Influencing Co-Production in Management Research and Policy-making

Submitting Institution

University of Nottingham

Unit of Assessment

Business and Management Studies

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Information and Computing Sciences: Information Systems
Education: Specialist Studies In Education
Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services: Business and Management

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Summary of the impact

Research undertaken by Starkey and colleagues has informed the development of a particular philosophy and practice of research. This has informed policy debates about the nature of effective management research for engaging with practice — now widely referred to as co-production — and led to new insights into the practice of policymaking in government. The research informed (1) the development of a new approach to policymaking adopted by the previous administration in work conducted for and with the Cabinet Office with senior civil servants and representation from the House of Lords; (2) collaborative work on the development of low carbon communities which was conducted with the Department of The Environment and Climate Change.

Underpinning research

The programme of research was undertaken by Starkey who was employed at the University of Nottingham at the time and has been since then. He and colleagues from the British Academy of Management's Research Committee (of which Starkey was Chair) were engaged in studies into the distinctive nature of management research. Drawing upon work in science policy, Tranfield and Starkey (reference 1) developed the concept of Mode 2 research combining theoretical rigor and practical relevance as an important parameter for impactful management research. Subsequently the Foundation for Management Education (FME) commissioned research from Starkey to look at the evolving nature of management research and, in particular, to focus on co-production as a strategy for influencing relevance and engagement with practice. This led to a report for the FME which was the basis for a special edition of the British Journal of Management — reference 2) in which the report was debated by a range of leading international management researchers. Starkey and Tempest studied the role of the business school in knowledge production with Professor Armand Hatchuel at the Ecole des Mines in Paris The research argued for a co- production approach to management research in which research is framed and judged using the "double hurdle" of academic rigour and relevance to practice and in which practitioners as stakeholders in the research are closely involved as co-producers in the research process (reference 3). As a result of this research Starkey was appointed in 2000 to the Council of Excellence in Management & Leadership (CEML) Business School Advisory Group, established by the Department of Trade and Industry. Key recommendations of CEML were to embrace the principle of co-production and "a frank acceptance of the need for a higher proportion of public research money to go on work which is more responsive to the needs of practitioners. Such research should involve companies as real learning partners rather than `subjects' or `cases'. ... Management research needs redirecting towards a research agenda which is more responsive to the needs of practising managers. ... Practising managers should be closely involved in setting the research agenda ... and in being active partners in the research process" (CEML, 2002, pages 26, reference 6).

The principle of co-production emphasises the necessity of involving end-users of research not just as recipients of research to whom research findings are to be disseminated but also as active designers of and participants in the research process. The work of Starkey and colleagues led to an ESRC grant in 2006 looking at knowledge production (see Evidence of Quality below) and initiated a lively and continuing debate in the business and management research community, both in Europe and the United States, in which Mode 2 research was supported or critiqued as an alternative to "Mode 1" research. Mode 1 is a key concern of many business and management research journals and its key outcome is the contribution to academic knowledge rather than knowledge for practice. Starkey's work led to a variety of publications including a book (reference 5) and articles in business and management journals (for example, reference 6). A major contention of the research was that the adoption of a co-production approach would close "the relevance gap" for which business and management was increasingly being criticised so that the role of theory in generating better practice was enhanced. The basic premise of the research was that there was an important strategic need to increase the stakeholding of users in various aspects of the research and knowledge creation and dissemination process.

Key researchers:

  1. Ken Starkey, Professor of Management and Organisational Learning, University of Nottingham,, 1988 to present.
  2. Paula Madan, Research Officer, University of Nottingham, 2000-2001, after which she left to take up the position of Director of Marketing, Electrolux, Brussels.
  3. Sue Tempest, Professor of Strategic Management and Learning, University of Nottingham, 1994-present (Professor since 2010).

References to the research

1. K. Starkey, D. Tranfield, "The nature, social organisation and promotion of management research", British Journal of Management, 1998, 9, 341-353 . DOI: 10.1111/1467-8551.00103


2. K. Starkey, P. Madan, "Bridging the relevance gap: Aligning stakeholders in the future of management research", British Journal of Management, 2001, 12, Special Edition, "Facing the future: the nature and purpose of management research re-assessed", S3-S26, December. DOI: 10.1111/1467-8551.12.s1.2


3. K. Starkey, A. Hatchuel, S. Tempest "Rethinking the business school", Journal of Management Studies, 2004, 41, 1521-1531. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-6486.2004.00485.x


4. Council for Excellence in Management and Leadership Business School Advisory Group, The Contribution of UK Business Schools in Developing Managers and Leaders, 2002 — Accessible at


5. K. Starkey & N. Tiratsoo The Business School and the Bottom Line, 2007, Cambridge University Press. ISBN: 9780521865111. (Publication available on request).


6. K. Starkey, S. Tempest "The winter of our discontent — the design challenge for business schools", Academy of Management Learning & Education 2009. DOI: 10.5465/AMLE.2009.47785476.


Evidence of quality

ESRC Grant Awarded to Starkey (1/11/2003-31/1/2006) "The dynamics of knowledge production" — value £308,777.

The papers cited (references 1-3 & 6) appeared in journals ranked 3* or 4* by the Association of Business Schools. Reference 5 was awarded runner-up, best paper of the year for the Academy of Management Learning & Education 2009.

Reference 4 was published by one of the world's leading academic publishers and was endorsed as follows:

"This book is essential reading for all of us — administrators, faculty, students and corporate leaders who want (and need) business schools to thrive" — Thomas G. Cummings, Professor and Chair, Department of Management and Organization, University of Southern California.

