Interdisciplinarity and external partnerships: components of revenue generation and public value in higher education

By Martin Vogel

library

Over recent years, we have developed a focus on supporting academics and managers in universities who are trying to foster greater interdisciplinary working and greater engagement with external partners. This series of blog posts reviews our learning in this area and explores how our counter-consultancy approach is especially suited to resolving challenges that higher education institutions encounter in pursuing interdisciplinary objectives.

Interdisciplinarity and external partnerships are distinct but closely related areas for universities. While disciplines represent communities of practice that transcend the boundaries of any one university, the idea of disciplines also serves as an institutional heuristic that facilitates internal ways of organising. But in their pursuit of research outcomes that deliver tangible value to society, universities are finding that questions that range across disciplinary distinctions are increasingly salient. This is largely driven by the complexity and pace of change of the modern world. Governments and other funders of research are searching for solutions to big global challenges that are best approached through joined-up interdisciplinary enquiries. Funding is increasingly focussed around themes such as demographic change and wellbeing, food security or climate change. External partners too, caught up in this complexity, are bringing research questions that range across disciplinary distinctions.

Continue reading “Interdisciplinarity and external partnerships: components of revenue generation and public value in higher education”

Mindfulness plus narrative awareness equals critique

By Martin Vogel

mindful revolution
Time for a mindful revolution?

This is the third and final part in my series on being and doing in coaching. In Part 1, I explained how I draw on mindfulness and narrative awareness in my work. In Part 2, I discussed the symbiotic link between being and doing, and the challenge to bring more of a sense of being to our doing.

Regular readers of this blog will be familiar with the critique of organisations that we have developed here: the idea that organisations could be less toxic places to work and could play a more positive role in addressing society’s problems. I don’t want to rehearse those arguments again but instead look at how they come out of the approach to coaching that I have been describing in this series. If coaching is, as I maintain, a way of facilitating unfamiliarity, it follows that it is potentially disruptive of the received wisdom in organisations – the things that are so taken for granted that it’s otherwise almost impossible to question them. By putting a premium on connecting with our embodied wisdom, our gut instincts and nagging doubts, it creates space to acknowledge the ways in which the things organisations ask of us might make us uneasy.

Where does received wisdom come from? Narrative theory tells us that it is shaped by the dominant culture of the age. In our age, the common sense is defined by neoliberalism: the idea that the market is the natural way to do things and, if we live with the consequences of the market, this will be better for everyone in the long run. More than that – and more pertinent to this conversation – it’s a common sense characterised by hyper-rationality in which the insights that comes from emotion, values and embodied wisdom count for little.

Continue reading “Mindfulness plus narrative awareness equals critique”

Being and doing are not mutually exclusive

By Martin Vogel

Day's work
A day’s work is never done

This is the second in a series of posts based on a talk I gave on being versus doing in coaching. Part one of the series looked at the influences of narrative and mindfulness on how I work as a coach. This post explores the tension between being and doing.

Being versus doing is an increasingly important question for our culture. We live in an era when time is at a premium. Time is money and we’re all under pressure to give as much as we can in the time when we contract our labour to others.

This doesn’t always equate to greater efficiency. In the years since our rubbish collections were contracted out to private management, there has been a clear shift in focus from quality of service to minimising inputs (both time and people). The bin men’s job was never pleasant but now they have to do it as if competing in a macabre version of It’s a Knockout. The rubbish gets collected, but much is strewn all over the place and the bins are left lying in random places – so neighbourhoods are left, in some respects, in a worse mess than before the bin men arrive.

Because this pressure on time can lead to a poor quality of working life, we come to put much more emphasis on our getting the most from our personal lives. So even away from work we don’t escape the pressure to get things done. Films to catch, rooms to decorate, walks to be done in inspiring places – not to mention routine essentials like laundry, shopping and cooking. We really need times of stillness and quiet: opportunities to calm the agitation and connect with ourselves and how we’re feeling about what’s going on.

