Research Strategy 2020-23
This section sets out the research strategy for the IFB Research Foundation’s research and education programme for the period 2020-23.
The IFBRF’s purpose is to support a strong and thriving UK family business sector through undertaking research and analysis to understand family-owned businesses, their impact on the economy and society, and the challenges they face. The IFBRF is the only UK charity dedicated to promoting a greater knowledge and understanding of family firms.
In our research we specifically focus on five areas:
- Defining and characterising family businesses
- Understanding business families
- Understanding the effects of family ownership on the business
- Identifying and assessing the impact of family businesses on the economy and society
- Analysing and evaluating the impact of government policy on family business
The objectives of the IFBRF during this period are outlined here and fall into six areas. Over the next three years, the IFBRF will seek to
Research and publication:
- contribute to the evidence base on UK family businesses by developing independent research on family business issues and questions
- regularly produce and publish family Business Sector Report that assesses the impact of the family business sector on the UK economy and identifies the challenges that family firms face
- identify the challenges faced by researchers working in this field and develop solutions to these challenges
Research leadership and academic engagement:
- strengthen links between the IFBRF and UK universities and academics to underpin the delivery of our research programme
- influence the research agenda and priorities for multidisciplinary family business research in the UK
- facilitate collaboration among family-business researchers in the UK, for example, by organising an annual conference/workshop to provide researchers from different institutions an opportunity to network, share learning, and explore opportunities to work together
- disseminate IFBRF research and evidence among the UK’s family-business research community, informing new research and providing resources for teaching and learning in this area
Capacity building for new research:
- improve the quality, access, and availability of data on family businesses to underpin research in this field
- work with the UK family business research community to promote family business research and support the work of family business researchers in the UK
Informing family business practice:
- assist the IFBRF’s sister organisation, the Institute for Family Business (IFB) and other stakeholders, better understand the family business sector through independent research and analysis
- provide evidence-based guidance and advice to family business owners and practitioners
Promoting education and learning on family business issues:
- promote the use of IFBRF outputs (research and guidance) in teaching and learning, and support the development of education on family business topics in UK universities
- produce family-business case studies, both for practice guidance and pedagogical purposes
Informing policy making:
- inform policy-makers and decision makers about the issues affecting UK family firms, and raise awareness of the challenges facing family firms among decision-makers
Building effective partnerships:
- Engage with and form stronger links with national and international organisations relevant to achieving the IFBRF’s objectives: professional and academic associations, membership and industrial bodies – such organisations representing UK business, FBN, IFERA, STEP, EFB, FFI, national family business associations, international research institutes and centres.
3. Key Stakeholders
Family businesses and business families:
The knowledge fostered through the IFBRF helps to ensure the continued success and sustainability of the UK family-business sector as well as the broader economy. Working closely with the IFB, the IFBRF acts as a medium through which new research, data, and evidence-based guidance is communicated to family-business owners and managers, and members of business families. Family business practitioners and members of business families play a central role in our work, and our research engages with practitioners to identify good practice. Our guidance resources and research provide a valuable resource for family business advisers and consultants to draw upon in the important work they do with family businesses and business families.
The research and evidence produced by the IFBRF is used to shape and inform policies that might potentially impact on the UK family business sector; for example, by raising awareness of the contribution that family firms make to the economy and society, or by evaluating policies that have a particular impact on family businesses.
Family business researchers:
The IFBRF supports academics and non-academic researchers carry out research on family business issues. Academics at UK Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) are increasingly expected to demonstrate the impact and relevance of their research. The IFBRF plays a key enabling role here, helping researchers to communicate their research to the family business community. Through its strong relationships with the UK academic community, the IFBRF seeks to develop and build capacity for high quality family business research in the UK.
Students and academics:
Lecturers and students in UK HEIs are also key beneficiaries of the IFBRF’s activities; for example, the IFBRF provides resources for teaching and learning about the UK family-business sector for use in undergraduate and postgraduate teaching.
4. Planned activities 2020-23
During the period for which we are seeking funding (2020-2023), we plan to carry out work in the following areas:
- Regularly produce and publish of a family business sector report to investigate and assess the impact and contribution of family businesses on the UK economy.
