Dr Robert Mackenzie
MA (History), Edinburgh; MA (Management Learning), Lancaster; D Phil Distinction (A Learning Facilitator’s Uses of Writing), the IMCA Business School; FCIPD; FRSA
developing communities of writing practice through critical friendship
Connecting academia and the world of work
As an editor and writer, I am interested in how academic and other forms of practice can connect, to their mutual benefit. To this end, I have honed my skills and experience as an academic, practitioner, manager, facilitator, consultant, critical friend, writer, editor and committee member. My work has spanned UK and international settings within the public, private, voluntary and higher education sectors. Clients have included groups and individuals within overseas government departments, international aid agencies, local authorities, NHS Trusts and GP practices Social Services and Probation Departments, the civil service and Higher and Further Education Institutions.
Overseas, I have held academic posts in the University of East Africa, (subsequently, Makerere University, Uganda), Ahmadu Bello University, Northern Nigeria, and the University of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland (subsequently the University of Botswana). In the UK, I have been Visiting and Research Fellow at the University of Southampton (1981-85), Senior Lecturer in Public Sector Management at the University of Portsmouth (1992-2000), and I have supervised postgraduate theses and dissertations for the University of Reading. In 2008, following a period from 2005 as Set Adviser on its Senior Executive Action Learning (SEAL) Masters and Doctoral Programme, I was appointed Professor of Management Learning at the global IMCA Business School.
Writing and practice
My career straddles the spaces between academia and the world of work. Since 2000, following an assignment as Development Consultant with FT Knowledge, I have been Principal Consultant at Bob MacKenzie Associates, practising as an independent organisational consultant, coach, facilitator, researcher, writer and writers’ friend. For some 15 years, I have been a Director of the Association for Management Education and Development (AMED, www.amed.org.uk), an educational charity. Over the same period, I have also been Commissioning Editor of, and regular contributor to, AMED’s quarterly journal Organisations and People (online since 2008) and Convenor of the AMED Writers’ Group. The journal is an independent publication that serves as a forum for academics and other practitioners to communicate with each other and the wider public. To date, I have overseen the development of some 50 editions, from crafting Invitations to Contribute through supporting guest editors and contributors to hosting post-publication gatherings. I have written and edited 100+ publications, including books, chapters, papers, open learning texts and research and consultancy reports respectively for an academic, practitioner or policy-making readership. (See the more comprehensive list of selected publications).
My work is informed by sense-making through explication (e.g. MacKenzie 2005), and reflects interpretative, social construction, critical and post-colonial perspectives. I pay particular attention to the role of storytelling and relational practices, and to the contribution that thoughtful writing and conversation, interacting, can make to personal, professional and organisational learning and development.
Communities of writing practice
A core feature of my work is facilitating communities of writing practice (academic and otherwise), and fostering engagement between academics and other practitioners within academe and wider society. I do this primarily through championing critical friendship (e.g. MacKenzie 2019; 2015), which is expressed through offering judicious and well-intentioned challenge and support as required, by championing scholarly practice in all its forms and contexts, and by taking every opportunity to foster excellence in multimodal writing and conversations, often leading to publication. I am continuously refining the process of writing in a social space (e.g. MacKenzie 2019), whereby academics and other associated university colleagues can gain support and confidence, alone and in company such as an action learning set, to articulate and share their individual teaching, research and other interests in the teeth of multiple competing demands on their time. Essentially, this happens by means of negotiated series of facilitated groups and 1:1 interactions.
More recent examples of my work to this effect include my role as critical friend to the then Lead of the University of Southampton’s pilot Academic Writing Centre project (2015-2017), workshops with early career academics and researchers within the Institute of Small Business and Entrepreneurship (2017-), and most immediately spearheading the creation of a community of academic writing practice within the University of Chichester Business School (2018 -), collaborating with Drs Rob Warwick and Dawn Robins. This has already resulted in the publication of a special edition of the journal on the theme of ‘Writing from the University of Chichester Business School’ (e-Organisations and People, Vol 26, No 2, Summer 2019. 110 pages). Rob Warwick and I are now at work developing an edited book about the distinctive work of the University of Chichester Business School within its local and international communities.
Warwick, R. and MacKenzie, B. (2016) Kaleidoscopic views of trust. e Organisations & People, 23 (4). pp. 3-13. ISSN 2042-9797