Articulating the Alternatives: Writing Development Through Critical Friendship

Last updated, 17 Dec 2014
Additional info: 
9th International Critical Management Studies Conference, Doctoral Workshop 7th July 2015
University of Leicester, UK

This workshop, which takes place the day before the full CMS2015 conference begins, is designed to support PhD students in critical management studies to draw out and develop the implications and contributions of their work. It focuses on writing development, so participants will gain focused feedback on how best to articulate how their research projects can lead to alternative ways of thinking and doing organizing, organizations, managing, management and related social phenomena. This is based on our belief that it is only through accessible and effective academic writing that we can hope to pose a substantive challenge to orthodox management thinking and practice, and to propose viable alternatives. The workshop will explore ways of strengthening written narratives, of pulling out and highlighting key themes and messages, of being creatively articulate and telling persuasive stories. It will emphasize writing for multiple audiences, including fellow academics (eg, supervisors, examiners, reviewers, readers), respondents, the media, organizations of all sizes and across all sectors, professional bodies and the wider public. The workshop therefore does not deal with the content of academic work, but with ways of communicating it through writing.

‘Articulating the Alternatives’ will also provide a safe and constructive space for participants to receive feedback on their writing, in a non-hierarchical and supportive environment designed along the principles of critical friendship. In Costa and Kallick’s (1993: #5) definition,

“A critical friend can be defined as a trusted person who asks provocative questions, provides data to be examined through another lens, and offers critiques of a person’s work as a friend. A critical friend takes the time to fully understand the context of the work presented and the outcomes that the person or group is working toward. The friend is an advocate for the success of that work.”

What this means in practice is the following. The workshop will consist of small group engagement with each author’s ideas, intended as a conversation between equals. Authors will not present their papers in any formal way. There will be a concerted effort to leave conventional academic hierarchies outside the room. Papers will be pre-circulated by e-mail and we expect all those participating in the workshop to have read the papers assigned to their group in advance and to come prepared to comment. The workshop therefore very much depends on a willingness to fully engage with other participants’ writing in return for feedback on one’s own.

‘Papers’ submitted could be anything from notes and a rough outline of a piece all the way through to something which is nearly in its final form (a journal paper, a thesis chapter, etc.). It could also be a paper which the applicant plans to present in one of the other streams at CMS2015, or at any other conference. Each paper should also connect in some way to the critique of economic, political, managerial and organizational dogma, and should articulate alternatives to the neoliberal, capitalist, managerialist, austere, ‘free market’ present. Participants are asked to indicate to us when submitting what kind of submission they have sent, and whether there are areas of their writing on which they are particularly keen to have comments. We will not apply any criteria other than these, and the maximum word length set out below, so that the workshop’s focus is on writing, articulation and expression as opposed to substantive theoretical, conceptual or empirical argument.

The papers accepted – which will be on a first come, first served basis, with a waiting list in operation if need be - will then be randomly assigned to a maximum of six discussion groups, each with a ceiling of seven participants. One of these participants – an academic facilitator – will act as lead ‘critical friend’ for the group, just to kick-start discussion of the papers. They will not be a formal discussant or respondent. After the event, where written feedback exists and where participants desire, this will be sent to the relevant authors. We also hope the event will provide participants with opportunities to develop their own critical friendship and mutual support networks viz. writing, the PhD process and the experience of academia more generally.

If you would like to participate, please submit a 500 word abstract for your paper, along with a description of what it is and any areas on which you particularly seek colleagues’ comments, to both Sarah Robinson (  and Jo Brewis (

The deadline for abstract submission is 31st January 2015.

We will advise on acceptance for the workshop by the 20th February 2015 at the latest.

Full papers will be due to both of us by 15th April 2015. We ask that each paper is a maximum of 8000 words long, including references where these are integral.

Enquiries about the workshop can also be submitted to us at the same email addresses.

Please also note that although the workshop runs before the main CMS2015 conference it will not entail any supplementary registration fee, although participants will need to pay for an additional night’s accommodation (where needed). Finally, there is another stream at CMS which will be run (by the CMS women’s association VIDA) according to the principles of critical friendship. However, this is reserved for women only and is organized along different lines to the PhD workshop.  The PhD workshop is open to any PhD student, regardless of gender.