Hen Wilkinson, PhD Social Policy


I have extensive experience of working with conflict across multiple settings - as a community, workplace and special educational needs mediator, as a conflict trainer and facilitator in the UK and overseas, and as a Module lead in conflict practice and theory on the University of West of England’s Professional Practice Masters. In 2012, I was an ESRC 3rd Sector Knowledge Exchange Fellow in 2012, in partnership with the University of West of England (UWE), where I am a Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Understanding Social Practices. I am also an Associate with the Taos Institute and the UK College of Mediators.

Research topic

Creating space for conflict: what might a complexity paradigm contribute to a better theoretical and applied understanding of community-facing, cross-sector collaboration dynamics?

My PhD emerges from my experience of working with urban conflict in the UK. As centralised community-facing services are increasingly outsourced via devolved governance, local collaborations are required to take their place in delivering essential social infrastructure. However, sustained collaborative working is not simple, involving as it does a synthesis of different organizational norms and hierarchies, as well as personal relationships between organizational representatives.

This PhD explores the idea that identifying and addressing such diverse expectations with clarity – ie naming conflicting views for what they are and building on them – has the potential to create internal coherence, a sustainable core, for cross-sector collaborations and thus contribute to their sustainability and cumulative impact. It is using a small-scale, snowball, mixed methods action research design to collect data on how conflicting viewpoints and needs are surfaced in task-oriented groups drawn from two cross-sector collaborative systems, one in the UK, the other in the Netherlands.


Dr David Sweeting

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