CBIS Project Reports
The Centre for Business in Society examines the impact – good or bad – of organisations’ activities, behaviours and policies on society, to promote responsibility and changed behaviours for the benefit of economies and societies.
Here you find project summaries for many of CBiS's recently completed funded projects. You can explore the teams, collaborators, project aims, key findings and the highlights.
Our research teams are (a) examining sustainable production and ethical consumption, which underpin the new circular economy; (b) searching for durable and inclusive economic growth and development models, which promote new partnerships between state, economy and society; (c) exploring at the national, organisational and individual level the economic and social impacts of the financial crisis and post-financialisation, with a focus on responsible personal finance and debt; and (d) addressing the implications of the digital era and big data for business and society, notably regarding the strategy, use, privacy and security of data in organisations and society.
The ReSSI Project
Good Practice for Local and Regional Authorities to Better Collaborate for Sustainable, Inclusive and Smart Development
Dr Carlos Ferreira, Professor Stewart MacNeill and Dr Kevin Broughton successfully delivered the ReSSI research project’s final deliverables (with 3 other EU partner universities) to ‘ESPON’ in January 2018. The research aimed to identify good practice for local and regional authorities to better collaborate for sustainable, inclusive and smart development across Europe.
The Centre for Business in Society at Coventry University has led an EC-funded research group helping local and regional authorities to develop their economies. Locally, the findings will help Coventry City Council develop new partnerships and collaborations across the West Midlands after Brexit.
Local and regional development and cohesion are common objectives of European, national and local policymakers. While there is an important role for regional and local administrations, post the 2008 financial crisis they have fewer financial resources and, in many cases, diminished regulatory powers. It is, therefore, necessary for them to coordinate their actions within national frameworks and also to work alongside a range of other stakeholders including businesses, charities and organisations of civil society.
The objective of the ReSSI project was to examine good practice in local and regional development in this changing environment. The project was collaboration between four stakeholder administrations and universities in the UK (Coventry City Council and Coventry University), Denmark (Region of Southern Denmark and University of Copenhagen), Italy (Piedmont Region and Polytechnic University of Turin) and Portugal (Municipality of Oeiras and University of Lisbon).
The research was financed by the EC through ESPON - the European Spatial Planning Observation Network. ESPON provides evidence, knowledge transfer and policy learning to public authorities and other policy actors at all levels throughout Europe and recommends improvements to European Cohesion Policy.
The cases analysed included both sectoral and territorial initiatives:
- Electric Taxi Infrastructure and the UK Autodrive Self-Guided Vehicles project (Coventry);
- Developing and Coordinating Strategic Regional Growth Plans (Southern Denmark);
- Creating Ecological Corridors connecting regional parks and Overcoming Urban/Rural Dichotomies (Piedmont);
- Creating a Green and Blue Park to improve connectivity and enhance environmental and cultural assets (Oeiras).
Although the case studies are diverse, the findings suggest a similarity of needs and priorities – with common implications for future EU Cohesion policy and for future regional funding in Britain. Common to all cases was a focus on communication between all stakeholders.
Local and regional authorities can bring businesses and civil society together, and help translate their objectives and preferences into ideas to be developed. It was also found that the individuals working in local and regional authorities are often the most important piece of the economic development puzzle.
Despite reductions in funding, local and regional administrations still have a vital coordinating role and are important repositories of tacit, ‘know-how’, knowledge and have a strong role in defining funding priorities and in governing strategies and projects. However, given the financial constraints, it is important to align strategic planning and funding streams, to simplify the integration of funds and to enhance their flexibility.
Regarding Coventry itself, the findings from ReSSI will help Coventry City Council in developing new forms of collaboration. In particular:
- Promoting the West Midlands region as a test-bed for product testing and market development - to help build relationships with businesses while also rebuilding lost tacit knowledge;
- Building the role of Local Authorities as brokers amongst private and public-sector stakeholders, and providing a store of know-how on regional development;
- Devoting a portion of funding to promote cooperation across the West Midlands region since productive cooperation amongst regional policymakers needs to be fostered.
The most recent project deliverables can be found on the Espon ReSSI webage.
A video of all ESPON research project policy pitches can be found here.