- We plan to develop and commission new research around the following themes:
- Family governance
- Resilience and transformation – this encompasses a number of sub-themes including next generation and succession; long-term orientation; and sustainability
- People capital and well-being
- Impact of government policy on family businesses in the UK
- Producing new best practice guidance for family business owners, managers, advisers, and students grounded in evidence from our research; for example, publishing in-depth case studies and developing and extending the IFB Research Foundation’s Family Business Challenges series, and guidance.
- Activities to promote, facilitate and build capacity for family business research in the UK; for example, by sponsoring research projects, assisting researchers to disseminate their work, supporting early career researchers, and fostering a UK network of family business researchers.
- Organising research events to disseminate our work and to bring researchers together from different institutions to network, share their work and to explore opportunities for collaboration.
- Identify and help to develop the data and research resources (both quantitative and qualitative) available to family business researchers and that underpins research in this field.
- Engage with and build links with national and international associations and bodies that focus on family business (academic, advisory, family business).. This might involve exploring opportunities for membership and also disseminating the RF’s work at the annual events/conferences of some of these organisations.
5. Planned outcomes of the IFBRF’s research programme
The expected outcomes of our research and education programme are listed below.
- Successful completion of a series of research projects on family business matters (2-3 projects each year)
- Publication and dissemination of the findings from these projects through reports, papers and other outputs
- Production and publication of a Family Business Sector report in each of the three years covered by the funding
- Dissemination of IFBRF research findings and evidence among the UK’s family-business research community to inform new research and teaching
- Dissemination of IFBRF research findings and evidence among policy makers and the wider public to foster greater understanding of the issues affecting UK family firms and awareness of the sector and the contribution it makes
- Develop new practice guidance for practitioners, owners, managers, advisers, and students (e.g. our Challenges Guide series) grounded in current research evidence, including research carried out by the IFB Research Foundation.
- Publication and dissemination of family-business case studies both for practice guidance and pedagogical use
- Increased use of IFBRF outputs (research and guidance) in university teaching programmes
- Identification of the theoretical, methodological and data challenges faced by researchers working in this field, and possible solutions to these challenges
- Improvements in data quality, access and availability to underpin and foster research in this field
- Strengthened relationships between the IFBRF and UK universities/academics to underpin our programme of research and development activity
- Improved support for and salience of family business research in the UK
6. Who will benefit from the IFBRF’s 2020-23 programme?
Our work provides benefit in a number of different ways and across a variety of stakeholders; for example, the general public, including family business owners and managers, can access IFBRF publications online free of charge. As a charity, the IFBRF works for public benefit, and has a diversity of stakeholders, including family business owners and managers, policy makers, academics, advisers and other groups.
The knowledge and insight fostered through the IFBRF’s work helps to ensure the continued success and sustainability of the UK family business sector as well as the broader economy. Working closely with the IFB, the IFBRF acts as a medium through which new research, data, and evidence-based guidance is communicated to family business owners and managers. Our guidance and research outputs provide a resource for advisers and consultants to draw upon in the important work they do with family businesses. The Challenges Guide series is particularly popular, and assists practitioners to implement best practice.
The research and evidence produced by the IFBRF is used to inform policies that might potentially impact on the UK family business sector; for example, by raising awareness of the contribution that family firms make to the UK economy, or by evaluating policies or regulations that have a particular impact on family businesses.
UK academics are increasingly expected to demonstrate the impact and relevance of their research. The IFBRF plays a key enabling role here, helping researchers to communicate their research to the family business community. Through its strong links with the UK academic community, the IFBRF seeks to develop and build capacity for high quality family business research in the UK.
7. MONITORING AND EVALUATION
Years 1 and 2
At the end of years 1 and 2 - production of an annual monitoring report to update funders, the IFBRF Board and progress on key objectives using the data sources identified below. This will describe how the work is being delivered and provide quantitative and qualitative information relating to each major area of activity. As well as giving an overview of progress on the charity’s main objectives, it will also identify successes, and any problems or difficulties that have arisen, including any changes that have been made as a result of what has been learned and action points for improvement (see above).
Evidence will be gathered from multiple sources to evaluate the overall delivery and impact of the charity’s work using monitoring data and qualitative information, as well as an evaluation survey in the final quarter of the period in 2023. This evidence will underpin an “impact narrative” for the charity’s work and achievements over the three-year period.
Sources of data/evidence for M&E include:
- Administrative data (for example, data relating to IFB and IFBRF communications)
- Project-based learning (using evidence from project reviews, progress reports, Board minutes, interim reports, etc. to improve delivery)
- Collation of publication and dissemination data – for example, number of reports published and posted out, or handed out at events, etc.
