The Global Workshop on Freelancing and Independent Professional Research 2015, Thursday 26 November – Friday 27 November

First published: IPSE Magazine, Issue 53, 10 Dec 2015, Page 18, online at: www.ipse.co.uk/interactive/ipse-magazine/issue53 

It is a powerful thing to have such a broad range of academics in one room at one time focused on a single sector – self-employment. As a fundamental starting point for the creation of the CRSE (Centre for Research on Self-Employment) the annual research workshops, established through IPSE, involve the presentation and discussion of the latest research on topics related to freelancing and self-employment. Over two days subjects as broad as regulation, the value the self-employed bring to business and the rights the self-employed are entitled to, are brought to the floor. 

Suneeta Johal, Head of Research, Education & Training at IPSE and a key driver in developing the workshops: “It is important to identify gaps in research and to address these, and the best way to do this is through drawing together a network such as this to debate and discuss. We have seen the profile of independent professionals rise through the work from these workshops. It is vital to organisations like IPSE.”

This year the annual workshop, established 2013, was especially significant as the CRSE was launched at an event on the evening of day one. For this reason, the CRSE Chairman Professor Andrew Burke, opened proceedings by speaking of the difference and distance between academia and industry, and stressed that these workshops provide an invaluable connection between the two. He went on to say the CRSE came about after a discussion at the first ever workshop back in 2013, and will be “a potent combination” of many elements. The workshops, he said, will remain a key aspect of development which will feed into the CRSE. 

Also a part of the workshops was a policy update from Simon McVicker, Director of Policy and External Affairs at IPSE. Providing this context created a platform for group debate on where to take research into this sector, aspects which made the workshop all the more intriguing. 

What’s In a Name? 

It steadily became clear that there was such a large range of backgrounds and geographical perspectives to the research being presented over the two days. Challenges surrounding the definitions and segmentation of the self-employed, and the universality of these, became one of the overarching discussions. 

Questions were raised surrounding the connotations of language used in self-employment. Tui McKeown from Monash University in Australia was one example, as she shared a table of demographic characteristics of independent professionals as part of her presentation titled ‘What’s in a name?’ Patricia Leighton from IPAG Business School in France and the University of South Wales was another, who sparked debate following her presentation on the purpose of regulation amongst the self-employed, with Uber as an example of this. 

From freelancer to contractor to free agent to independent professional, so many titles exist under the self-employment umbrella in today’s economy. With these titles come differing connotations which complicate and blur lines of definition and segmentation. This topic also led to later discussions around the need for the self-employed to encompass many aspects of a business in just one person, spurred on by research from Terri Griffiths from Santa Clara University in the USA. 

Rights and Representation 

The presentations over the two days revealed differences in perspectives on self-employment depending on location. Malgorzata SkrzekLubasińska opened attendee’s eyes to views towards the self-employed in Poland, a country which was said to not adequately support this sector. Giedo Jansen from the Netherlands in contrast gave a presentation on the many membership organisations in his country, where self-employment is celebrated. 

This year’s workshop, in drawing on such a broad spectrum of perspectives on self-employment, provided a global analysis on this sector and furthered the development of best practice – one of the benefits of having a room with such a range of experts on self-employment sitting in it. 

Freelancing Is the Future 

Other conclusions drawn showed another purpose behind the workshops – to strengthen positive attitudes towards the value of self-employment. Matthijs den Besten of the University of Montpellier revealed that “engaging external professionals has a positive impact on a company’s new venture development” and Roberto Camerani from Sussex University concluded from his research that “freelancing is not a second best option”. 

The latest research encompassing the diverse and changing context of working was presented over the course of the two day workshop. Both days truly showcased the value of gathering the leading minds in the field to raise the profile of self-employment, on both the research and political agenda. 

To close the event, Suneeta Johal reinforced the importance of the workshops in influencing policy development. “The creation of the CRSE signifies the how far this group of academics and industry representatives has gone, and this year’s workshop has once again produced invaluable research, debate and discussion.”

To learn more about the Global Research Workshops on Freelancing and Self-Employment click here, or to register your interest in the next research seminar complete the form on the contact us page.