Responsible Community Finance
Responsible Community Finance Research and Impact Programme
Over the past eighteen months, through rapid team creation and development, the innovative Responsible Community Finance Research and Impact Programme in CBiS has brought together and delivered a set of five simultaneously awarded but independent impact-led projects.
Working beyond individual projects, a ‘research programme’ designed to build financially resilient and sustainable UK communities has been created, delivering enhanced value within impact communities including students, community, policy-makers and practitioners.
Responsible Community Finance has been led by Professor Nick Henry, Professor Sally Dibb and Dr Lindsey Appleyard, supported by an integrated team of highly motivated CBiS researchers, PGRs and research support.
These impact projects were co-produced with key community stakeholders, to achieve maximum impacts throughout and beyond project lifetimes. Such an approach enhances impact, but adds delivery complexity. Given the multiple project wins, complexity, the need for skilled sustained capacity at speed, and the potential of critical mass and synergies, a number of actions were taken to create a ‘research programme’:
- Joint funding of two Research Associates across these projects and the career development of PGRs to support delivery;
- Joint project team meetings to coordinate, communicate, and plan capacity and capability across the five project work programmes;
- Joint output activity: paper writing, reports, social media, academic/practitioner conferences, a CBiS stakeholder conference (June 2018), advocacy meetings, consultation responses.
The team has worked collaboratively in each project with key stakeholders to co-produce the bids, undertake the research and drive impact. The creation of materials that that can be used for teaching and learning resources or for research outputs has maximised impact.
The Responsible Community Finance team has created impact within internal Coventry University communities, such as:
- Developing the research training, transferable employment skills and experience of CBiS Doctoral students and early career researchers, through a range of programme and project activities, working alongside more experienced team members and research leaders;
- Financial capability training of CU Coventry (College) students and provision of associated learning materials.
The Programme has made a considerable impact externally. It will now form a REF2021 Impact Case Study, given that it has supported and created positive outcomes for financially marginalised communities by:
- Enhancing the affordable, responsible finance sector;
- Promoting individual financial wellbeing.
- Enhancing the affordable, responsible finance sector
Each research project has been co-designed to undertake research key to stakeholder issues (payday lending, ethical alternatives, financial literacy, etc.) and to support sectoral, practitioner and service change. Examples include:
- AHRC Impact Project: Two documents are available to UK Credit Unions at the ABCUL Credit Union Trade Association website. Two leading experts from Australia were hosted to share lessons on improving levels of lending responsibility. HM Treasury and Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) were triggered by the project to visit these experts in Australia.
- Oak Foundation Project: research reports on ‘scaling affordable finance’ supply to marginalised communities are available at sector trade body Responsible Finance, see http://responsiblefinance.org.uk/policy-research/publications/. For part of their communications and advocacy strategy, see http://responsiblefinance.org.uk/2018/02/responsible-finance-calls-for-credit-reference-agencies-to-do-more-to-support-financial-inclusion/. These reports have directly resulted in invitations to meet with HM Treasury Consumer Credit Unit (April 2018) and to present at the prestigious Responsible Finance Annual Conference (March ’18) and the Centre for Responsible Credit Annual Conference (CfRC, April ’18).
- Barrow Cadbury Trust/Carnegie UK Trust: Interim findings presented at CFrC due to high level interest in this research on the impact of regulation of payday loans and financial inclusion. Joint report London launch in July 2018.
- Conference presentations delivered alongside the launch of the End High-Cost Credit Alliance founded by actor Michael Sheen, who attended both conferences. See http://responsiblefinance.org.uk/2018/03/michael-sheens-speech-at-responsible-finance-2018/. Some CU project materials are hosted under Resources at https://the-alliance.org.uk/.
- Promoting individual financial wellbeing
- In the Money Advice Service funded ‘What Works?’ project, the team collaborated with the Open University and with the Social Publishing Project http://www.socialpublishingproject.com/, Community Action:MK https://communityactionmk.org/2017/11/21/our-work-community-connectors-help-improve-financial-wellbeing/, Swan Credit Union in Milton Keynes, CU Coventry, Coventry and East District and New Central Credit Unions in Coventry.
