Developing Organisational Agency: Learning and Leadership with UK Academics

By Gillian Squirrell.

Published by The Organization Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Public engagement* is an unclear area of academic work, not viewed by many as a central university mission yet one which universities and academics are under pressure from policy makers and funders to undertake. Some background to public engagement is explored in the paper.
The focus of this paper is the analysis of an 18 month research and development programme run with grassroots 26 scientists and engineers** in 17 UK universities. The intervention was intended to promote their organisational agency and leadership in developing university-based public engagement. The intervention, Science Engagement and Researching Change***(SEARCH), understood change in terms of complexity and emergence, placing emphasis on individuals generating change within their systems by changing their behaviours and interactions with colleagues and the system. SEARCH used action learning, reflection, transformative learning activities and creative work to support the scientists’ cognitive insights into culture, change and personal agency and to encourage their skills development.
The intervention generated significant personal and professional learning, participants became change agents and leaders making demonstrable institutional impacts.
[*By which is meant the ways universities, academics, other staff and students interface with and respond to broader and non-academic communities, be these other professionals, the general public or amateur specialists. The significant issue of defining pubic engagement and therefore reaching some common agreement on purpose is explored below.; ** Hereafter scientists will stand for scientists, engineers and technologists.; ***This project was funded through National Endowment for Science and the Arts]

Keywords: Universities Roles, Change, Complexity, Science Engagement and Action Learning

International Journal of Knowledge, Culture and Change Management, Volume 9, Issue 7, pp.53-64. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.185MB).

Dr. Gillian Squirrell

Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Advanced Studies, University of Bristol, Bristol, London, UK

Senior Research Fellow at the University of Bristol and Organisational Consultant. A broad ranging social scientist and organisational consultant with a lengthy research and management career in public and third sector organisations. As an applied researcher and consultant I have sought to have impact at policy and operational levels. Current research interests lie in the role of universities as institutions in the 21st Century; the changing nature of civil society and public participation; the development of social enterprise and innovation; toxic organisations and cultures and the organisational and wider angst which is generated.


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