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Ian Brinkley

Top Ten at Ten: Celebrating The Work Foundation’s first decade

Authors: Ian Brinkley Ian Brinkley

18 April 2012

Since its launch in 2002, The Work Foundation has been instrumental in influencing change in all areas of work. We have a long track record of our evidence and analysis used in government white papers, reviews, legislation and organisational improvements. With so much happening over the past decade, we wanted to highlight ten of our most impactful programmes of the last ten years:

1. Big Innovation Centre
Launched in 2011, the Big Innovation Centre exists to make the UK a global open innovation hub, to build a world-class innovation ecosystem, and re-balance and grow the UK economy. It brings together some of the world’s leading companies with key institutions from across the policy landscape, all united by a commitment to innovation.

2. Knowledge Economy
Ten years ago the notion of the ‘Knowledge Economy ’ as a credible idea which might help frame economic and labour market policy was not widely accepted beyond the breathy journalistic commentary of a small elite of futurologists. Our work on this topic has made a major contribution to the evidence-base and the language which governments and opinion-leaders use to describe the ways which modern developed economies must evolve.

3. Staying Ahead: The economic performance of the UK's creative industries
The Work Foundation was commissioned by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) in late 2006 to undertake an analysis of the nature of the creative industries – their size, the factors that have shaped their comparative success in recent years, and the challenges which they face in the years ahead.

4. Ideopolis: Knowledge-Cities
Since 2002, The Work Foundation has been discussing the concept of "the ideopolis", an urban form that has emerged around the cities of Boston, Seattle, Austin, Helsinki, Barcelona, etc. Our current research programme - Cities 2020 - is dedicated to investigating the drivers of urban growth over the next decade.

5. Labour Market Disadvantage
We are passionate about exploring both ends of the labour market, hence our current work looking at the challenges faced by those working in low-wage jobs and the problem of high youth unemployment.

6. Good Work Commission
At its core, the intention of the Good Work Commission was to help people and organisations to understand how to provide more ‘good work’ at a time when working life has become more intense, more routine and less secure.

7. Fit for Work
Musculoskeletal disorders account for nearly half (49%) of all absences from work and 60% of permanent work incapacity in the European Union. Since 2007, The Work Foundation has been conducting research demonstrating that improvements in early intervention, treatment and return to work practices could help people of working age with even severe musculoskeletal disorders stay in work.

8. Outstanding Leadership
The Work Foundation’s Outstanding Leadership research is the most comprehensive study to date of what distinguishes outstanding leaders from those who are merely good. It identifies nine key behaviours that differentiate outstanding leaders from their peers and is based on 262 in-depth, one-to-one interviews carried out between 2008 and 2010 with leaders in seven major UK corporations

9.Life after Longbridge: Three years on
This ground-breaking report from The Work Foundation revealed findings on what happened to the 6,300 workers who lost their jobs in the collapse of MG Rover in April 2005 and the economic and social impact of the Longbridge closure.

10. Public Value
Public value addresses many of the contemporary concerns facing public managers. These include problems of securing legitimacy for decision making, resource allocation and measuring service outcomes. Our 2006 work aimed to help policymakers, public managers and institutions understand the concept of public value and see how it could be applied in practice.


The Work Foundation remains committed to improving the quality of public policy interventions and organisational practice. Building on its many past successes, and working closely with Lancaster University and our partner organisations, we want to continue playing a leading role in advancing understanding about work and the future of work for the benefit of society.