• The Isle of Man: All dressed up but nowhere to go. Can place branding and marketing strategies help turn around the fortunes of the Isle of Man?

      Moss, Danny; Ashford, Ruth; Clements, Florida (University of Chester, 2020-11)
      Place branding and marketing has become one of the tools employed in the competition between countries and cities for attracting businesses, investments and a talented workforce. Place branding and its underlying factors, place identity and place image, have been widely researched especially in the last two decades, however it is yet to be agreed upon models and frameworks which can assist practitioners in their day-to-day activity. Through investigating the role of place identity in place branding strategies, this research aims to explore how place branding strategies can help the IoM to enhance its image and attract businesses and a talented workforce. Identification of a place brand model or framework would assist the IoM brand managers in their efforts to show the IoM as an attractive location for businesses and workers. This research was conducted adopting a social constructionist philosophy and following an interpretivist theoretical perspective. The focus of the research is placed on comparing and contrasting how the Isle of Man is perceived by local and relocated business people with how it is portrayed through the IoM government websites, providing a contrast between place identity and place brand identity. Therefore 15 interviews are analysed using thematic analysis and six IoM government websites are analysed using qualitative content analysis. From the findings emerged a strong sense of ambiguity when looking at the IoM as a place for business and as a place of residence highlighting the fact that people’s perceptions about places are not one dimensional. This finding supports the suggestion that places have multiple identities. Also some of the characteristics of the IoM were aligned with what was presented in the websites, but other characteristics did not, which coincided with dissatisfaction for the respondents. These findings suggest that misalignment of certain place brand attributes with place identity coincides with dissatisfaction, however the source of dissatisfaction is not the misalignment but rather the quality of the attributes not matching the expectations. Classification of the place brand attributes that give rise to dissatisfaction or satisfaction is identified as an important factor in developing the place brand strategies. The contribution of this research is focused on making a difference to business practices by offering a practical solution; an adaptation of the Two-factor Theory is suggested as a tool that could aid the process of brand attribute classification. The application of the Two-factor Theory could assist the IoM brand managers to monitor and develop the alignment of place identity with place brand identity. Whilst the adaptation of the Two-factor theory has already been confirmed in product branding, further quantitative research could help in establishing its reliability and validity for place branding.
    • The management of continuing professional development in General Further Education Colleges when intentionally aiming to improve Ofsted inspection from an ‘inadequate’ or ‘requires improvement’ grading to ‘good’.

      Flanda, Wilfrid, T (University of ChesterUniversity of Chester, 2018-09)
      The area of teachers’ continuing professional development (CPD) is in the spotlight. This study considers the range of CPD opportunities that are implemented for teachers in General Further Education Colleges (GFECs) following an “inadequate” or “requires improvement” Ofsted inspection in order to achieve a future grading of “good”. The study draws on specific theoretical insights from the literature concerned with teacher professional development in the Further Education (FE) sector. In doing so, the study evaluates the spectrum of CPD models that were on offer within eleven GFECs that took part in the study by using a constant comparative approach. Using data generated from the eleven GFECs and also Kennedy’s (2014b) framework of CPD models as a lens for analysis, I identified five CPD models, which I then classified in relation to their top-down or developmental approach, and also the extent to which the activities identified underpinned professional autonomy and transformative practice. Using CPD as the point of analysis, the study investigates eleven GFECs, and whether the approach taken by the various colleges, prioritises individual or collective development. It then goes on to examine the contribution of resources, roles and responsibilities of individuals and teams within the particular context in which they operated. The findings generated from this study argue that continuous improvement is the result of a change in culture that is initiated by the Senior Leadership Team (SLT) and middle managers, and the success of this cultural change hinges on a series of mechanisms that support the achievement of “higher standards” in teaching and learning.
    • Managers Managing Stress at Work: Exploring the experiences of managers managing employee stress in the social housing sector

