A quartet of our students – Alina Kislova, Jessica Heddenhausen, Mingru Li and Chinedu Nevo (pictured, left to right) – were at the ‘Social Sciences Impact Conference: Hope into Action’ at the University of Oxford’s St Anne’s College in March.
Although each had initially been unaware of the attendance of the others, they soon discovered each other within the close social sciences research community. So not only did the conference discuss the power of (international) research and collaboration, it also demonstrated the social sciences network in action!
Originating from Russia, Germany, China and Nigeria, the students were inspired by the host of cross-country research and international speakers (from Holland, Mexico, Spain and many more) who emphasised the importance of building impact through inclusive research and collaboration between academia, businesses and charities. For example, the University of Oxford works with the Autism Community Research Network Southampton (ACoRNS), investigating the views and experiences of marginalised autistic children and young people within education to reveal opportunities for social improvement.
The themes, ‘Social Sciences Impact’ and ‘Hope into Action’, framed discussions about the ecological impact in low and middle-income countries from the global south (such as issues of safe water), the legal impact of safeguarding children (from sexual exploitation), and the well-being impact of lifelong health and women’s health in the workplace, alongside business solutions that may advance the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
Expert panels, case studies, round table discussions, workshops and many more formats showcased the many possibilities for collaboration and knowledge transfer. A panel discussion on policy (particularly applicable to Jessica’s research on sustainable farming) and follow-up networking opportunities empowered the students with tools that will transform their own research into social science impact. Even promotional booths offered access to knowledge transfer partnerships and networks such as Oxentia, a training and consultancy service specialising in social impact from knowledge exchange and commercialisation, with whom the OU has also been involved.
Following the conference, the students walked through the streets of Oxford which reminded them of famous intellectuals, books and movie scenes! They discussed opportunities for collaboration and early career development that they hope will lead to similar impacts to those witnessed at the conference.
I attended the Responsible Business Conference 2023 at Chatham House in February which attracted many specialists from non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the business sector working on sustainability, corporate social responsibility (CSR) and corporate advocacy. Several panel sessions sparked debates on topics of geopolitical impact on businesses, sustainability strategies, and the pace and effort of tackling climate change. The conference’s general call was to think through new ways for corporate leaders to adopt more sustainable and responsible practices in conflict-affected and high-risk areas.
A few weeks later, I presented some of my PhD research findings at the University of Helsinki’s Russian Media Lab and spoke about the political responsibility of business in authoritarian regimes, taking the case of one Russian IT company. My presentation was well received by Finnish colleagues who are interested in building an understanding of their next door neighbour!
I presented my research during the Congress of the European Network of Qualitative Inquiry, hosted by the University of Portsmouth, in January 2023. This was on ‘The astronaut-phenomenon: a new-materialist exploration of the enactment of gender identities in the European Space Agency’.
As a first year PhD student at my first international conference, I felt very welcomed by such a supportive community. It offered a wonderful space to discuss and rethink my research in unexpected and creative ways within a (post)anthropocentric (‘human centred’) framework, sharing knowledge and thoughts with academics and students.
I presented at the 20th International Studying Leadership Conference (ISLC), hosted by the University of Sussex Business School, in December 2022. This was focused on the concept of apolitical leadership, which occurs when the business company chooses to stay beyond politics in a problematic political climate. This encourages a certain level of self-censorship among the employees and may lead to cases of ethical blindness or collective myopia when employees tend not to notice unethical practices of the company. The presentation was well received and I gained many great tips and advice.
The 19th annual Historical Materialism conference was held in-person at SOAS, London, in November 2022.
One of our attendees, Clark McAllister, said: “I was thrilled that my book, Karl Marx’s Workers’ Inquiry: International History, Reception, and Responses (pictured), was the basis for a discussion. The book, which was published by Notes From Below and is freely available online, collects translations and reproductions of Marx’s 1880 survey, The Workers’ Inquiry, from across the world.”
Reimagining Platforms was a one-day symposium (31 October 2022) at the University of Edinburgh, organised and funded in collaboration with the University of Toronto. The final keynote and morning sessions, which took the form of panel discussions preceded by short papers, presented a view of platforms as a media that can be studied materially, and the afternoon session instead foregrounded qualitative methods.
ISBE 2022, organised by the Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (ISBE), was my first in-person international conference, and it was quite a thrilling experience. I (shown far left of photo) attended the doctoral day and then the conference and it was true engagement with a wealth of knowledge for the three days in late October 2022.
The one-day doctoral day in Guildhall, York, was worth the attendance. I particularly liked the aesthetic of the venue which was medieval. This medieval history would later be described by one of the facilitators, for how it represented the entrepreneurial culture of York (a number of the items and pieces in the hall were from both ancient and modern enterprising craftsmen). The doctoral day was also a welcome avenue for my OU colleague and friend, Suzzie Aidoo, and I to comfortably meet some research students from other universities, within and outside the UK, prior to the main conference starting the following day. We all displayed our posters prepared for the doctoral day as an introduction to our studies and research area.
The presentations from leading UK academics – such as Prof Paul Jones from Swansea University and Prof Kiran Trehan from York University, and other inspiring academics (see here) – were truly interesting. These spanned introductory to more extensive explanations on areas around small business and related field on entrepreneurship, to also include discussions on useful methodologies in qualitative and quantitative studies. The doctoral day ended with granting awards to exceptional posters and a dinner in the evening to welcome and kick-off the conference the following day. I wasn’t able to attend but heard it was a warm and enjoyable one for all who did (as it was my day of arrival, I needed to do a little settling at the hotel in preparation for the next day).
I was part of the team of volunteers for the conference at the Principal York hotel, and it was a rewarding experience. A major challenge for me was having to memorise the different floors and rooms where the different tracks would take place. However, it eventually became a fun race between the volunteers, to settle delegates in the right track room or conference hall, and we’d have a little laugh as we passed each other doing this!
On this first day of the conference, I had a presentation in one of the tracks (social, environmental and ethical enterprise) and was relieved and glad that the presentation went better than I thought as I was nervous. I understood the kind words spoken in the morning that everyone present – both leading academics and students – were there to help the work and not tear it down. I was glad to have support from one of my supervisors, some old and new colleagues, and friends there to cheer and give feedback. We also attended each of our presentations to cheer, encourage and learn more about what we were studying.
I was a little nostalgic when it came to the end of the conference when we all had to leave. The next year’s location was announced and everyone was encouraged to keep the conversations and research growing as we got to know more about small business strategies contexts and process from around the world.
A final highlight was a little tour of York, with a couple other research students, just before heading to the station to catch our trains. I had an enjoyable and insightful time, meeting old friends and colleagues, making new ones and taking in the beauty and heritage of York. I look forward to my next conference adventure a bit more confidently, to definitely share and learn.
I also attended this conference, organised by the Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (ISBE 2022), in York in late October 2022, structured as a doctoral day and then the conference talks and presentations.
I attended the doctoral day activities which included sessions on developing articles for publications, undertaking a successful viva among others, and also participated in the doctoral poster presentations. The conference was focused on the theme, ‘New Approaches to Raising Entrepreneurial Opportunity: Reshaping inclusive Enterprise, Policy, and Practice Post-Pandemic’. Presentations focused on addressing inequalities, sustainability, strategies for leveraging new opportunities, and new models of engagement at the macro and meso levels of business and economic development.
I presented on some elements of my thesis in the ‘SME performance’ track on how firms can leverage all resources to enhance performance in this time of economic difficulty.