"This is an important book. How academic institutions are managed so as to create strong, positive societal values is key — and this is what the book is all about. A must-read!" — Peter Lorange, President IMD and Nestlé Professor,

"This thoughtful and constructive analysis will contribute to improve their [business schools'] leadership and governance" — Fernando Fragueiro, Dean, IAE Business School, Argentina.

"[T]here is no better gathering of facts about what is going on in business schools than this work ... simply the best available in this globalising discussion" J.C. Spender, Research Professor Queen's University Canada and Lund University School of Economics and Management, Sweden.

Details of the impact

A body of research, undertaken by Starkey and colleagues, has informed the development of the `co-production' philosophy and practice of research. This has influenced policy debates about the nature of effective management research and how this can generate knowledge about management and also research that is useful for managers. The application of this research approach led to new insights into the practice of policymaking in Government and the Civil Service.

The research referred to in Section 2 led to Starkey's appointment as an inaugural fellow of the Sunningdale Institute in 2006. Sunningdale was a body of international academic experts, public servants and industry figures whose role was to advise government and public service organisations on operational and delivery issues and in formulating and implementing public service policy and strategy. The rationale for the establishment of the Sunningdale Institute was to initiate a new approach to research in government policy using the skills of leading business school academics (Cooper & Starkey, 2010, reference A).

In his capacity as Sunningdale Fellow, Starkey was appointed by the then Minister for the Cabinet Office, Ed Miliband, to advise government on how to improve policy-making in Spring 2008. At that time, too many government initiatives failed at the stage of implementation. Preliminary discussion suggested that this might be rectified by a co-production approach to policy-making that focused on engaging more effectively with front-line professionals in the policy formulation process. Starkey was appointed thought leader for this project with a leading civil servant (Sir David Omand) and a member of the House of Lords (Lord Victor Adebowale), working with members of the Cabinet Office Public Service Reform Group. This led to a Cabinet Office/ National School of Government report Engagement and Aspiration: Reconnecting Policy Making with the Front Line (Omand, Starkey & Adebowale, March 2009) (reference B) and a Cabinet Office reply, Listening to the Front Line: Capturing insight and learning lessons in policy making (2009) (reference C). In summary, the report addressed the question: how can the dispersed knowledge of front-line professionals in public services be captured and fed into central policy-making and development, and concluded that better management of engagement and connection with the front-line was crucial to effective and innovative policy design and implementation.

The Engagement and Aspiration: Reconnecting Policy Making with the Front Line report by Omand, Starkey and Adebowale made a series of recommendations for ministers and senior civil servants which were accepted as the basis for making policy-making more effective. The report was accepted by government as a template for co-production as a guiding principle of public sector reform. The report In his Foreword to the report, Sir Gus O'Donnell, Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service, welcomed the report, saying that it had "much to say about how Government can improve the way we design and develop policy". In his Foreword to the Cabinet Office response, Liam Byrne, Chief Secretary to the Treasury and Minister for Public Services Reform, welcomed the report's "insight, analysis and recommendations" and provided details outlining how the government intended to embed the report's principles in Whitehall practice (reference C). The Minister set out the agenda in a speech in 2009: "I have asked Sir David Omand, Lord Victor Adebowale and Professor Ken Starkey, who have examined how we close the gap between Whitehall policy and frontline delivery, to ... work with me to set in place their recommendations across Whitehall" (Byrne, 2009) (reference E).

As a result of the report, the government identified three areas in which to apply the report's co-production principles in practice, both in central government policy-making and in the local design of services. These were : 1) Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) — Low Carbon Communities Challenge; 2) Department of Health — Healthy Weight, Healthy Lives programme to address the challenge of obesity; and 3) the London Borough of Lewisham — Improving redress for citizens. Starkey, Omand and Adebowale presented at Civil Service Live 2009 and 2010 and facilitated government seminars for civil servants including for the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit. Starkey worked as adviser to the DECC Low Carbon Communities Challenge on policy development, featured in the DECC (2009) video (reference F) highlighting the working principles of the project, and provided Expert Commentary for the Interim Report on Low Carbon Communities (DECC 2011: pages 5-7) (reference G).

How to improve policy-making through front-line engagement remains an important issue in policy debates. However, the financial crisis and the change of administration altered the priorities of the Cabinet Office and the work on this project came to an end in 2011.

Sources to corroborate the impact

A. C. Cooper, K. Starkey "Reshaping policymaking: A U.K. experiment in designing new processes and structures", Organizational Dynamics 39, 165-172, 2010. Accessible at

B. National School of Government/Cabinet Office (2009) Engagement and Aspiration: Reconnecting Policy Making with Front Line Professionals — Authors Lord Victor Adebowale, Sir David Omand and Ken Starkey. Foreword Sir Gus O'Donnell, then Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Home Civil Service. Accessible at

C. Cabinet Office (2009) Listening to the Front Line: Capturing insight and learning lessons in policy making (2009) — Foreword by Rt Hon Liam Byrne, Chief Secretary to the Treasury and Minister for Public Services Reform. Accessible at ngdale-report.pdf

D. Evidence submitted to the House of Lords Constitution Committee — Accessible at

E. Liam Byrne (2009) "Next steps for public services reform" — Accessible at _office/speeches/byrne/090205_psr_speech.aspx

F. DECC 2009 The Low Carbon Community Challenge (Video) — Accessible at

G. Department of Energy and Climate Change (2011) Low Carbon Communities Challenge. Interim Report 2010/11. Accessible at

Individuals who could be contacted by the REF team to corroborate impact are:

  1. Paula McDonald CBE, Cabinet Office
  2. Sir David Omand, former director of GCHQ and Permanent Secretary at the Home Office visiting professor, Kings College London —
  3. Lord Victor Adebowale, House of Lords, Chief Executive Turning Point,