Wisdom in Groups

We are thrilled with the uptake of Wisdom in Groups (WiG) places for April 2018 – we are now fully booked for April 2018.
Which begs the question, should we run another WiG in the Autumn of 2018? Please do let us have your view (contact us here) – you never know we may have two events to talk about in 2018!
Look out for news of future events – please contact us if you would like to attend.

Understanding Stakeholder Participation in Research as Part of Sustainable Development

A paper reporting on the use of Triple Task in participating in research as part of the EU POINT project

Participation is often presented as a ‘good’ thing and a fairer way to represent views and opinions outside narrow confines of interest and expertise. However, the roots of participatory approaches within research contexts are deep and numerous twists and turns demonstrate a confused and possibly confusing morphology with significant gaps and weaknesses.
In this paper ‘via the medium’ of the POINT (Policy Influence of Indicators) research project we trace elements of the recent history of group participation in sustainable development and the emergence of focus on four areas, most significantly how participatory methods are used. In the absence of strong evidence to contrary we suggest that the issue of how participants engage in participation remains a significant weakness for the field. In order to counter the apparent gap we suggest that a certain degree of structure and process can provide the oeuvre of participatory approaches with a higher degree of transparency in the research process and, by focus on the use of a method called Triple Task, group participatory events can be encouraged to yield greater insights into the workings of groups of all kinds.

Science Direct Link

Bell, S., Morse, S. and Shah, R. (2012). Understanding stakeholder participation in research as part of sustainable development. Journal of Environmental Management. 101, pp. 13 – 22.

Policy Influence of Indicators (POINT) EU FP7 Project

The demand for and supply of indicators for environmental and sustainability policies have increased during the last decades. Main drivers behind this trend include a wish from international institutions to compare the environmental or other performance across countries and sectors, a need to satisfy transparency and accountability requirements in policy performance evaluations, and a call for general information and communication with the public on sustainable development and the state of the environment.

But are such indicators actually used in policy processes and do they have any influence on policy outcomes? These were the key questions posed in the EU FP7 project POINT – Policy Influence of Indicators.
The POINT project began in 2008 with the aim of exploring the use and influence of indicators broadly with the area of sustainable development policies as its main focus. A number of case studies were conducted, covering indicators in sector integration, indicators for sustainable development and also composite sustainability indicators, such as the Ecological Footprint (EF).

EU CORDIS Project Description

Project Overview

Transdisciplinary Sustainability: The Council for Frontiers of Knowledge

This paper represents an overview of the various transdisciplinary domains of interest to a number of Directors of the Council for Frontiers of Knowledge


More about this organisation shortly; in this brief introduction I want to set out the scope and vision of this paper. Many agencies exist – charitable, public sector and private – with a mission to improve the flow and uptake of ideas, innovations and useful practice across borders. This journal regularly publishes papers, which describe organisations and agencies that develop themes of knowledge transfer and sustainable intellectual practice. The CFK is one such agency. As will be shown, the CFK is no silver bullet to all the issues that beset the continent, nor is it attempting to confront or engage with the plethora of political and ethical concerns that beset development more widely. CFK is concerned with ideas. This paper contains an overview of the various trans-disciplinary domains of interest to the Directors of the CFK in partnership with some of their African colleagues and an insight into how this work is being applied. In a series of vignettes the key interests of some of the CFK Directors are elaborated and the overall mission of the CFK is revealed. Each article in the collective and synthetic piece can be seen as an observation from a particular edge of human understanding. Together they combine to form a braided strand with common yet distinct threads.

In the introductory piece Atkins Katusabe and Pamela Weathers set out the history of the CFK and place its origin and intention in the contemporary era. Simon Bell and Stephen Morse using the CFK community itself, discuss the potential for participation to be made more inclusive and the outcomes to be evidence-based. Dermot Diamond addresses the twin issues of sensing technologies for health diagnostics and distributed environmental sensing and describes how CFK can foster the inclusion of more African researchers. Jenny Emnéus, Filipo Bosco and Cecilia Agrell discuss a unique programme of mentoring – instigated within the CFK and beginning to show powerful outcomes. Anthony Guiseppi-Elie and Francis Moussy then focus on medical diagnostics and discuss the potential for use in the largely low income countries of Africa. Jim Lynch describes research in technologies for monitoring and assessing de-forestation and, building on this, the current Chair of the CFK Board of Directors, Fionn Murtagh, discusses the role of Information and Communication technologies as both a challenge to, and an indicator of, development in Africa. PK Nair takes up the synthetic theme of this article in his piece which promotes the integrated nature of agro-forestry as key to Africa’s productive sustainability. Finally, Pamela Weathers and Alice Amoding consider the value of Artemisia annua and the effect of this important medicinal plant in terms of its potential impact on the cultivation of food crops in developing countries that are prone to malaria.