      Wall, Tony; Foster, Scott; Parkyn, Matthew (University of ChesterUniversity of Chester, 2019-07)
      This research has explored how seventeen middle managers in the social housing sector manage employee stress and the reasons they take the approach they do. The research has been conducted in response to the increased prevalence of workplace stress. While workplace stress and mental well-being continues to rise up the political and business agenda; the most recent statistics from national and international organisations identify that the management of stress in the workplace needs to be improved. Workplace stress is a global issue for which the related direct and indirect costs are only beginning to be quantified, although the estimated cost of work-related depression in Europe is €617 billion per year. Furthermore, there is a trend towards devolving responsibility for managing workplace stress to individual managers. Despite their increasing responsibilities for managing stress at work, middle managers often lack the authority, skills and capacity to make the changes required to prevent workplace stress. Evidence suggests that middle managers are in a complex and challenging position between their superiors and more junior staff which can exposes them to role related stressors. The United Kingdom (UK) social housing sector is a particularly complex and vital one, comprising of a variety of private, public and charitable enterprises that build, manage and maintain housing stock. The complexities, political and financial challenges facing the sector expose middle managers and their staff to an increased risk of work-related stress. This study adopted a constructivist philosophy, relativist ontology and subjectivist epistemological position. Semi structured interviews were conducted with seventeen middle managers working in the social housing sector in an attempt to explore and better understand how they approach managing work-related stress experienced by the employees. The findings of this study are that, in contrast to what the extant literature recommends, participants adopt predominantly reactive approaches to managing employee stress and deploy mostly secondary and tertiary stress management interventions. The study also found that the participants tend to focus on managing stress caused by workload, relationships at work and home-work interface. Furthermore, this study contributes new insights into how middle managers are managing stress in practice such as, using their personal experiences of managing their own stress and by observing the behaviours and practices of other managers. This study also highlights a number of contemporary stressors in the context of the social housing sector. These contributions provide new practical insights into how middle managers might more effectively manage stress in the workplace. The need and focus of this research arose from the researcher’s practice as an occupational health and safety consultant working with social housing providers across the UK. His work involves advising housing providers and their middle managers on matters of employee stress and health. Often this advice is sought when the employee is already unwell and needs help to recover. This reactive approach to workplace stress is contrary to what UK health and safety (H&S) law requires and is known to be ineffective in tackling stress at work. The researcher’s professional experience in the housing sector and the trend in devolving responsibility for managing stress at work to middle managers, provided the initial spark for this research.
    • Medium and large family businesses of North West England as learning organisations

      Harris, Phil; Lam, Wing; Page, Steve; Passikku Hannadige, Yimashi S. (University of Chester, 2020-10-30)
      This study is an exploration of the learning strategies of family businesses in the North West of England, within the framework of the theory of the Learning Organisation (LO). The main purpose of this study is to explore and evaluate the notion of the Learning Organisation and to investigate its prevalence and application to the Family Business sector within North West England. To date, a very limited amount of studies focused on the characteristics of the LO within the medium and large family business context. Therefore, this study contributes to knowledge by determining practical guidance for implementing LO characteristics that can be applied to family businesses. The study used a qualitative methodology, associated with the social constructivist and interpretivist paradigm. Six medium and large family businesses operating in North West England were chosen to facilitate the qualitative research. In the North West of England, medium and large family businesses have complex features which create high demand for owners and employees to adopt learning strategies discussed in the LO concept which makes it an ideal context to explore the prevalence and the application of LO characteristics. This research makes a number of contributions to knowledge. Firstly, through review and analysis of the currently available theoretical work from more than 40 LO theorists and practitioners spanning the last four decades. The development of this “theoretical frame of reference” and the terminology used for identifying and analysing of LO characteristics is not only seen as a vital fundamental step in the course of this thesis, but also as a major contribution to providing structure and improving the future academic study of LO. Second, findings from the study suggest that medium and large family businesses have shown the existence of some of the LO characteristics within the three main levels of the organisations. The notable findings of the research are that medium and large family businesses need to develop a learning culture with organisational learning to incorporate with the business strategy and provide a transformational leadership so as to achieve the possibility of becoming a LO. The findings identify that family businesses in the North West region have the potential to become Learning Organisations should they implement the proposed recommendations and changes to their currently family business models. Third, the thesis makes a methodological contribution by introducing a model of Learning Organisations which specifically relates to family businesses. Furthermore, this model aims to facilitate a learning culture that suggests family businesses adopt key characteristics of the LO for continuous improvement, collective learning, and enhancement of performance.
    • Mothers undertaking part-time Doctoral study: Experiences, Perceptions and Implications