- Evidence on media coverage (print media, television, features/op-eds in trade magazines or periodicals, social media, blogs, etc.)
- Evidence of engagement with IFBRF outputs among researchers and academics (e.g. data from Research Gate, citation databases, qualitative feedback from academics and researchers, anecdotal feedback and comments from researchers).
- Event data and feedback (for example, feedback from IFB annual conference, IFBRF research meetings, IFB events etc.)
- The IFB team will support the IFBRF by collecting informal and ad hoc dissemination, feedback from practitioners, members or their other stakeholders, either verbal or electronic – this feedback will be entered into their membership database, CIVI
- The IFB team will support the IFBRF with the collection and analysis of Google Analytics data so we can monitor visits to our webpages and access to our publications and other outputs
- At the end of the three-year period, evaluation research: survey of key stakeholders together with interviews and consultations with our main beneficiaries (see above – for example, family business owners and practitioners, researchers, policy makers, etc.)
8. qUALITY ASSURANCE
Monitoring and evaluation:
The monitoring and evaluation framework set out above for the three-year period for which funding is being sought.
(a) The Board:
The IFBRF’s Board of trustees meets three times each year, and reviews the direction and quality of the IFBRF’s work, and ensures that it is independent and impartial.
(b) The IFB:
The close working relationship with the IFB acts as a guarantee of the policy and practitioner relevance of our work. The IFB is consulted regularly on the direction of the IFBRF’s work. The Chair of the IFB’s board also sits on the IFBRF’s board. The Director General of the IFB, Elizabeth Bagger, is an ex officio member of the IFBRF Board.
(c) Expert advice:
The IFBRF receives expert advice from Professor Carole Howorth of the University of York, and Professor Ajay Bhalla of Cass Business School, City, University of London, sits on the charity’s Board.
(d) Ensuring quality of our research and outputs:
- The purpose and rationale of any new work is carefully researched and considered and the IFBRF’s trustees play a key role ensuring the charity’s activities are consistent with the overall mission and strategic objectives of the charity.
- A panel including the HoR, trustees, an expert adviser, and practitioner representation from the IFB systematically scrutinize proposals for new research according to a common set of criteria.
- To ensure the quality of our outputs, a rigorous editorial process is in place involving checks throughout the drafting and publication process. The IFBRF retains editorial control over all of its outputs and has in place a partnership strategy which sets out our approach to collaborating with external partners. For key publications, an editorial panel is convened consisting of a small number of practitioners, business owners, and professional researchers. All outputs are carefully checked at the editorial stage by the IFBRF’s HoR and the charity’s trustees.
- In-house reviews are occasionally carried out to identify any problems that have arisen in a project, learning points to take forward, and areas for improvement.
9. INPUTS REQUIRED TO DELIVER THE IFBRF's PROGRAMME of activity over 2020-23
The IFBRF commissions research from leading family-business experts at UK and other universities on topics selected under its research framework where further evidence will add real value to the understanding of family businesses in the UK. Our report on the status of family businesses is produced annually by external consultants (recently Oxford Economics) and our current major project is on the community impact of family businesses which is being delivered by a research team from Birmingham University.
The main inputs into the IFBRF’s programme of work over the next three years include:
Apart from the external project costs, internal costs are planned to be as follows:
- Head of Research (HoR) (FT post)
- Administrative assistance and support for the Board and the HoR
- Expert Adviser to the IFBRF (currently Professor Carole Howorth, University of York)
- The Charity’s Board of Trustees who draw on their own expertise, contacts and resources to support the activities of the charity and the HoR in his role
- Finance officer (shared with IFB) responsible for processing payments, donations and preparing management accounts
- Accountant – to prepare annual accounts
- Volunteers - recruiting volunteers to work with us to support our programme of family business research
For the IFBRF to deliver its programme of work, it depends on support from the IFB in a number of key areas. This is set out in a Memorandum of Understanding between the two organisations, setting out the aims, scope, and rationale for working arrangement between them, and defining the services provided by the IFB to the IFBRF. For example, the IFB supports the IFBRF with the following:
- Assisting with HR matters (pay, leave, etc.)
- Media communications, publication and dissemination
- Office management and logistical support
- Workspace for the IFBRF’s HoR
- Website management, analytics and IT support
Dr Martin Kemp, February 2020 (revised June 2020)