Since 2012, Crossfields Institute has co-organised a series of conferences in collaboration with the Institute for Philosophy and Aesthetics at Alanus University (Bonn, Germany). For each conference, a third partner has also been invited in to co-design, co-organise and co-host the conference. Past conferences were organised with the University of Kent, the University of Gloucestershire, the University of the West of England. The most recent conference  – The Poetics of Leadership – was held at the University of Cumbria. Planning is underway for our next conference which will be held in the autumn of 2019. 

The role of research in our organisation

Crossfields Institute’s strategy regarding research is to promote and encourage a research based approach within the organisation and the organisations we serve and work in collaboration with. Research is viewed as one of the primary areas where we can work collaboratively with peer organisations to learn, share practice and develop strategic links.

The promotion of research within the organisation relates particularly to the development of our own practice. Our staff are actively encouraged to engage in learning and research as an integrated part of their job role, and a number of staff are either on or have completed Masters or PhDs. A further example of a recent research project in our organisation was an action research project called ‘Crossfields 100’. This research explored the impact on staff productivity and wellbeing of short but regular periods of reflective personal time during the working day. All staff (not just academics) were invited to take part as both participants and co-researchers.

Research conferences

Crossfields Institute hosts research conferences on a regular bases. These are normally organised in collaboration with universities and partner organisations. We have so far held eight go these conferences.

The Research Forum

Another regular research activity is our Research Forum, the aim of which is to study, present and discuss relevant questions in education and social innovation, with particular focus on current academic debate. The work takes place in regular seminars and is meant to contribute to the enhancement of the research profile of the Institute for Education and Social Innovation (ibugi), Crossfields Institute (CI) and partner organisations.The Forum is intended for PhD or Masters candidates or researchers working in or related with ibugi, CI and partner organisations. Participation requires a personal invitation or prior approval of the coordinator.

Coming soon…

The Poetics of Leadership
Creativity, art and story in enabling meaningful change

Decision-makers need to be bold and agile to help their organisations and communities respond to rapid changes in their environments. Actions based on existing patterns of thought and behaviour will often not suffice. What stimulates the necessary creativity to think afresh about contexts and choices? In this two-day event, we will explore methods available for leadership practice and development. Topics will include: creative writing as a method for personal leadership, poetry as an aid for exploring emotions, the visual and performing arts as a means of enabling new ideas, storytelling as a method for leadership communications, physical play as a means of reducing inhibitions, and outdoor activities as opportunities for deepening insight. We will experience such methods and discuss them in the context of both classical and contemporary theories on the role of creativity and arts in personal and social change.

Leadership, Ethics and Working with Unknowing

The focus on ethical values in leadership has been sharpened through a string of recent world events, and it seems that the need for truly ethical leadership has never been greater. Yet in what do genuine ethical values really lie? Is ethical leadership something that individuals can cultivate? And can ethical values be instilled into organisational culture in such a way that it is both evolving and sustainable?

This conference sets out to encourage inquiry and stimulate debate on these questions. We will address the theme from a range of perspectives and we will specifically consider the importance of working creatively with unknowing. Here, the idea is that ethical inspiration and ethical action can arise as much out of states of openness and emptiness as it can out of solution-focused effort.

The poet John Keats called this ’negative capability’ and we will be examining what this means and what its relevance for ethical leadership practice might be. The conference offers contributions from scholars in the field and practicing leaders in a blend of key-note presentations and interactive workshops. The conference is for leaders, managers, academics, students, philosophers and anyone else interested in the practice of ethical leadership today.

Inner and Outer Dimensions of Thinking

Thinking is deeply embedded into every aspect of human life. It informs how we experience ourselves and it informs how we experience the world. It also plays a major role in determining the kind of social, cultural and technological environments we collectively create. And yet for all its importance, there is still little general consensus about what thinking is or how it functions.

Cognitive science has tended to reduce thinking to ‚outer‘ physical factors. Traditionally this has been understood as computation-like activity in the physical brain, but more recently it is seen as the activity of the brain and body in living interaction with the physical environment. Other approaches to thinking focus on how we use words and how language is structured. Still other approaches adopt first-person and phenomenological methods to describe the conscious experience of thinking from the ‚inside‘.

At this conference we will address the question of the nature of thinking from both outer and inner dimensions. There will be keynote lectures, workshops and paper presentations that draw from different disciplines, including philosophy, phenomenology, psychology, the arts and neuroscience. The aim is that out of this transdisciplinary approach, new insights emerge that go across and beyond the different disciplines.
The conference is for academics, researchers, educators and students from any discipline who are interested in deepening their understanding of what thinking is and how it functions.

Transforming Moments: Dissonance, Liminality and Action as Learning Experiences

Role of Humanities, Arts and Transdisciplinary Practice in Higher Education

With career pathways and employability increasingly defining higher education, what is the role and importance of subjects such as literature, philosophy and the arts? And is there still a place in higher education for pursuing a love of learning for its own sake?

In this conference we will explore the possibility of higher education as a journey into the unknown, a place, perhaps, for finding an individual calling or life’s task, a place for self-discovery and selftransformation, a place for exploring questions of human experience and human existence. What is the relevance of this notion of higher education today, both at the individual level of spiritual meaning and fulfilment and at the more general level of social cohesion and resilience?

Our aim for this conference is to create an open space for collaborative dialogue, creative thinking and critical enquiry, with the hope that this will promote new insights for practical ways forward. The conference is for educators, practitioners, students, researchers and anyone interested in the future of higher education.

Reimagining the University: New approaches to teaching and learning in higher education

What were the original ideals of the university and how do they relate to what the university has become today? How can new ideas of ethical, embodied transformative practice help to reimagine and revitalize the university?

The conference is for educators, practitioners and researchers from different disciplines who are interested in innovative approaches to teaching and learning in higher education including:

    • embodied teaching and learning methods that involve the whole human being in the learning process.
    • participatory learning that challenges and redefines how valid knowledge is created.
    • learning that helps students develop into the ethical leaders of the future.
    • inter-disciplinary practice that bridges the divide between arts, humanities and sciences as a way of opening up new approaches to learning and knowledge.

Symposium: Research in Early Childhood Education and Social Pedagogy

The general aim of the symposium is to nurture constructive dialogue and exchange between different approaches in early years education and social pedagogy. This includes for example Montessori, Steiner, Pickler and ‘mainstream’ approaches. The question behind the symposium is how more dialogue and exchange between the different approaches can help to deepen understanding and practice in the critical early years field as well as in social pedagogy.

Thinking Through Action