Through this partnering, these organisations were helped to understand and engage with their members/clients/students to deliver tailored financial capability programmes to ‘financially squeezed’ individuals. The materials were delivered in different formats: in print; on a one-to-one basis; via housing associations; through workshops; and via an online MOOC. Those participating reported improvements to their financial capabilities, in some cases using their learning to help family and friends with their finances.
This has been a cutting-edge programme designed to build financially resilient and sustainable communities, based on a portfolio of inter-linked work which has placed CBiS visibly on the responsible personal finance map.
The CBiS Team included Dr Lindsey Appleyard (Research Fellow, Project PI), Dr Hussan Aslam (Research Assistant), Dr Elizabeth Bos (Senior Research Assistant), Dr Sara Degli Esposti (Research Fellow), Professor Sally Dibb (Project PI), Professor Nick Henry (Project PI), Dr Andrew Jones (Research Assistant), Jordon Lazell (Research Assistant), Dr Alessandro Merendino (Research Assistant), Dr John Morris (Research Assistant), Dr Helen Roby (Research Fellow) and Dr Yun Luo (Post-Doctoral Research Fellow). Ably supported by CBiS Doctoral students Huma Asif, Rebecca Beech, Claire Brewis, Ryan Bushell, Isabel Galvis, Duncan Greaves and Sanne Velthuis.
Further details are available from:
Warwickshire Rural Electric Vehicles Evaluation
EVs are a significant and fast-developing part of the automotive sector. Too little research has considered their likely adoption from the consumer’s perspective, especially not in a rural setting. Funded by DEFRA and supported by policy-makers in Warwickshire, this study assessed the views of SME users part of an embedded and extensive trial in rural Warwickshire.
Dr Andrew Jones and Dr Jason Begley successfully completed the evaluation of the WREV trial in late 2016, moving to a set of dissemination activities in 2017. This project was also supported by Richard Brooks, Prof Nigel Berkeley, Dr Elizabeth Bos and Dr David Jarvis.
The Centre for Business in Society (CBiS), on behalf of Greenwatt Technologies, led the evaluation of the WREV trial between May 2014 and June 2016. The project, which was funded by DEFRA through the Rural Growth Network, provided SMEs operating in rural Warwickshire grant funding to lease an electric vehicle (EV) for up to a two-year period. An overview of the trial is available at: http://www.greenwatt.co.uk/warwickshire-rural-electric-vehicle-project-wrev/project-overview/
WREV was particularly important due to the focus on rural businesses. Many demonstrator trials have been predisposed towards urban users meaning that the concerns and habits of rural drivers are often overlooked. The commercial element of the trial, and the addition of an EV to a business fleet provided another distinction from other schemes which have largely focused on consumers. A total of seventeen businesses adopted an EV as part of this extensive trial, with these organisations representing a diverse range of economic sectors. Traditional rural businesses, such as those operating in farming, were joined by SMEs from newer economic sectors such as renewable technologies and IT.
As project evaluators, the research team for CBiS performed two key roles. Firstly, the research team was responsible for the production of monthly reports which were sent to users in order to provide an assessment of usage and estimated savings. These data were collected from loggers fitted to the vehicles which recorded aspects such as mileage, travel time, energy used, and number of trips. On the basis of these data, estimations surrounding savings, in terms of fuel costs and emissions, were calculated. Secondly, alongside producing these reports, the research team was responsible for evaluating the outcomes of the trial and assessing user feedback. First-hand insights were secured from the trial participants in order to understand aspects such as usage patterns and to ascertain whether using an EV had benefitted their organisation.
In terms of the key findings of the evaluation, the evidence collected from WREV indicated that businesses generally used their vehicles for localised trips. Although this was shaped by business demand, there were instances where users expressed concerns surrounding the driving range of the EVs. This ‘range anxiety’ reflects a common argument emerging from most studies of EVs, but for rural motorists this is somewhat more challenging due to the larger travel distances they often face and the lack of a rural charging infrastructure.
For several businesses, the trial EV enabled them to extend their activities through operating a delivery service, a provision which was unaffordable with a conventionally fuelled vehicle. Other SMEs used their vehicle to as a form of ‘shuttle’ using it to move staff or visit clients or different sites. Alternatively, some businesses also found that there were unexpected benefits in terms of marketing and PR. The trial found evidence to suggest, for those rural SMEs with defined usage patterns, the EV was an effective tool to support business activities.
