyone to agree with each other and were respectful of questioning each other’s practices and ideas about health, nature, urban gardening, skate parks, to name just a few. The films produced reveal tensions between how Bristol is conceived in the official “green” narrative from how Bristol is lived and experienced to inform social change. Perceived spaces are the physical places where buildings, train stations and roads are located and practices of how they are used.
In 2015, Bristol was the European Green Capital. The wanders offered a way of moving in between official utopian notions of Bristol as a "green’" city with Bristolians’ everyday lives, including their understanding and practices of greenness. This approach proved challenging in that we were moving from one narrative of the effects of climate change and reducing CO2 emissions towards working with multiple narratives of what becoming a "green" city means.
To capture differing views, participants held four video cameras to film as they wandered. Each wander was an event to support practice-based activities, collaboration and transformation (Big Green Week, Love the Future; M32 Space; Festival of Nature). We took the decision to adopt visual methods, in particular video, for capturing conversations outside and on the move, as visible and hearable (social) interactions between people, objects and spaces.We then hosted a workshop to highlight and question ideas that had come up in the wanders. This workshop brought together those whose practice is of social and environmental change in local arts organisations, local government and health agencies, partnership organizations and academics and led to discussions, interactions and potential collaborations. We were looking at how novel approaches such as wandering and participant video might move current practice beyond environmental ways of looking at a “green” city.
To give a brief sketch of "stuff" that happened with the participants:
- Pre-meetings and discussing what would happen, questions we would ask, where we would host wanders and some false starts;
- Three participants filmed urban walks - wanders;
- One workshop showing a film of the wanders and feeding back key issues to participants to facilitate a discussion; this was captured by local artist with animated Sketchnotes;
- Various events, including Bristol Bright Night where the public is invited to hear about research;
- Bristol Leaders and Change Centre (BLCC) blogs and social media;
- Four conference presentations;
- Two (almost three) submissions to peer-reviewed journals, one though was politely rejected which helped to inform a challenge of this project of working between differing boundaries;
- A map of insights from 'Wandering about Bristol'; and
- The project website to keep alive the conversation.
In writing up, I am drawn to Steyaert’s (2011) thoughts of ‘movement and being moved’, as I too feel the moving and moving images, raised questions and reveal varied perspectives of spaces. On the one hand, the official imagination of Bristol as a ‘European Green Capital’ city and, on the other, the availability of alternatives to it became compelling conversation with practitioners in the city. From these experiences, we posed the following two questions:
- What implications does space, wandering and capturing movement (bodies, sounds, objects, etcetera) have for our understanding of learning and for the broader appreciation of the importance of everyday practices in the context of learning?
- How might such visual approaches lead to interventions and alternative ways of organising?
Though we said in the bid that our aim was "to reveal tensions between how Bristol is conceived by dominant groups versus how Bristol gets experienced every day to inform social change", one of the intentions of the project was to develop a network to make critical research more accessible and to engage practitioners (and policy makers).
Three key areas arose during this project:
We feel the main contribution has been taking conversation out of office spaces and of the potential for collaboration and sharing differing ideas and practices between practitioners and academics.
Collaboration across boundaries between academics and practitioners is key (and a challenge).
- Participation and being experimental with a novel
We feel that participant-led video and wandering opens up opportunities for using research to actively participate in, and render visible, spaces. In this project, we sought to question some of the official narrative introduced by the Green Capital 2015 initiative. In the wanders and workshop, to build upon what we highlighted above, representatives included those from the Bristol 2015 Co, who created the imagery and those who delivered projects as part of Bristol 2015 European Green capital initiative, local government, Sustrans, consultants, architects, landscape architects, artists, representatives of local housing associations and those creating/using the local skate park.
- Movement and how to listen when in unexpected
By this, we mean how to create circumstances that leave room for sharing differing ideas, differing stories and practices of becoming "green" to step outside the dominant "green" city narrative and to take a critical approach to re-image what a "green" city means - not just as one thing - and of how to interpret these potential insights and to speak back to organisations.
Wandering about Bristol is a Small Research Grant for the project ‘Thinking urban spaces differently: Articulating and contesting “green” imageries of Bristol as an enterprising city’ and is supported by the British Academy and the Leverhulme Trust.