      Stokes, Peter; Cronshaw, Suzanne (University of Chester, 2017-03)
      This thesis explores the lived experience of women with children, i.e. ‘mothers’ undertaking part-time doctoral study and considers the challenges and conflicts that arise from what Brown & Watson (2010) describe as ‘dual lives’, managing the doctoral student role with the roles of mother and worker. The research aimed to consider extant conceptualisations and understandings so that alternative discourses could emerge, viewing the part-time doctoral experience through the lens of mothers. This was undertaken through the analysis and application of conceptual frameworks that fuse Communities of Practice (Wenger 2008), Self-Determination Theory (Deci & Ryan 1985), Self-Categorization Theory (Turner 1987) and Lived Experience (Manen 1990). The marginalized voices of ‘Mothers doing doctorates’ provide a new perspective on the ‘non-traditional’ PhD student experience, allowing a deeper understanding of the challenges facing this ‘community’ by identifying and analysing key themes of identity, motivation, feelings and beliefs within a framework of communities of practice. Identifying Wenger’s Communities of Practice as a framework for discussion, a model was developed in relation to the field data to understand the women’s experiences of part-time PhD study. This model focused on four key areas: learning as belonging, learning as becoming, learning as doing and learning as experience. Each area related to a major theme in the women’s experience, that of identity, motivation, the student experience and their own feelings and perceptions about themselves and the process. The findings determine the process of studying for a PhD provided the women with a means of identity expression that had previously been stifled through the adoption of the role of being a ‘mum’. Through part-time doctoral study, this sense of re-awakening both intellectually and personally provided women with a renewed sense of positivity and confidence, demonstrating a resistance against the dominant ideology that dictates women’s ‘natural’ place is in full-time motherhood (Hughes 2002). It provided them intellectual stimulus and allowed them a voice, that the mother role had smothered as it was not in-keeping with the in-group identities highlighted by the women as central to their public and private domain. The academic development of the women helped them to ii see themselves as ‘worthy’, strengthening their own identity as they developed a redefined sense of self. In securing data from thirty-five women, this research provides an original insight into the experiences of an obscured and marginalised group. The combination of narrative and autoethnographic methods has surfaced original data that highlights the experiences and impact of part-time PhD study on women with children. The contribution to current thinking around part-time PhDs is the critique of extant normative practice, this research illustrates and exemplifies how these existing processes marginalise mothers doing part-time doctorates and points to new approaches in practice.
    • A practical and theoretical approach to assessing Micro-Enterprise brand image signals

      Davies, Gary; Lam, Wing; Leong, Kelvin; Wang, Dian (University of Chester, 2021-10)
      This thesis aims to investigate how Micro Enterprises (MEs) communicate their brand image to their markets. The research takes a comparative approach and examines firms in both the UK and China. The main theoretical base for the work is that of the Stereotype Content Model (SCM) which holds that entities with humanistic associations (including brands and corporate brands) are automatically judged for their ‘warmth’ (trustworthiness, sincerity, supportiveness) and their ‘competence’ (effectiveness, efficiency). The status (prestigious, glamorous) of the entity is also included in the SCM model but as an antecedent to competence judgements. Recent work alternatively considers it as a dimension of imagery which is automatically judged by customers. The methodology is a mixed method and has three interlinked pieces of work, the first two of which are more exploratory and the last more confirmatory. A case study approach first explored the signalling of 14 MEs using in-depth, semi-structured interviews with their owner-managers. A thematic analysis of content showed that managers emphasize their competence and that fewer provided unprompted examples of status positioning. The second study involved the content analysis of parts of 66 ME websites labelled ‘who we are’ or similar. Competence descriptors were again the most frequent followed by warmth and then status items. The two studies evidence that MEs signal competence, warmth, and status but in that order of emphasis. An experimental study was conducted where the status signalling of a fictitious ME (a gift company) was manipulated. It explored why MEs use the signal less and test whether this changes the perceived competence of the company and the purchase intention and person-brand congruence of potential customers. The increase in status did not increase competence and it reduced outcome behaviour and warmth. As warmth explains consumer attitude best, using the status signal can reduce potential sales. This holds regardless of country (the UK and China), and control variable values. However, perceived higher prices and giving too much irrelevant information mediated and therefore explain the effect of status on consumer attitude. The main effects were positive, but the indirect effects were negative due to perceived higher prices and irrelevant information. Finally, all variables considered in this study were tested using Structural Equation Modelling, adding to the insights from the final study The primary contribution is to better understand how MEs communicate their imagery to their market. SCM thinking is also tested and developed in the context of ME marketing and recommendations made for its adaption.
    • Professional ‘lived’ experiences of middle managers in Further Education (FE) colleges in Wales: A study of the impact of major change