Cecilia Agrell, Simon Bell, Filipo Bosco, Dermot Diamond, Jenny Emnéus, Anthony Guiseppi-Elie, Atkins Katusabe, Jim Lynch, Stephen Morse, Francis G. Moussy, Fionn Murtagh, P. K. R. Nair, Pamela J. Weathers . (2014) Transdisciplinary Sustainability: The Council for Frontiers of Knowledge. International Journal of Transdisciplinary Research. 7, 1, pp. 1-26

Link to PDF

The Council for Frontiers of Knowledge

Teaching Environmental Management Competencies Online: Towards Authentic Collaboration?

Environmental Management (EM) is taught in many Higher Education Institutions in the UK. Most this provision is studied full-time on campuses by younger adults preparing themselves for subsequent employment, but not necessarily as environmental managers, and this experience can be very different from the complexities of real-life situations. This formal academic teaching or initial professional development in EM is supported and enhanced by training and continuing professional development from the major EM Institutes in the UK orientated to a set of technical and transferable skills or competencies expected of professional practitioners. In both cases there can be a tendency to focus on the more tractable, technical aspects of EM which are important, but may prove insufficient for EM in practice. What is also necessary, although often excluded, is an appreciation of, and capacity to deal with, the messiness and unpredictability of real world EM situations involving many different actors and stakeholders with multiple perspectives and operating to various agendas. Building on the work of Reeves, Herrington, and Oliver (2002), we argue that EM modules need to include the opportunity to work towards the practice of authentic activities with group collaboration as a key pursuit. This paper reports on a qualitative study of our experiences with a selected sample taken from two on-line undergraduate EM modules for second and third year students (referred to respectively as Modules A and B) at the Open University, UK where online collaboration was a key component. Our tentative findings indicate that on-line collaboration is difficult to ensure as a uniform experience and that lack of uniformity reduces its value as an authentic experience. Whilst it can provide useful additional skills for EM practitioners the experience is uneven in the student body and often requires more time and support to engage with than originally planned.

Open University Link

Bell, S., Lane, A., Collins, K., Berardi, A. and Slater, R. Teaching Environmental Management Competencies Online: Towards authentic collaboration? European Journal of Open Distance and e-Learning. 20, 1, pp. 22 – 44

DPSIR = A Problem Structuring Method? An Exploration from the ‘‘Imagine’’ Approach

The Drivers, Pressures, State, Impact and Response or DPSIR framework has been with us for over a decade now and it is widely used as a means to assess and measure and, eventually provide a guide to managing the environment. With its repertoire of diagnostic and analytical components the DPSIR can be argued to be a Problem Structuring Method or PSM. Criticisms of the framework abound but it has a resilience which is noteworthy. Some argue that DPSIR, by its nature, is a narrowly formulated, engineering device, incompatible with the multiple perspectives which human interaction in global ecology requires. Is there a value in DPSIR being more flexible in expression and experience of users? In this article it is shown how the DPSIR framework was applied within a multi-methodology approach called Imagine in a number of coastal management projects around the Mediterranean and in other contexts. The article argues that DPSIR, whilst admittedly limited in its scope and approach can, if applied in a participatory and systemic multi-methodology, combine with other tools and help to create outcomes of value to local populations.

DPSIR Framework Simon Bell

Science Direct Link

Bell, S. (2012). DPSIR = A Problem Structuring Method? An exploration from the ‘‘Imagine’’ approach. European Journal of Operational Research. 222, pp. 230 – 360.

London’s Olympic Legacy and the Imagine Methodology

In 2010 Future of London commissioned academics to work with representatives from the London Boroughs, to consider the legacy of the Olympic Village taking shape in Stratford, in the East End of London. The exercise, in the form of a workshop, was to: review the current context/situation; prioritize issues; envisage future options; explore and develop relevant sustain- ability indicators; develop a forward plan for community development. This article describes the process adopted in the analysis of the Olympic Village’s transformation from World Media Site to a sustainable part of the Greater London metropolis. The methodology applied, Imagine, is described and some of the key outputs from the analysis and design of legacy process are described. In conclusion the article examines the oeuvre of projects of this kind when set against the challenges of longer term sustainability.

