On Friday last (15th April) I attended a “Policy & Practice Think Tank” day hosted at the University of Oxford, part of a project called ASHPIT (Arts, Social Sciences & Humanities Policy & practice Implementation Think Tank). The theme of this gathering was enterprise, considering how to engage researchers from the Arts, Social Sciences & Humanities disciplines in the development of skills relating to entrepreneurship & enterprise.
I was asked to contribute because of my involvement in a project to develop resources on Social Enterprise which has now been released through the national Vitae networks and so I gave a short presentation of why we set about developing those resources in the first place. The presentation I gave can be found below.
There are many links to video resources contained within the presentation, click on the images to find out more!
There were two main things that came out of the day for me, one that I was happy with and the other left me feeling perplexed.
Firstly, there was a lot of interest in using social enterprise as a way to engage researchers, my basic argument is that many researchers are not inspired by attempts to improve their skills in enterprise, not because they don’t understand business and the commercial environment (I’m pretty sure that most researchers have a pretty good grasp of profit maximising business models) but are not driven or inspired by that culture. The difference with social enterprises is that whilst they are businesses that trade for profit, it is what happens to the profit that is inspiring. It is good to know that researchers feel inspired by solving problems in society.
The second thing for me was the underlying assumption that the discussions of the day seemed to propagate and it is this that has left me feeling uncomfortable. There were a few discussions around the need to create generic skills development resources and materials that are ‘specifically targeted towards the Arts, Social Sciences & Humanities disciplines’. I couldn’t help but question why. Why is there a perception that all skills development resources are only suited for researchers in STEM subjects (Science Technology, Engineering & Mathematics)? I’m not convinced that skills developers in ASH subjects need to reinvent their development programmes to accommodate discipline specific sensitivities. After all, a good generic development resource that is well facilitated will de facto span all disciplines…
But then I am a trained scientist so maybe I just don’t understand where the ASH researchers are coming from?
I’m a former researcher into the microbiology of the mouth who now runs a skills development programme for other researchers.