The evaluation of WREV also found some challenges for EV users in rural areas. Many participants considered the availability of public charging in these areas to be inadequate. For some users this impacted on their use of the vehicle as they wanted to complete longer trips but could not due to concerns over this infrastructure. Although the majority of participants expressed a desire to continue with EV technology in their business, some users stated that choices surrounding their vehicle fleet would be influenced by cost. Without the on-going support from WREV, the vehicle was considered to be unaffordable or unattractive due to the range constraints. This suggests that there are limits to the desire to continue with EVs despite the largely positive feedback from users.
There were a number of recommendations arising from the research
- Increase the level of public charging infrastructure in rural locations
- Consider EV car share schemes as an ownership model
- Improve information availability on EVs and ensure technical support is offered to users
- Ensure that any future trial comes with charge point installation
- Target EVs at rural businesses/motorists with consistent usage patterns
The research findings were disseminated at an event in Stoneleigh in November 2016. The event, was part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science week and was attended by the triallists, funders, EV providers, analysts and the media.
Electric Vehicles: Solving the rural mobility challenge?
A full report on the WREV trial is available at: http://www.greenwatt.co.uk/warwickshire-rural-electric-vehicle-project-wrev/wrev-report/
Further details are available from Dr Andrew Jones or Dr Jason Begley in the Centre for Business in Society:
The CARNiVAL Project
Factors Impacting Upon the Planned and Unplanned Legacy Outcomes of Mega-Events and Their Implications for Stakeholders – The CARNiVAL Project
Dr Ian Brittain (Co-ordinator and Co-PI) and Dr Eva Kipnis (Co-PI) successfully delivered the final report to the European Union in January 2018. The research aimed to investigate what factors impact upon the planned and unplanned legacy outcomes of mega-events and their implications for stakeholders.
The Centre for Business in Society at Coventry University led a four-year European Commission funded research group investigating the factors that impact upon the planned and unplanned legacy outcomes of sporting and non-sporting mega-events and their implications for stakeholders aimed at strengthening the measurable positive legacy impacts of future events, helping to pinpoint and downplay the impact of possible negative legacy impacts. This was a Marie Curie International Research Staff Exchange Scheme (IRSES) project aimed at the sharing of knowledge and experience between partners.
The project was a collaboration between five universities from five countries, two in Europe and three international. They were Coventry University (UK), Technical University of Munich (Germany), North Carolina State University (USA), the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) and Cape Peninsula University of Technology (South Africa). The project ran from November 2013 to November 2017, with a budget of €852,600.
The key project objectives were:
- To examine multiple contextual understandings of the impacts of mega-events, including social, economic, cultural, political, environmental and technological impacts, by recognising research synergies between partners and developing an extensive research portfolio of activity and outputs.
- To understand, through comparative analyses of impacts of different types of mega-events best practices in defining and managing mega-event impacts at future events.
- To establish an active network of expertise on impacts of mega-events and realising potential impacts in the EU, the Americas and South Africa, through conferences, workshops and other activities.
- To provide opportunities for research on cutting-edge sustainable management practices, to ensure that future potential mega-event impacts (such as economic, social, cultural, technological impacts) are maximised.
The research focused upon all three stages of the event process (pre-event, the event itself and post-event), with a range of issues and impacts to be considered at both the micro and macro level and looked at both sporting and non-sporting events using a case study approach.
Main Results Achieved
- An advanced conceptualisation of the multi-faceted nature of the legacy phenomenon, which is highlighted in over eighty peer reviewed journal articles and book chapters published thus far, as well as over one hundred conference presentations, with three of these presentations winning awards for best research.
- A book was also published by Routledge, entitled Legacies and Mega-Events: Fact or Fairy Tales?, made up of contributions from international experts (including project partners), as well as shorter chapters written by experienced and early career researchers from the project.
- A key element of the knowledge exchange within the project was the organisation of six PhD schools (three in South Africa and one each in Austria, the UK and the USA), providing the opportunity for staff and particularly PhD students to demonstrate their work to an international audience and receive feedback in a supportive environment.