      Rowland, Caroline; Moss, Danny; Walford, Robert (University of Chester, 2019-01-14)
      Merger organizational change has been prolific across Wales and has significantly affected all Further Education (FE) colleges. The main merger driver was to reduce operational costs, whilst in the pursuit of increased organizational and departmental efficiencies and effectiveness. An imperative to widening access to education, an increase in the quality of curriculum provision and a need to reduce duplication of curriculum programmes were also important considerations. It is these changes that have shaped college organizations and the college middle manager role, post-merger, with a resulting impact on middle managers professional ‘lived’ experiences. The author’s research examines the effect of merger on the middle manager role and the influence of the college context on the ‘lived’ experiences of middle managers managing curriculum departments. The review of the literature highlights key relationships between mainstream management and the college middle manager role, as well as the influences likely to have an impact on this role. The author has developed a conceptual model with key elements consisting of professional ‘lived’ experiences of middle managers and role construct and behaviour, management and leadership. This study is exploratory in nature and uses a social constructionist philosophical approach. A subjectivist epistemology was adopted for this study, with the researcher applying a thematic analysis and an investigation of multiple realities. Data for this research was collected from in-depth semi-structured interviewees, which gave interviewees the opportunity to highlight their specific day-to-day professional ‘lived’ work experiences. The research study outlines a number of conclusions, which accord with this study’s specific research objectives and recommendations. In the post-merger era, the middle manager role has become more complex and challenging. Conclusions indicate a broader role for the middle manager, and a role defined by the college’s professional context, which contributes to influencing the college middle manager role. This study contributes to the field of academic study, and to professional practice. It provides insights to understanding the role of middle managers in the FE sector and also offers recommendations for college strategy and policy. Finally, it highlights opportunities for further research in Wales and beyond.
    • The roots and uses of marketing knowledge: A critical inquiry into the theory and practice of marketing

      Ashford, Ruth; Stokes, Peter; Smith, Terence D. (University of Chester, 2019-03-19)
      This thesis engages with the vital conversation about the nature, roots and uses of marketing knowledge, looking beyond the traditional reification of practice in theory and verification of theory in practice, making an original and imaginative contribution to marketing in the conceptualisation and creation of an integrative Marketing Knowledge Process Model. The ontology of this study is anchored in subjective individual meaning; the epistemological stance assumes that this meaning is socially constructed, grounded in context. Consequently, rich empirical data extracted from a comprehensive range of marketing constituencies - academics, practitioners, managers, consultants, authors, lecturers and students - are analysed in the interpretive paradigm using a phenomenological methodology with grounded theory data capture and thematic analysis. In its examination of the polarities, hybridity and iterative flow of marketing knowledge creation and consumption, the framework which has evolved presents a unique perspective on the ideologically-driven power relations implicit in the theory/practice dichotomy debate. In place of duality, this new scholarly structure, and its accompanying argument, adds valuable insights into the theoretical, practical and pedagogical representation of marketing and introduces a feasible, holistic perspective created in marketing praxis which posits a cohesive argument for a theory/practice bipartite fusion not dichotomy.
    • The sources of trust: An empirical study of trust and suspension in the Arve valley industrial district

      Stokes, Peter; Mathews, Martin V. C. (University of Chester, 2013)
      Strong trust based relationships are one of the pillars of the communitarian model of industrial districts. District literature calls upon trust in order to explain several elements of the model. The existence of trust may explain how a highly fragmented and essentially local value chain reduces transaction costs compared with an integrated firm. It may also allow for closer ties where up to date pertinent information and innovative ideas are transferred between firms. Trusting, long term relationships and district networks are also evoked in the literature as being, in themselves, sources of competitive advantage. Yet despite large sections of district literature calling upon trust to explain the existence and efficiency of industrial districts, few scholars have investigated empirically the sources of trust in local ties. In depth semi-directive interviews with small firm managers in the Arve Valley industrial district near Geneva were analysed in order to examine the context and quality of intra-district relationships (mainly supplier and peers) which were then ompared with extra-district links with clients. The sources of trust are analysed by applying Möllering’s (2006) model of trust based on reason, routine and reflexivity. Findings indicate that managers rely more on a rational calculation of partner’s motives than ‘blind’ adherence to local, historical norms of behaviour. This finding contributes to the view that districts are organizational fields where agents possess large amounts of information about markets, technologies and partners. Managers also demonstrate a willingness to maintain local links over the long term, thus ensuring a crucial element of their firms’ competitive advantage and will adjust their behaviour accordingly. This thesis contributes to district literature by examining detailing the existence and foundations of close intra-district ties created between managers mobilising resources based on cognitive, organisational and geographical proximities. A major contribution to trust literature is the 5 analysis and discussion of the complex interplay between the three antecedents outlined in Möllering’s model in the creation of local trust and proposes that while trust decisions in information rich districts are based more on rational calculation than on local norms and institutions, other trust decisions (with external clients), in the absence of sufficient information are founded on very different bases. This comparison of the foundations of trust in two different contexts highlights the role of identity and routine in the ‘leap of faith’ or suspension of doubt that is trust.
    • The Study of Endogenous Corporate Social Responsibility in Saudi Arabia