Continue reading “Being and doing are not mutually exclusive”

An encounter with the spirit

By Martin Vogel

Portrait of the soul

This is the first in a series of posts which has grown out of a talk I gave at the weekend. I was invited by a spiritual group, the Brahma Kumaris, to participate in a panel of coaches presenting to the BKs’ Spirit of Coaching programme. This didn’t seem an obvious platform for an atheist like me. But, as the theme of the afternoon was being versus doing and because I try to reach out wherever people find resonance in what I’m doing, I accepted the invitation. And what an interesting journey it turned out to be.

The BKs’ programme is premised on exploring the connections between spiritual practice and coaching development. They’ve created a space in which people of diverse backgrounds – spiritual, professional, non-professional, multicultural – can come together to learn about different approaches to supporting the soul. Not only did I have delightful encounters with people engaging deeply with what it is to be in the world and make it better, but the invitation to discuss my own orientation to the question To be or not to be? provided a space for me to push at the boundaries of what I consider myself to be trying to do when I coach. In particular, it clarified my thinking about how my coaching is informed by mindfulness. This is not something I write about much. I regard mindfulness meditation as a personal practice and I am by no means a coach who is proffering mindfulness as part of a toolkit of techniques for how I work with my clients. But over the years mindfulness has come to define my deeper orientation as a coach. It feels valuable to explore this here, not least so that prospective clients may get some sense of what it may feel like to work with me. But also as a contribution to the profession.

Continue reading “An encounter with the spirit”

From Valoro to Vogel Wakefield

 

Vogel and Wakefield
Vogel and Wakefield, looking up

From today, Valoro becomes Vogel Wakefield, the counter-consultancy. We see this as more than a change of name. We’ve been in business for nearly three years now and we have a much better appreciation than when we started of how we add value for our clients.

When we founded the business, we were spent some considerable time defining our company and our distinctive approach. In retrospect, this was more useful to us as partners than it was to customers. It helped us clarify the common ground that enabled us to work together. But all our clients wanted to know was who we were.

In fact, one executive, demonstrating refreshing plain-speaking, told us the Valoro thing wasn’t making much sense. “You’re Mark and Martin, aren’t you?” he said.

Continue reading “From Valoro to Vogel Wakefield”

Assessing the social value of universities

By Mark Wakefield

Loughborough University Library
Loughborough University Library

Anyone interested in the future of higher education would do well to read the NCCPE’s recent report on the social value of universities. Paul Manners, the NCCPE’s Director, sets the context for the report when he quotes research for Universities UK in 2010 which suggested that less than one in five people in the UK recognise the wider impacts that universities have on society. This alarming statistic goes some way to explaining the relative ease with which the government has introduced its controversial reforms. Where the public has shown concern it has been focused almost exclusively on the level of fees rather than on the implications for the sector and its contribution to the life and health of the nation.

Continue reading “Assessing the social value of universities”

Art in the time of austerity

By Martin Vogel

National Portrait Gallery

We’ve recently completed a project with the National Portrait Gallery, who engaged us to develop a draft social value model. We spoke to people at all levels of the National Portrait Gallery’s staff as well as external stakeholders such as corporate sponsors.

We found this a striking instance of the specifity of making a social value case. It’s tempting to think in generic terms about the social value of any given sector. But each institution is different. The National Portrait Gallery has unique characteristics which differentiate it from other galleries and museums. These are rooted in its founding purpose, which was to tell the story of Britain through portraits of men and women of achievement. Unusually for an art gallery, this means that the subject of the artworks is of greater importance than their artistic merit. Is the National Portrait Gallery, therefore, most similar to other galleries in their role as custodians of arts or to museums which curate artifacts of historic interest? To what extent should it stay true to its Victorian mission to tell a canonical story of Britain versus a contemporary, post-modern one to foster critique of hegemonic narratives and encourage a more inclusive portrayal of Britain?

The answer to these question are determined in part by the view one takes of the social value that the Gallery should deliver under different scenarios of how the economic crisis will play out.

Continue reading “Art in the time of austerity”