Olympic Legacy Imagine Rich Pictures Simon Bell

Open University PDF Link

Sage Journal Link

Bell, S. and Faren Bradley, J, (2012). London’s Olympic legacy and the Imagine methodology. Local Economy, 27, 1, pp. 55 – 67. DOI: 10.1177/0269094211425325

The Innovation of Multiview 3 for Development Professionals

The Multiview Methodology for Information Systems Development has never been a widely used or mass-market approach. It has always had a small user base, a localised approach to a global issue: coherent IS development. This paper concerns the underreported innovation of the Multiview3 methodology for Information systems analysis, design and development – specifically designed for non-specialists working in developing countries. The innovation emerged from the identification of a methodological ‘gap’ in support for non-specialists struggling with Information Systems problem structuring challenges. The Multiview3 story tells us how IS methodology can be innovated to address the needs of users. This version of Multiview is argued to be theoretically distinct from previous versions in terms of its focus (developing countries) and application (problem solving and co-learning in practice).

Innovation Multiview Methodology 3 for Development Professionals Simon Bell

PDF Link

Bell, S. and Wood-Harper, A. 2014. The Innovation of Multiview 3 for Development Professionals. Electronic Journal of Information Systems for Developing Countries. 63, 3, pp. 1 – 25.

Futurescaping Infinite Bandwidth, Zero Latency


Futurescaping Simon Bell Network Society Infinite Bandwidth

In the 1990s Castells analysed ‘the rise of the network society’ but this remains an ever- changing phenomenon. It throws up new concepts and issues. For example, no one foresaw what Mark Zuckerberg would create in terms of on-line social networks with the FaceBook project. Predicting the functionality and utility of the Internet is a mug’s game and yet it can be extremely profitable for those who ‘guess right’ and are able to influence the future applications and organisational forms of the network society.
Next Generation Access (NGA) broadband is promoted strongly by policy makers as underpinning future economic growth. NGA can be thought of as a potential future placeholder, the content and structure of which, while remaining tantalizing, is occupying many contemporary minds. In this paper we describe a process (Imagine/Triple Task Method) and an event structure IBZL (or Infinite Bandwidth Zero Latency), which explores potentially novel applications of NGA and provide some ideas as to the key components of the future inter-networked landscape.
In this paper we present the context of the IBZL initiative, review the ‘Imagine’ process as an effective method for ‘futurescaping’ and present some initial outcomes of the project.

PDF Link

Science Direct Link

Bell, S. and Walker, S. 2011. Futurescaping Infinite Bandwidth, Zero Latency. Futures. doi:10.1016/j.futures.2011.01.011

A Socio-Technical Approach to Evidence Generation in the Use of Video Conferencing in Care Delivery

Evidence of outcomes across multiple uses of video conferencing in health and social care delivery – a socio-technical perspective

Video conferencing in care delivery telemedicine socio-technical v-connect Adam Hoare

Use of Video Connection Platform in Multiple Verticals of Care Delivery

Care and support services need to respond to the rapidly changing demands of the population and available resources. The authors will present evidence that video conferencing can underpin many of the aspirations for future care delivery. However, if the necessary scale and pace are to be achieved a new model for evidence generation needs to be found. Using the experience of deploying video across health and social care a new model of evidence generation will be proposed based on a socio-technical approach where complexity and human capabilities are features of the intervention. A practice-based approach utilising action research will be used. The model will focus on four dimensions that are key to the success of an intervention using video: Practice, Outcomes, Technology and Evidence. Addressing the interactions between these four dimensions promotes a system that can evolve services that, in cooperation with the video technology platform, can satisfy changing care demands

The effects of current economic and demographic pressures on care and support systems are well documented. The need to do more with less is an established requirement of new models of care. However, there are significant barriers to the innovation of new ways of working in care delivery. Some of these barriers will be described through the experiences of one of the authors (AH) in deploying video conferencing to support people in their own homes or in a care environment.