      Harris, Phil; Saeidi, Adnan E. A. (University of Chester, 2019-05-14)
      Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is striving to reach the business community of Saudi Arabia from Western and International CSR prospective. However, they are faced with local endogenous CSR factors indicating the distinctive Saudi CSR features and characteristics originating from within Saudi Arabia during the current early CSR initiatives. Saudi Arabia is an advocate for Islamic teaching and practices, throughout the Islamic world abiding comprehensively to the Islamic social care system, which is interlocked with additional unique cultural, national, and social expectations. Those factors overlap with the semi-official governmental endorsements and the private sector’s unique conceptualization of CSR, which, in essence, formulate the endogenous distinctive Saudi CSR characteristics (Saudi CSR) considered to be under-researched in comparison to the CSR generic debate in other countries. The research questions are: what are the endogenous Saudi CSR Characteristics? How can they be related to the local Saudi CSR unique conceptualization? And could they be interpreted using Carroll’s 1779, 1991, and 3D CSR Models? The study primarily aims to empirically investigate, identify, and analyse the unique origination of the Saudi CSR model and the misconceptualizing it has to the International CSR regulatory framework. It also aims to provide a possible template for the Saudi National CSR strategy respectively. It focuses upon investigating whether the empirically formulated and identified Saudi endogenous CSR’s context and characteristics can be aligned, analysed and/or interpreted in light of CSR generic theories, and the international CSR standardization for reporting initiatives, including Carroll’s Four dimensions: 1979 and Pyramid 1991, and the Three-Domain 2004 CSR models (Mark et al., 2004). The analytical analysis demonstrates that a Saudi national CSR strategy has not been established yet; hence the current study provides a template for building up such strategy. A conceptualized theoretical framework is formulated utilizing both empirical evidence from pilot studies and the narrative analytical analysis, which aimed at identifying and exploring Saudi CSR uniqueness using an eclectic research approach. The indirect Saudi CSR evidence was investigated using questionnaires, document analysis and Semi-structured interviews, which comprised nearly 380 Saudi organizations within the private, listed, and Non-profit sectors. Data Analysis including King Khalid Foundation, Saudi companies and CSR Data reflection revealed a set of endogenous distinctive characteristics, which are validated using triangulation data collection tools. The findings of the study suggest that the Saudi CSR characteristics (endogenous features) fall within the following categories evidenced by their practical applications, Saudi companies’ strategic policies and Saudi leadership’s CSR own self-generated principles: (1) Islamic Philanthropy, (2) Social Obligation, (3) National Development Obligation (5) Corporate Citizenship (6) National Economic Developments (7) National Competitiveness, (8)Stakeholder’s Expectation and (9) Environmental and Global Expectation and (10) Corporate Governance. Furthermore, data analysis displays that Carroll’s 3D CSR model sets certain suitability limitations for Saudi CSR interpretations. It also reveals the need for utilizing the adopted Carroll’s combined model formulated in the present study; its utilization conforms to the Saudi CSR components while formulating the required Saudi national CSR.
    • To investigate the ambidextrous challenges and tensions of small and medium enterprises in the United Kingdom defence & security sector

