CENDEP carries out a range of research which is related to consultancy and staff specialisation. Additionally, the research team are working with partners at Oxford Brookes University to carry out practice based research programme which contribute to both academic learning and professional practice.
The Business of NGO Leadership
CENDEP and the Business School of Oxford Brookes University are conducting a needs assessment of senior leaders from leading humanitarian aid agencies to find out what they perceived as issues and opportunities concerning effective leadership. The research was supported by two local consultancy companies, Oxford Leaders and Oxford Change Management. It identified some key areas for learning, many of which relate to the challenges faced by large, international organisations working in a complex and politicised environment. These include: determining and measuring organisational 'value' and 'value add'; making rapid decisions on the basis of incomplete information; designing organisations which are decentralised and able to constantly adapt; and creating workable partnerships. They were also asked what kind of academic products Brookes might offer to address learning needs. Many responded that short courses (particularly where supported by distance and flexible learning), coaching, mentoring and action learning would be attractive options.
While identifying the usual leadership functions in NGOs (such as setting direction, articulating vision and values, and staff management), the survey also revealed a range of unique leadership concerns in NGOs, for example public accountability, multiple stakeholders, productivity metrics, value for money and staff motivation. In addition some new elements are being drawn from the business sector, such as the latest business planning techniques, quality requirements, legal matters, technology, political concerns, and organisational change and development.
Significantly, the respondents called for new ways of learning, i.e. not just classroom-based. The most favoured methods were coaching/mentoring, peer support, action learning and shadowing. CENDEP is now carrying out a more detailed market survey with funding awarded by the Workforce Development Fund of Oxford Brookes University with a view to development course content and marketing within the year.
A Changing climate: tourism, vulnerable coastal communities and climate change research project
This one year research project aims to explore the changes to the tourism industry and vulnerable communities in small islands brought about by climate change, and develop initiatives aiming at the adaptation of these communities to their changing environment. The project is a collaboration between CENDEP, Oxford Brookes' Department of Hospitality, Leisure and Tourism Management and the London School of Economics (LSE) Complexity Research Group, and is being funded by Brookes' Central research Fund (CRF). Complexity thinking is being used as a framework for exploration. Phase one of the project comprises a literature review, the formation of a multi-disciplinary network, and a workshop for key actors from tourism, academia and the aid sector. Phase Two will comprise field work, implementation and research, for which funding is being sought from elsewhere.
As a first step a half day workshop was held at the LSE in March 2010. The workshop was facilitated by Professor Eve Mitleton-Kelly. The aim of the workshop was to bring together senior practitioners in the humanitarian aid and development and tourism industries to exchange ideas and to identify steps for reducing the vulnerability of low income coastal communities to the impacts of climate change. To these ends 17 participants attended from both sectors, including from the humanitarian sector practitioners and academics from ALNAP, University College, London and CARE International.
Improving learning and practice in the NGO shelter sector
ELRHA funded action research project in collaboration with CARE UK
In October CENDEP in collaboration with the NGO CARE International UK won a one year research project funded by ELRHA (Enhancing Learning and Research for Humanitarian Assistance). The objective of the project is to improve the post-disaster shelter capacity of NGOs through facilitating learning and improving practice.
Facilitating learning: education and dissemination
At Brookes we have developed a Postgraduate Certificate in Shelter after Disaster, open to shelter practitioners wanting to consolidate their knowledge and understanding. Within CARE, lessons feed into ongoing staff training and also into case studies for a manual on shelter responses to be used within Country Offices. Other activities will include:
- Facilitating new personnel into the sector through training and mentoring
- Building up a body of knowledge and experience and feeding lessons back into teaching and practice
- Disseminating lessons learnt through briefing notes, via existing networks
Improving practice: sharing knowledge and skills via a Shelter Learning and Advisory Service
While drawing on lessons from CARE, the intention is also to improve practice to a wider audience of NGOs. To these ends this project will link with a new initiative CENDEP is currently developing - a Shelter Learning and Advisory Service. The idea is that the Service will provide quality practice-based advice to NGOs and agencies involved in shelter and other construction projects, e.g. houses, schools, clinics. The Service will aim to respond to the needs in the field and costs will be kept to a minimum; also, it will reflect the multi-disciplinary nature of all shelter programmes by forming teams of mixed skill sets.