Putting public value at the heart of research
In 2015, Cardiff Business School committed to becoming the world’s first public value business school. This model sees the School pool its research expertise and build stronger links with other disciplines, such as medicine and engineering, to develop ground-breaking solutions to the most pressing issues facing industry and society.
Ethical innovator and founder of JoJo Maman Bébé, Laura Tenison spoke to Cardiff Business School Dean, Professor Martin Kitchener about what a public value approach to research and teaching means in practice and how it will influence and impact on business and society.
Laura Tenison: In 2015 Cardiff Business School publicly committed to putting public value at its heart. What does this mean?
Martin Kitchener: In contrast to most of the other 25,000 business schools in the world, we have set a clear, bold and progressive values-based strategy, which informs our full range of activities. I am acutely aware that business schools have been criticised on at least two fronts.
First, it has been argued that the relevance of our work is limited because academics tend to research in narrow disciplinary areas that don't reflect the complexity of real-world issues. Some people believe this explains why so few economists predicted the most recent financial crisis. Second, because leading business schools are known to have trained many of those involved in high profile corporate scandals, some people question the ethics of business and management education.
In response to these challenges, our public value strategy directs the School towards promoting economic and social improvement through interdisciplinary scholarship that addresses the grand challenges of our time, while operating a progressive approach to our own governance. When we use the term “challenge-led scholarship,” we are referring specifically to research and teaching focused squarely on addressing the major economic and social problems of our time, such as innovation and inequality.
What does research in a public value-led business school involve?
Many of the School’s researchers are tackling intractable social issues such as poverty, access to decent work and inequality. The School is actively supporting research interests that address social and economic challenges, directing School funds to these activities.
Professor Tim Edwards, through the Responsible Innovation Network is working with a charity in Eritrea. They are building a research programme with a local college to assess the community impact of climate resilient agriculture systems. These efforts will support women-run microbusinesses in agriculture. Professor Victoria Wass, Professor Melanie Jones and Dr Deborah Foster are focused on disability at work and addressing the inequalities faced by disabled people.
A major University innovation which will enable us to further develop our public value research ambitions, is the development of the world’s first Social Science Research Park (SPARK). It will allows us to engage the public, and practitioners and policymakers from disciplines, sectors, regions, and nations, in our research activity.
Will this type of research and teaching encourage a more public value approach to business?
Our ambition is to encourage our students and graduates not to accept the status quo, to think differently and feel empowered to provoke change in business for the good of society. We nurture within our students a sympathetic imagination to consider the social impact, as well as the economic benefit, of their contributions and interventions in the corporate world.
This begins during their induction week when they complete a questionnaire assessing their orientation towards social improvement. By the time they reach the final year of their studies and re-take the survey, we hope to be able to demonstrate that Cardiff Business School has had a positive effect in nurturing their commitment to promoting social and economic improvement through their work; whether that is as a hedge fund manager or leader of a social enterprise in Africa.
This is a step change for business and management education and we are delighted with the support we have received from other organisations, such as the Chartered Association of Business Schools. We recognise that it will take time to fully embed the principles of the public value strategy in all that we do.
We are fully invested in achieving real social improvement and change, and hope to inspire others to similarly take a public value, socially minded, approach. The collective impact that could be generated, should others adopt comparable principles, is significant, and we welcome the opportunity to work with our global partners to that end.
Read the full interview
This is a shortened version of the full interview that features in the summer 2017 issue of Challenge Cardiff, our research magazine.