      Wall, Tony; Moore, Neil; Lewis, Christopher C. (University of Chester, 2021-05)
      The defence and security industry is an extremely dynamic environment, influenced by policy and world events. Whilst it often needs to respond to rapid change, there is a dichotomy in that capital programs take years to come to fruition. Many small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are involved in both of these short and long-term aspects of acquisition, thus creating strategic challenges. Though there has been much research around ambidexterity and SMEs, there has been very little in the fluid domain of defence and security supply-side SMEs. This study aims to investigate this gap in research. The investigation collected primary qualitative data through the use of semi-structured interviews, with research participants constituting the leadership functions of eighteen businesses that deliver either directly to the defence and security governmental departments, or into the supply chain. Findings indicate that within a shrinking defence sector, successful SMEs are operating in an ambidextrous fashion, often utilising the industrial partners of the industry trade organisations. Also, outside that of grand strategic change, Government policy has a limited impact on the SMEs in this sector. With scarce resources, the leadership of businesses see the competing needs of resource and finances as a major tension point. These two competing needs can be defined as exploration and exploitation respectively, and can be situated within an ambidextrous construct. Critically, successful businesses operate in a ambidextrous zone where there is constant iterative adjustment between both exploration and exploitation. This thesis advances the thought leadership in SME strategy, particularly around the key indigenous industry of defence and security, thereby adjusting the understanding of the definition of ambidexterity. This study contributes to the current literature, through the development of an alternative and responsive conceptual dynamic model of a growing business, theorising that ambidexterity functions change as SMEs grow, are constantly evolving, and are adjusted by both internal and external influences. The study concludes with recommendations for practice.
    • Towards a collaborative enterprise: The value of stakeholders

      Rowland, Caroline; Page, Steve; Williams, Roy (University of Chester, 2016-10)
      Social housing, traditionally provided by not-for-profit (NFP) housing associations, has become increasingly competitive as exchequer subsidy has reduced and the market has opened up to the profit-making private sector. These changes have increased the need for housing associations to engage and collaborate with stakeholders. The author’s research examines stakeholder engagement and collaboration in One Vision Housing, a NFP housing association. A constructivist epistemology, based on an idealist ontology, using primarily inductive logic, is adopted through a case study methodology. Data is collected through interviews, focus groups, surveys, participant observation, direct observation and physical artefacts. The review of literature highlights the relationship between stakeholder theory, stakeholder management, organisational culture, organisational learning and knowledge management. The author has developed a conceptual model in respect of these relationships.
    • Understanding organizational identity in UK charities

      Ward, Mark (University of Chester, 2013-11)
      There is a great deal of academic research around the topic of organizational identity in a corporate setting and an increasing level of interest in the area amongst practitioners. This study considers an under-researched area of identity scholarship in the UK charitable sector, specifically the degree to which internal stakeholders (employees) in two small to medium-sized UK charities, share an internally common understanding of organizational identity. An explicitly internal organizational perspective is explored to illuminate the communicated perceptions of employees in the participating organizations. A qualitative methodology was employed, using sixteen in-depth, one-to-one, unstructured interviews with a purposive sample of employees from the two organizations. Interview data is explored via a thematic template comprising codes emerging concurrently with analysis. Secondary data is provided to add depth to research discussion and conclusions. Findings indicated some interesting features in the ways that particular groups of UK charity employees understand organizational identity. Managers and non-managers expressed a broadly consistent group of themes, in articulating their understanding of organizational identity. One participating organization had a more internally-diverse understanding of identity than the other, which might suggest links between organizational performance and understanding organizational identity. Employees with less than two years’ service expressed their understanding in a clearly distinct manner from employees with long service.Whilst acknowledging the limitations of the study in terms of generalizability, the researcher proposes areas, around which practitioners might focus their efforts to develop, or improve, a shared understanding of organizational identity in their workforce, including induction and internal communication. Understanding of organizational identity for UK charity employees is notably under-researched. This study makes a number of contributions to the field of academic knowledge: directly addressing a deficiency in the existing topic literature; making some observations on methodology; highlighting areas of interest for future scholarly activity; and suggesting areas of focus for practitioners, around approaches to managing organizational identity.
    • Understanding the role of social media in relation to alternative food networks: a case of Chester and its region

