Prof Johnston Birchall
Person photo Emeritus Professor
Sociology/Social Pol&Criminology

Contact Information
Colin Bell Building, University of Stirling
United Kingdom

Phone: 01786 467981
Fax: 01786 466299

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Johnston Birchall studied at Oxford and then spent five years as a housing association manager before returning to academic life with an MA in Social Policy and a PhD at York University. For the last 25 years (!) his focus has been on the subject of co-operation, more specifically in member-owned businesses (cooperatives, mutuals, and user-controlled public service agencies). He has been at Stirling since 1999. Johnston has written several books (with translations into five other languages), his latest being People-centred Businesses: co-operatives, mutuals and the idea of membership (Macmillan, 2010). Recently has he has been advising UN agencies on co-operative responses to the global economic crisis. He has a Leverhulme Fellowship for 2012, and is using it to write a book on people-centred banking. *Find out more about JB's work under the 'Research' heading below. *To make it easier for people to access his publications, JB has included a link to the University STORRE where many of them are deposited.

Research Interests:
I have always been fascinated by the idea of member-owned, as opposed to investor-owned, businesses. It seems to me that the co-operative business model is a serious alternative to corporate capitalism. My first two books were on small co-operative stores and co-operative housing. Then I wrote histories of the co-operative movement in Britain and internationally (published also in Japanese and Korean). My recent book, People-centred Businesses, is the culmination of this work as it provides a comprehensive analysis of all the main types of consumer and producer owned businesses. It is also being translated into Japanese and Korean. Now (with the help of a Leverhulme Fellowship for 2012) I am writing a book on the potential of co-operative banks to stabilize the banking sector and provide a more sustainable economy. Between 2000 and 2006, Richard Simmons and I had a long (mainly ESRC funded), research programme in which we developed and field-tested a ‘mutual incentives theory' of participation in relation to co-operative membership and user involvement in public service delivery. This extended into studies of the ‘culture of consumption' in the relationship between public service consumers and providers. Now I am grounding this work in evolutionary and social psychology and game theory, and have just completed a report on the way consumer participation is changing, through the impact of the Internet and social media. Not surprisingly, I have had quite an interest in organizational governance; the way organisations design their membership strategies and governance structures so as to make them more responsive. I have been a member of government advisory groups on governance of foundation trusts and mutual insurance companies, and have proposed mutual solutions for water, transport and other utilities. In the last decade, working with UN agencies I have published a series of reports on the potential of co-operatives in poverty reduction in developing countries. Recently, Richard and I ran an ESRC-funded project that built on this work, focusing on the comparative advantages of agricultural co-operatives and credit unions, and providing case studies of Sri Lanka and Tanzania. I resist using the label ‘development studies' and take a business studies approach that can be applied in any country. From time to time I have entered into current debates about mutualisation of public services. My interest began with an edited book the New Mutualism in Public Policy, completed in 2001. I am currently writing three book chapters for various editors, including one for a book on the ‘Big Society' to be published by Political Quarterly.
Employment History:
Emeritus Professor
Sociology/Social Pol&Criminology

Activities :