Finally, I give thanks to the wanderers who contributed to the
orientation of each event. If you’re interested in how we engaged
in collective wanders, including the materials created, go to
Building leadership for inclusion
In 2017 we were appointed as independent evaluator and academic partner for the NHS Leadership Academy’s ‘Building Leadership for Inclusion’ initiative. This is a national project to update approaches to equality, diversity and inclusion, build leadership capability to enable significant progress on inclusion and to address under representation at all levels in the NHS and partner agencies.
Early-career academics and the neoliberal University
Olivier Ratle and his collaborators from the University of Glasgow and the University of Surrey study the predicament of early-career academics within the neoliberal University. In a context where governments seek to erode the professional power of academics through the use of a range of disciplinary technologies (e.g. journal rankings, university league tables), starting a career as an academic is not easy. Studying the different ways in which early-career academics resist those disciplinary technologies has enabled the team to account for resistance as a multifaceted, pervasive and contradictory phenomenon. Through resistance and compliance, early-career academics try to make a positive difference in their department, universities and communities. As such, they are not only resisting neoliberalism, they are also actively contributing to re-constituting their complex field.
To find out more contact: Dr Olivier Ratle
Language and leadership
Another example is the work of Doris Schedlitzki and Gareth Edwards on leadership and language – where they are exploring how leadership is described and enacted in different national languages, such as English, Welsh and German. They have a number of projects underway and a forthcoming special issue of the journal Leadership on Ways of leading in non-anglophone contexts.
Making Projects Critical
Co-founded by Svetlana Cicmil (UWE Bristol Business School) and Damian Hodgson (University of Manchester Business School ), 'Making Projects Critical' (MPC) is an academic-practitioner collaborative project which started in 2003 as a series of international academic workshops, providing a unique forum for a critical examination of the lived experience with all aspects of projects including the 'projectification' of society. Its distinctive focus has been on project as a significant social phenomenon, above and beyond traditional instrumental-rational approaches to project management as a techno-scientific methodology. MPC has, over the years and with the involvement of the academics from Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm (Monica Lindgren and Johann Packendorff), developed into an inclusive, practice-oriented international movement, fostering a dialogue and collaboration between project practitioners, professional bodies, educators and researchers with diverse disciplinary backgrounds.
An extensive and growing body of published work stemming from MPC, has identified, analysed and evaluated a range of significant implications of the widespread adoption of project-based work and the professionalization of project management for individuals, organisations and global society. Ethical, political, existential and economic aspects of projects have been highlighted, resulting in recommendations for: alternative leadership practices in project settings; minimising project-overload related vulnerabilities; creatively handling tensions between standardisation and creativity in project organisations; recognising the limits to projectification and the dysfunctions of project rationality. The MPC research finds inspiration in, and draws on labour process theory, critical theory, existential phenomenology, ANT, environmentalism, feminism and gender studies, post-modernism and other traditions broadly related to critical management studies.
The MPC project has been supported, since its inception, by a number of research councils, universities and professional associations, and was recently crowned by a prestigious international recognition from the USA-based Project Management Institute (PMI) for its sustained contribution to advancing the concepts, knowledge and practice of project management.
To find out more contact: Dr Svetlana Cicmil
Management Systems, Institutional Change and Food Security in Laos
This is a series of rural development projects in Lao People’s Democratic Republic led by Professor Peter Case and aimed at improving the institutional support offered by Government to the agriculture sector. The overall aims of these projects is to improve smallholder productivity and assist the government of Lao meet Millennium Development Goals with respect to food security and poverty reduction.
Organisation Development and Participatory Action Research interventions are used to engage stakeholders from villages, districts, provinces and relevant government agencies in the co-creation and implementation of mechanisms that match government support to local needs and opportunities; and improved management systems to assist government staff plan and monitor services.
Peter’s research teams have also been researching ways of improving smallholder farmer adoption of agricultural technologies and innovations.
To find out more contact: Professor Peter Case
Organisational ethnography in the Mexican borderlands
In 2015, Dr Hugo Gaggiotti was awarded a one-year British Academy Award under the Newton Mobility Grants Scheme for his research applying organisational ethnography to study business and organising in the American-Mexican borderlands.