      Harris, Phil; Alexander, Roy; Moss, Danny; Sidsaph, Henry W. (University of Chester, 2018-09-28)
      Alternative Food Networks (AFNs) are a system of food provision which is considered as the embodiment of the Sustainable Development (SD) agenda. They typically operate counteractively to conventional food networks (CFNs) seeking to reconnect all members in the supply chain through ethical and sustainable engagements. They are grounded by the theoretical underpinnings of quality conventions (Murdoch, 2000; Thévenot, 2002) and embeddedness notions such as alterity, valorisation, and appropriation (Dansero & Puttilli, 2014; Kirwan, 2004). Many scholars have focused on exploring AFNs in various contexts, initially focusing on binary notions of dichotomy between AFNs and CFNs, then developing discourse in terms of assessing hybridity (Holloway et al., 2006; Maye, 2013; Ponte, 2016; Renting, Marsden, & Banks, 2003; Tregear, 2011). Recent studies have indicated the potential for further research concerning social media based AFNs (Bos & Owen, 2016; Reed & Keech, 2017; Wills & Arundel, 2017). Therefore a contribution in terms of further understanding this issue arises from this thesis. The research was conducted in the midst of the referendum for the UK to withdraw from the European Union, the subsequent ‘leave’ vote resulting in a level of uncertainty in terms of policy implications. One policy implication may be that the UK will have to readdress the way it engages and supports its food and agriculture sector post-Common Agricultural Policy, therefore this research comes at a timely juncture. This research adopts an interpretivistic epistemological stance, with a constructivist ontological position. Social network analysis (SNA) of Twitter connections was conducted in order to assess connectivity and density of the AFN that was present in Chester and its region. Content analysis of this network was then conducted in order to understand SD related terms and shortlist pertinent actors for further analysis. Interviews were conducted with nine actors from this network in order to critically evaluate their perceptions of SD from an online and offline perspective. The results of the SNA suggest that the AFN of Chester and its region was not particularly well connected in terms of density. However, the SNA was a useful data collection tool, especially concerning the replicability and transferability of participant selection strategy. Further results suggested that there was a need for more organisational structures to support AFNs in becoming more mainstream and collaborative. It was also clear that there was still a degree of opposition between CFNs and AFNs, despite hybridity. A final finding of the research is the consideration of smart localism. The implications of this research are discussed, along with suggestions for future research including; the need to better understand leadership, relations between AFNs and CFNs, the role played by intermediates, and the expansion of social media based research.
    • Understanding UK Rewards-based Crowdfunding as an Alternative Source of Entrepreneurial Finance

      Harris, Phil; Lam, Wing; Zhao, Ying (University of ChesterUniversity of Chester, 2019-06)
      Entrepreneurial financing plays a vital role in the survival and viability of businesses (Crosetto & Regner, 2018; Mason & Harrison, 1991; Signori & Vismara, 2017; Zhao et al., 2019). Research studies and financial commentators have suggested that reward-based crowdfunding (RBC) plays an increasingly important role in the process of business start-ups (Baeck et al., 2014; Bilau & Pires, 2018; Lelo de Larrea et al., 2019; Mollick, 2014). However, a review of literature indicates that little is known about the field of RBC from a theoretical perspective. Therefore, the main aim of the thesis is to address the knowledge gap by developing a conceptual framework to advance understanding of the RBC funding process through using a signalling theory lens. The author adopted a pragmatist epistemological stance. This study collected publicly available data of 636 UK start-up projects on a RBC platform, Kickstarter, from September to December in 2017 and repeated this for the same period in 2018. It was found that signal observability (the size and quality of the fundraiser’s network) play a significant role in crowdfunding success across all projects. Whereas, prosocial intention (charitable purpose) plays a stronger role in predicting the likelihood of the success of projects with a medium goal. This study identifies and evaluates how the key factors (project quality, project intention and signal observability) impact on crowdfunding’s success, as well as investigates the interplay between different actors (signallers, receivers and signals) in the RBC market. A further important contribution of this work arises from the use of rich qualitative data in addition to the quantitative research approaches previously utilised by others (Bi, Liu and Usman, 2017; Kunz et al., 2017). The thesis makes contributions to both theory and practice. The findings have major implications for different parties including: policy makers, practitioners, researchers and educators. It provides an insight for practitioners considering the adoption of a crowdfunding approach and the knowledge and recommendations in running a successful RBC campaign. It also helps nascent entrepreneurs to reconstruct their financing strategy through the better understanding of the position of RBC in entrepreneurial financing. An important implication is that this study can help policy makers to better understand the RBC industry, which is essential in developing relevant policies in this under-governed area. Finally, this research contributes to growing knowledge and interest in entrepreneurial finance, especially in the online alternative finance market, which is beneficial for both researchers and educators.