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Research into Employment, Empowerment and Futures

Societies and workplaces are experiencing profound change, driven by developments in technology, shifts in geo-political power and the climate emergency.

Rapid technological advances in computing, robotics and communications are revolutionising work, in more traditional manufacturing and industry but also in the service and platform sectors. Much of everyday working life is now automated, with the trend set to continue into knowledge-based and more skilled forms of work. Piecemeal, project-based or precarious work is becoming ever more normalised, raising all kinds of questions about the validity of established concepts of management, leadership and resistance beyond more traditional employment relations.

Meanwhile, as a menacing spectre on the horizon - and already ravaging significant parts of the planet, particularly the developing world - the climate emergency and the unequivocal need to make the world carbon neutral as soon as possible raises the urgent question of how to create sustainable economies and societies in a way that secures the future of the planet and all humans, animals and wildlife that inhabit it. 

This potent cocktail of forces and trends is with us and it is now only a matter of how organisations choose to respond - either in ways that disempower or in ways that offer a more empowering future for all members of society. The Research into Employment, Empowerment and Futures (REEF) academic centre of excellence is committed to the latter through pursuing research that:

  • furthers the egalitarian ethos of The Open University by exploring the potential for organisational innovations that empower
  • engages with diverse practice communities, be they employers committed to empowering futures, social movements seeking to shift social and political paradigms, labour organisations fighting for workers’ rights, civil sector organisations enriching awareness of injustices and new possible futures, or policymakers grappling with how to raise prosperity, productivity and wellbeing
  • pioneers innovative research in the field of organisation studies and in interdisciplinary study

Research update from the Director of REEF

REEF in detail

Themes People Research


Grace Blakeley: Recovering from the Corona Crash with a Green New Deal

Image of Grace BlakeleyCome and join esteemed author and economist Grace Blakeley for an online public lecture from The Open University’s Research into Employment, Empowerment and Futures (REEF) academic centre of excellence, as she discusses her new book, The Corona Crash.

The Corona crisis has devastated lives and economies, disproportionately harming the poorest and most vulnerable in our societies. So how do we build back in ways that enhance prosperity and health?

In this online public lecture, Grace Blakeley will draw on ideas from her new book, The Corona Crash (available to buy here), arguing that the pandemic will reshape the UK and global economies in profound ways. The question is not whether things will change, but how. This present moment therefore offers an opportunity to reshape the future in liberating ways. The time has come, Grace will argue, to organise for a Green New Deal, one that aligns climate justice with social and economic justice.

Register now

The 19th International Studying Leadership Conference

Important notice

This event is currently postponed until further notice.

More details of the conference including how to submit a paper or workshop idea will be publicised here in the coming months. In the meantime, for any queries regarding the event, please contact Owain Smolovic-Jones.

Find out more about our past events.

Contact us

To stay informed about REEF and to find out about any upcoming events, please contact us.