- In order to mark the publication of the book and the end of the project, a one day symposium was held at Coventry University, attracting an international audience and leading to some very interesting discussions as well as on-going collaborations.
- Continued collaboration between a number of the project partners including journal articles and further bids.
Expected Final Results and their Potential Impact and Use
The project sought to identify best practices which enable potential impacts to be realised in light of hosting such events. This will enhance knowledge and understanding, as well as encourage stakeholders to adopt sustainable and responsible mega-event management guidelines. The results of this project have the potential to provide tools to ensure the maximum return on investment for hosts in bidding for hosting mega-events, taking into consideration the type of event and a wide range of contextual influences, such as culture, time, political and economic factors. We took a trans-national comparative approach to examine cultural differences in managing impacts of mega-events, primarily focusing on our project partners in South Africa, Brazil, the United Kingdom, the United States and Germany.
Further details are available from Dr Ian Brittain in the Centre for Business in Society:
Dr Ian Brittain
Ian was joined on this project from partners across the globe.
Community Action Platform for Energy (CAPE)
Community Action Platform for Energy - The CAPE Project
Professor Sally Dibb and Dr Helen Roby, between 2015 and 2017 delivered a study to explore what it takes to get communities involved in local energy projects. The project was funded by Innovate UK and delivered in partnership with SmartKlub (a smart energy SME), the Satellite Applications Catapult, Tech Mahindra, The Open University, Milton Keynes Council and Community Action MK. Initially based in the Milton Keynes area, the study results are being used to roll the project out to other parts of the country.
CAPE is an innovative pilot project to develop an interactive and free-to-use platform that puts Big Data tools in the hands of communities. This data helps businesses and communities make their energy use cheaper and more sustainable and enables them to plan and run community energy projects. Platform users have access to data tools which bring together satellite images and heat maps of local buildings, energy performance and usage data, and socio-demographic information. Using clever algorithms to combine these different data sources means users can find out, for example, how much energy they might generate or how much money they could save on their heating bills by installing solar panels to their roofs or putting ground source heat pumps in their gardens. The platform also provides practical information on how to organise community energy projects and access funding. Ultimately, the aim is to enable collaborative working between a city’s communities, local authorities and suppliers.
The CBiS research team developed an in-depth understanding of what motivates communities to engage in community energy projects. The project found a range of motivations, both tangible and less tangible. Tangible motivations included reduced household energy costs and improved levels of comfort, as well as creating jobs for local trades people. Less tangible benefits focussed on issues around community cohesion and identity, leading to a sense of empowerment that sparked interest in other community projects.
For the purposes of this project, community was defined in various ways. The communities did not necessarily have to identify themselves as energy communities. Although some had been established specifically with this aim in mind, others became involved in energy projects after being set up for other reasons. This group ranged from local women’s groups and hobby societies, to sports clubs and faith communities. However, having inspirational leadership and uniting behind a common goal were important indicators of success.
Throughout the project engagement with stakeholders was a key element of the work, where representatives of the community were involved in the co-design and testing of the platform. Other ways in which stakeholders were involved through the engagement work undertaken by Community Action:MK included:
- Community field trial in the Lakes Estate in Milton Keynes, giving residents the opportunity to swap to more efficient LED lightbulbs and get involved in other community energy projects. 700 lightbulbs were swapped, with an estimated lifetime saving of just under £30,000.
- CAPE’s participation in Community Energy fortnight 24/6-9/7/17
- CAPE’s participation in the Off-Grid Solar Lighting Project – May 2017
- Presentation at one of the local secondary schools about CAPE, which linked to the Eco Schools campaign.
- 3 ‘pop up’ events in Milton Keynes to showcase CAPE: two at Moorlands Centre in Beanhill and one at the Breastfeeding Cafe at the King’s Community Centre in Wolverton.
The CAPE project has received several awards for the platform and its engagement work:
- Smart Cities UK 2017 award under the Housing category – for projects that improve the standard of living for homeowners and support low cost living.
- Green Business Social Impact Award 2017.
Work continues through dissemination at academic conferences, including the International Sustainable Transitions Conference in Manchester, 2018; the British Institute of Energy Economics – Consumers at the Heart of the Energy System? in Oxford, 2018; and, the British Academy of Management Conference in Bristol, 2018.