For a long time I’ve had the message that because we are the kind of institution that we are – beleaguered, slandered, vilified, out of control – these are the very things that we should be selling. Shouting from the roof tops. Eh? Er, sorry, run that by me again, will you? I mean Shabby Chic. Gritty. Authentic.
At long last I have heard a voice out there in academia land, which appears to agree with this view. At least a bit. Maria Burke, from Salford Business School, has just written a paper on how to sell ‘urban, edgy’ institutions. And creating shiny corporate images of success may not be the best way to go about that. For instance: “…there must also be consideration of an alternative model such as that of an organization characterized by diversity and controlled chaos…” – hey, that sounds like us! Her paper is titled ‘HIGHER EDUCATION LEADERSHIP: NEW DIRECTIONS IN URBAN AND EDGY ORGANIZATIONS‘, so the focus here is on leadership method, views, priorities and focus.
The paper covers three main areas of discussion – “(if) the notion of “urban and edgy” organizations was a classification that leaders could identify with; second, whether this would be a useful classification and why; third, what the traits of the leaders were in those identified urban and edgy organizations…”. This seems really pretty useful, though the terms used for classification smell slightly dated – sort of old guy who watched lots of BBC documentaries language (see urban dictionary: edgy, #2). Whatever, it’s a really useful piece of work.
Burke also covers ‘the future needs of HE leadership in the ever changing higher education landscape’. That sounds like a familiar topic to your truly. Maybe I need to find this gal to have a (long) chat.
My own take on it has been to sit in front of our VC and tell him that we are in a rare position of being able to do exactly what we want, try anything new and exciting, off the beaten track ideas, mad stuff, because we have nothing to lose. Not many people agree with me, it’s a bit scary to act that out. But hey, #YOLO.
(Img: Pen Lister/Guerilla Galleries Nude show, Jan 2013, at the Daniel Libeskind Space.)