Public value

Building a digital community

In preparation for the launch of the Cardiff Business School blog, we sat down with outgoing Dean Professor Martin Kitchener and incoming Dean Professor Rachel Ashworth to talk about their ambitions for the new platform.

So much like the recent appointment of our first female Dean, the blog is something of a first for Cardiff Business School. Can you tell us a little bit about the motivation behind its launch?

MK: The School’s been operating its Public Value Strategy for a little over two years now. It was always intended that we would try to engage with a very broad range of partners and stakeholders who share our commitment to promoting economic and social improvement.

The blog is one way for us to start having different types of conversations with a wider range of people about public value themes.

Professor Martin Kitchener was Dean of Cardiff Business School from 2012-2018 and introduced the Public Value strategy during his tenure.

RA: We’ve got a number of cross-cutting themes that have emerged so far as a result of the strategy’s development.

For example, topics like decent work, social inclusion and sustainable development, driven by notions of a foundational economy. There’s also considerable interest in ‘business remodelled’ where we focus on popular and revived forms of organisations like co-operatives, social enterprises, employee ownerships and micro-businesses and think about the potential role they can play in addressing societal challenges.

“Do they offer new solutions and approaches? Or, do we see the same kinds of problems?”

Public Value can be a very academic and loaded term, what will the blog do to make this concept more relatable and accessible to audiences?

MK: Yes, I think the idea of the blog is to broaden both the content of the debate, and the diversity of participants. Until now, we’ve largely been speaking with academic colleagues and folks who are in policy-making positions. Going forward, we’d like to incorporate a far wider range of thoughts, views and contributions from people for whom public value means different things.

This requires us to reach out to our professional services, research and teaching colleagues in the School and people in management and leadership roles across the Higher Education (HE) sector. And looking outside of HE as well, to our community of stakeholders and partners from the third, public and private sectors to see how they are getting to grips with a similar set of concerns over the delivery of both social and economic value.

“Obviously these challenges are going to play out differently in various sections of the economy, different geographical locations and different cultural contexts, for example.”

Professor Rachel Ashworth became the first female Dean of Cardiff Business School in September 2018.

RA: The other point here is that we have lots of mechanisms for student voice, but they tend to be focused on the specifics of the student experience.

“I think the blog will give students an opportunity to reflect more broadly on the role of education, consider social problems in a wider sense and help them reach a very different audience beyond their student peers.”

And so in that sense, I hope the student blog posts together with those from partners and stakeholders will challenge us in terms of our thinking around public value, which can feedback directly into improvements in educational experience.

Increasingly, our students are enjoying mobility opportunities with us, taking time to study abroad or participate in work placements. The blog will be another vehicle for them to share those experiences and encourage or support other students that might be thinking about taking those steps.

And also, of course, encouraging and motivating prospective students, especially those who are doubtful about university to see the diversity of student experiences on offer at Cardiff Business School communicated through a platform like this.

So while you’re launching the blog today for Cardiff Business School, it’s very much an invitation to our community to get involved, to share, to engage and to contribute. Is that right?

RA: Absolutely. When we appointed our Public Value Entrepreneurs in Residence, some of the feedback we received was that they haven’t really connected with the University and Business School. Some of them live in Cardiff, so they are aware of it to a certain extent, but it doesn’t tend to impact on their lives.

We took that on-board and spent a lot of time thinking about how we engage with a range of communities.

“And that might mean reaching out very locally, in Cardiff, its hinterland and the rest of Wales. The beauty of a blog is that you can build a digital community alongside this, which spans the rest of the nation and the globe too.”

Rachel Ashworth is Professor of Public Services Management and Dean of Cardiff Business School.

Martin Kitchener is Professor of Public Sector Management and Policy at Cardiff Business School.

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