In 2016, Hugo was awarded a new project from the same founders, now for two years, to help the professionalisation of the management of organisations who support families, children and youngsters in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico through applied research with institutionalised children, indigenous people of Ciudad Juarez and their relationships with urban institutions and youngsters and the organised work of the “maquilas”.
The aim of this project is to consolidate research capacity in Mexico borderlands and to lead the development of a formal education programme, but the ultimately the primary objective is to contribute to the promotion of socio-economic welfare in Chihuahua by transferring this knowledge as professional organisational practices that ultimately help to solve social and economic needs of families, children and young people in Ciudad Juarez.
To find out more contact: Dr Hugo Gaggiotti
3. Behaviour change and social influence
Alan Tapp’s work for Public Health England where he is providing social marketing and policy advice on end of life care, and behaviours leading up to death and bereavement.
To find out more please contact: Professor Alan Tapp
School Culture Intervention Project
This project uses social practice theory to unravel the possibilities of conceptualising childhood physical activity in terms of organisational (primary school) culture, and uses the innovative ReValuation toolkit to evaluate the potential for cultural thinking about physical activity. The project questions the linear nature of much intervention analysis and measurement and seeks to change the discourse around ‘intervention’. It seeks to broaden out concepts of measurement to capture whole-systems change. Importantly, ReValuation allows for evaluation procedures to be co-produced, and allows for the capture of all types of value. The project is in the pilot phase, and is a collaboration between colleagues at Bath, Bristol, Surrey and Leeds Beckett Universities as well as collaborators at the Derbyshire School and Sports Partnership and New Mills Primary School.
To find out more please contact: Dr Fiona Spotswood
The Daily Mile
Fiona Spotswood and colleagues from the Faculty of Health and Applied Sciences at UWE Bristol are involved in a small intervention project of the Daily Mile, an intervention to encourage primary school children to run a mile a day before lessons. The project measures attitudes to the experience of running the Daily Mile but also uses validated body image scales to identify any relationship between children’s physical activity and their relationship with their bodies.
To find out more please contact: Dr Fiona Spotswood
4. Leadership and organisational learning and development
Introversion and Extraversion in Leadership and Management Learning
In 2013 the British Academy of Management (BAM) launched the Researcher Development Grants Scheme with the aim of encouraging research activities, with the aim of advancing management scholarship through empirical research. Two of our researchers Eda Ulus and Inge Aben’s project ‘Silence is Golden’ was successfully selected as one of 13 projects chosen from 125 applications for a Researcher Development Grant. The project will explore individual experiences of introversion in higher education. We’re delighted that Eda and Inge whose passion for exploring introversion in a learning and management context have this opportunity to carry out research which will be shared with education professionals in reports and academic journals and used to inform best practice in teaching.
To find out more please contact: Inge Aben
Leadership Evaluation Collaboratory
The Leadership Evaluation Collaboratory is a network of practitioners and academics that promotes learning and experimentation around different approaches to evaluating leadership development and organisational change. Its aim is to support the development of evaluative capacity amongst professionals who work in complex environments, where multiple-stakeholders collaborate across boundaries in order to address systemic issues and where outcomes may not be readily discernible. Initiated in 2015, the collaboratory has been supported by funding from the NHS Leadership Academies of the South West and the Thames Valley and Wessex regions and continues to engage a broad network of professional from the public, private and not-for-profit sector.
Organisation and Leadership Development for Improved Malaria Elimination Programs in Southern Africa
Professor Peter Case is leading a team of researchers in the design and delivery of leadership and organisation development programmes to improve service delivery for malaria elimination in Swaziland and Zimbabwe.
As with previous collaborative work with the Malaria Elimination Initiative (a research centre based at the University of California, San Francisco and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation), the team works with local stakeholders to find ways of improving malaria elimination services. Participants in the studies include National Malaria Control Programme directors, heads of specialist medical services at provincial and district levels, middle management and frontline staff (doctors, nurses, environmental health officers). To date this has resulted in improvements in the reporting of malaria cases by health facilities; increased collaboration between the malaria programme, schools, and community organisations; a decrease in health facility stock-outs of key malaria treatments drugs and an increase in malaria case investigation rates. Based on successes to date, the Gates Foundation has approved a second year of funding for this work (2017-18).
To find out more please contact: Professor Peter Case