Dr Justin Larner MCMI

Justin punting in Oxford

Justin is an experienced manager, researcher, designer and consultant.

Following gaining a BSc in Computing and Physics, Justin first undertook programming work in the not-for profit sector, including creating a database for the West Yorkshire Transport Museum's collection in the early 1990s. Through voluntary work at Calderdale Mind, Justin gained listening skills and an appreciation of the problems faced by the most vulnerable in society, those with mental health issues. An internship at Groundwork in Oldham offered experience of practical community development, including of working with community groups. During this period, Justin was also a non-executive director of Commonword Limited, a co-operative publisher in Manchester. Working for Community Regeneration as a Community Projects Officer in the late 1990s included facilitating community groups in the North West of England to create new buildings that improved lives in their neighbourhoods. These would be designed by the practice, then his work also included helping the groups find funding for completion of their new faculties.

As Development Manager of Mind in Manchester from 2000-2010, Justin then returned to the challenging environment of mental health. This position included both day-to-day management of the organisation and developing new projects in response to people's mental health needs. In particular, he created the Mind Mentors project in 2003, where volunteers could apply their experience of recovery from mental health issues in a supportive one-to-one relationship to enable their mentee to make progress towards taking control of their lives. A key aspect of developing this project was listening to, gaining an understanding of and confirming with mental health service users what sort of intervention could enable them to make progress towards recovery. The Mind Mentors project quickly showed its potential to enable people with severe and enduring mental health needs to receive support outside the medical system and turn their lives around. Another success was being subcontracted to Mind in Salford as a consultant in 2005-6 to help rebuild the organisation after difficult governance and management problems. Following a year and a half working with commissioners, staff and volunteers, Salford Mind managed to re-launch and secure further funding. Overall, Justin has raised over £1M of funding for Mind services and projects from statutory sources, charitable trusts and the National Lottery.

In 2006, Justin participated in the Cassel Hospital Management and Leadership series of workshops, which he found a revelation, as they focused on how organisations and groups can develop unconscious defensive mental processes. This deeper understanding or organisational issues underpins Justin's research into organisational governance, stakeholder involvement and business models. While undertaking an MA at Liverpool John Moores University from 2008-2010, he investigated the effectiveness of stakeholder involvement in the governance of social enterprise, finding that a separate advisory group was preferable to stakeholders being on the organisation's governing board. During 2010-2011, Justin undertook research for Manchester University Sustainable Consumption Institute on the wider applicability of open source principles beyond software development. These two areas of research connected during Justin's studies on the EPSRC funded HighWire MRes / PhD programme at Lancaster University from 2012, leading to the narrative form of open source guild business model, which can be a mechanism for entrepreneurs to create power-balanced organisational structures with their stakeholders.

The open source guild model inspired work with researchers at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden from 2016 to explore how guild-like and trade union-like structures can inspire sustainable networks of organisations in the collaborative economy. This work has focused on developing the Platform Review Alliance Board model for the commissioning and review of workplace software. This model has particular relevance to the growing collaborative economy, which is based on digital software platforms. In the collaborative economy, the smartphones held by individual workers are the new workplaces. The Platform Review Alliance Board model is expressed as a design pattern, reflecting Justin's increasing interest in and involvement with design. Starting with investigating the problems with existing organisational models, a management problem, his research then how considered open source, a concept from computing, could contribute to alternative organisational models. Collaboration with other PhD researchers in the Digital Economy Network in 2016 led to a deeper appreciation of the role design can play in promoting critical reflection in both researchers and research participants. Justin is now exploring how the wishes and desires of entrepreneurs for their future can create their business model through a design process.

Justin's consultancy work has been ongoing since 1996, clients have included:

  • Lancaster University Enterprise Team (evaluation of their service using narrative techniques) 2018;
  • East London Food Access (options for governance under the Community Shares model) 2013;
  • Manchester University Sustainable Consumption Institute (desk research) 2010;
  • Burnley Food Links (contribution to their strategy and business plan) 2008;
  • CommEnt CIC (completing the Voices from the Mills project) 2007;
  • Mind Association for Mental Health (evaluating options for Mind in Salford and supporting the committee to re-launch the organisation) 2005;
  • Les Moore Associates (action planning for the ERDF funded Bolton Community Economic Development programme) 2000;
  • Robert Soutar Limited (researching community need for Hyndburn CVS) 1999;
  • Manchester Learn to Earn project (questionnaire research, analysis and report) 1999;
  • Energy Council (energy assessment of buildings) 1997.

Justin has been a member of the Chartered Management Institute (MCMI) since 2006.

A full CV is available on request.