The current use of video in care delivery is predominantly clinician-to-clinician communication between care organisations. Established examples are stroke or cancer networks. When developing a strategy for deploying a video intervention targeted at people in a residential environment it soon became clear that there was not a precedent to follow. In terms of Porter’s Five Forces the intervention was neither a new entrant to an industry that already exists or a substitute for a current product. Clearly any adoption of the video approach was going to disrupt internal systems in the care organisation and result in changes to practice. From a resources and capabilities point of view any strategy to deploy video requires close collaboration between the resources of the care organisation and the video service provider. This is a challenging engagement for care providers as they are more accustomed to transactional approaches where products or services are bought to a specification. Hence, each video deployment required sensitivity to the resources and capabilities of the customer and a collaborative approach to lowering the barriers to use of the technology. For example, modifying the user interfaces of the video conferencing equipment could lower some barriers and this has been done extensively to improve the experience of the people receiving care and of the clinicians providing it.

A further challenge to any deployment of video conferencing is the initial modelling of the economic benefits. As each deployment creates a network of contacts there is no template for a specific intervention. Within health care, each disease, e.g. diabetes, has its own ‘silo’, i.e. has its own care pathway, its own specialists, seeks its own technical support and is evaluated in terms of its ability to meet disease-specific outcomes. Engaging with a particular silo is very dependent upon the context of the engagement and each deployment raises its own challenges. Therefore, before video can be deployed in the residential environment its benefits and cost effectiveness within current siloes of care have to be proved.

IGI Global Link

Hoare, Adam and Ken Eason.  A Socio-Technical Approach to Evidence Generation in the Use of Video Conferencing in Care Delivery. IJSKD 6.2 (2014): 36-52. Web. 2 Nov. 2017. doi:10.4018/ijskd.2014040103

Afterword: The Past, Present and Future of Sociotechnical Systems Theory


Afterword: The Past, Present and Future of Sociotechnical Systems Theory Ken EasonIt is a rare privilege to have been the inspiration behind the production of this collection of papers and I warmly thank all of the contributors, especially Patrick Waterson, for reminding me of so many debates and giving me so much to reflect upon. I was especially pleased to find such a strong theme running through these papers, a theme that has been an obsession for me for over 40 years: sociotechnical systems theory. Throughout my career I have been concerned with systems approaches in ergonomics because they enable us to recognize that people at work often engage in tasks as part of a complex system and this has profound effects on them and their task performance. Of all the systems approaches that are available I have found sociotechnical systems theory the most powerful way of explaining systems behaviour and the most useful in designing new systems. My aim in these pages is to use the insights that the authors in this volume have provided to reflect on what has been important to me about sociotechnical systems theory, on where this approach is in the present day and what contribution it might make in the future.

Sociotechnical systems studies 1970-1990

I was very fortunate in the 1970s to work with Lisl Klein and Harold Bridger who were at that time stalwarts of the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations in London, widely acknowledged to have been responsible for the development of sociotechnical sys- tems theory. The theory was developed to explain the human and organisational ramifications of the introduction of mechanization into coal mining, weaving and other industries. By the 1970s it was computer technology in all its forms that was beginning to have a major impact on work systems and when we started the HUSAT (Human Sciences and Advanced Technology) Research Group at Loughborough University, so graphically described by Tom Stewart and Leela Damodaran (Waterson, Stewart and Dam- odaran, this volume), it was natural for me to apply sociotechnical systems concepts in order to understand the impact of this new technology on people at work. At that time the main issue was that this technology was being used via ‘remote terminals’ linked to mainframe computers by ‘naïve users’, i.e. people who were not computer professionals, and these new users had to adapt to the unfriendly, rigid and literal ways in which computers operated. This started a major programme of work to render these devices easy to use for their new users leading to the ‘user friendly’ graph- ical interfaces used by most of the population today. My preoccu- pation, however, was that within each organisation there were different kinds of users whose work roles and tasks require specific service from the computer system. As a consequence we were soon writing papers about the needs of different kinds of computer user and my contribution to an early issue of this journal was a paper on ‘the manager as a computer user’. Sociotechnical systems theory, because of its emphasis upon the way technical and human resources are deployed to serve the needs of a collective task, was particularly well suited to examining how effectively the task needs of each user were served by computer systems and in most cases we found they were very badly served with the result that many systems were either rejected or ‘worked around’.

Science Direct Link

Ken Eason, Afterword: The past, present and future of sociotechnical systems theory, In Applied Ergonomics, Volume 45, Issue 2, Part A, 2014, Pages 213-220, ISSN 0003-6870, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apergo.2013.09.017.