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Scholar spotlight

This page highlights the people who are making accounting impactful.

Michelina Aguanno

PhD Candidate, Ivey Business School
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Mike Rogerson

PhD Candidate, University of Bath and Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Surrey

For me, impact is about the desire to change thinking inside and outside academia. There is more research being conducted today that at any time in history. And yet the competing tensions at the heart of public policy making and the profit imperative in corporate decision-making mean that even those organizations intending to be a positive influence in their environments often fall short or actually exacerbate the problems they’re attempting to address. Impactful research can engage with these issues to offer decision makers evidence that enables them to at least make better-informed choices.

Mike Rogerson is a PhD candidate at the University of Bath working with Professor Andrew Crane, Dr Johanne Grosvold and Dr Vivek Soundararajan on organizational responses to modern slavery legislation. He is also a part-time Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Centre for the Decentralised Digital Economy at the University of Surrey, where he works with Professor Glenn Parry on novel techniques for providing supply chain transparency.

Industry experience

Having managed labour rights issues while working in Libya, Mike was in Qatar when the Guardian newspaper broke stories of modern slavery in the Gulf state. Having continued his environmental work there, he was struck by the dissonance between rising calls for sustainability and the reality of what was happening to people as ‘responsible business’ gained traction. While the 1987 Brundtland Report defines sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs,” the future has been the clear focus of sustainability efforts. This emphasis on “meeting the needs of the present” has been taken narrowly, however, often ignoring the plight of communities in which rare earth metals are mined, garments are produced, and indigenous peoples live.

Research for impact

Leaving industry for academia in 2018, Mike’s work has focused on how organizations with the power to significantly impact the labour rights of workers in supply chains are dealing with the UK Modern Slavery Act 2015 (MSA) and the forthcoming European Union legislation on mandatory environmental and human rights due diligence. To date, Mike has published work on how legislators failed to make MSA relevant to the circumstances and regulations public buyers are under, research which has led to conversations in the UK Home Office about addressing this flaw.

Mike has also studied the UK accounting profession’s response to MSA. As part of his PhD, Mike has found that the feedback loop between the largest professional services firms, their clients, and consumers, which can influence client action, has so far failed to force the profession to act in the role of trusted advisor it does on other, similar issues.

Mike’s other research projects have focused on offering visibility to firms in their supply chains through using blockchain to trace goods and materials and through adopting novel biomarkers in cocoa supply chains to establish the provenance of a cocoa crop. Enabling firms, auditors, and regulators to learn of agricultural products’ origin, for example, can allow for targeted investigations to be conducted on specific farms and plantations for environmental and human rights abuses.

Michelina Aguanno, PhD Candidate, Ivey Business School

 

What is Impact?

To me, impact is not an afterthought or something to be assessing in hindsight, but a guiding principle of how I engage with research.

 

Michelina Aguanno is a PhD Candidate at Ivey Business School working with Diane-Laure Arjaliès and Tima Bansal on conservation finance and systems innovation. While embarking on her journey as a PhD student, impact has been at the forefront of Michelina’s mind. When deciding where to position herself as a scholar and what research projects to embark on, a key part of the process has been asking questions such as: “What is the purpose of this research? What are the practical challenges this research is designed to address? What is the desired impact of this research? How do I play a role in amplifying the impact?”.

 

As PhD students, we are asked to question our theoretical contributions. Just as we are thinking about gaps in the academic literature, we should also be encouraged to think about the gaps and needs within our communities. As I embark on my journey as a researcher, I am constantly thinking about how I can practically contribute to the world to tackle sustainability challenges, and what the contributions of my work are to stakeholders outside of the academy.

 

About the Research

Michelina is on the research team of Innovation North, a lab in which researchers and practitioners co-create approaches to systems innovation. Through Innovation North, Michelina is working with practice partners tackling systems level challenges, such as biodiversity loss, by applying systems thinking to highlight key tensions, barriers, and opportunities to innovate. One of Michelina’s areas of interest includes conservation finance, leveraging financial mechanisms to fund nature conservation.

 

Michelina is also on the research team from Ivey Business School working on the Deshkan Ziibi Conservation Impact Bond (DZCIB) project. The DZCIB, is a community-based participatory research pilot project which engaged local conservationists, First Nations, impact investors, and private companies to finance the restoration of 1000 hectares of healthy habitat in the Carolinian zone, one of the most biodiverse ecoregions in Canada. 

 

Community-Based Impact

Impact is an important consideration at all stages of research. For Michelina, this starts as early as choosing a topic. Impact is not only about the breadth, but also depth. Meaningful impact can start at a community-level. I think impact starts from considering one’s community and which topics are salient. As researchers, we are situated in a place, moment in time, and broader systems. Impact is about being forward-thinking and acknowledging: what are the present needs of the community, what is the collective desired future, and how can my research play a role in overcoming this gap?

 

Impact Through Relationship-Building and Knowledge Co-creation

When designing our research projects, we can strive for impact not only through the output of the research, but also in the process of conducting research. This can be done by considering who you are engaging and the opportunities for impact through engagement. With the DZCIB project, the impact did not only occur through end product, but also throughout the development of the bond and research processes. The impact of this project included developing cross-sectoral and cross-cultural relationships among the partners of the project who were united through a common goal to restore healthy ecosystems and support biodiversity on the land.

 

As researchers, impact is not only about sharing knowledge, but also humbling oneself in a process of continuous learning and allowing the research process to be a space for collaborative learning, relationship-building, and the co-creation of knowledge. 

 

Impact through Mentorship and Training

Impact also occurs through the personal and professional growth based on mentorship and training. When student researchers begin on the team, it is important to consider: What elements of this project align with their long-term goals? How can we engage students’ interests and train them to meet their long-term goals?

 

As an undergraduate research assistant, I was inspired through the projects I was working on to pursue my doctoral studies. During that time, I received valuable mentorship and training that enabled my development as a researcher. I aspire for impact not only through the product of my research, but also to impact those around me throughout the research process. I think an important part of impact for researchers at any stage is to consider opportunities for training and mentorship of the next generation of researchers and leaders within the discipline.

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