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Dr James Rees

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Profile summary

Professional biography

James Rees is Senior Research Fellow and Director of the Centre for Voluntary Sector Leadership. He joined the Open University in March 2016; prior to that he worked at the Universities of Birmingham and Manchester in a range of disciplines including Geography, Politics and Social Policy. His work is notably inter-disciplinary and is concerned with the voluntary sector in its broadest sense, but also more specifically in its relationship with current transformations in public services in the UK. At the Third Sector Research Centre, University of Birmingham, he led the public service delivery programme, research from which helped set the agenda for debates on the involvement of voluntary organisations in public services. His jointly-edited collection on The Third Sector delivering Public Services was published by Policy Press in July 2016.

Research interests

Recent research has focused on the role of the third sector in service delivery, cross-sectoral partnership, commissioning, and organisational change and the role of citizens and service users, drawing on a range of theoretical traditions in the fields of governance and organisational studies. He has also been involved in a range of applied and practical research projects particularly in relation to data labs and the reforms to probation services under Transforming Rehabilitation; with partners such as New Philanthropy Capital, Clinks and NCVO. He has also been funded by ESRC, NIHR, Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales, and Erasmus+. He also has long-standing research interests in urban and regional governance, and has published more broadly on housing policy, urban regeneration and community and citizen engagement.

Teaching interests

James has taught widely at undergraduate and postgraduate level since 2007. At Birmingham he convened two Masters level modules on the Third Sector in Social Policy, and Social Policy Futures.

Since October 2016 he has been supervising three Ou PhD students, focusing on areas such as health, mental health, leadership, online education and public and social value:

  • Daniel Haslam
  • Cristina Mititelu
  • Ronald Macintyre
  • And from February 2019:

  • Sally Vivyan

Impact and engagement

James is a co-editor of Voluntary Sector Review and co-editor of Social Policy Review. He is a member of the Editorial Management Board of VSR and board member of the Journal of Social Policy.


The Public Sector and Co-Creation in Turbulent times: A Systematic Literature Review on Robust Governance in the Covid-19 emergency (2023-03)
Scognamiglio, Fulvio; Sancino, Alessandro; Calo, Francesca; Jacklin-Jarvis, Carol and Rees, James
Public Administration, 101(1) (pp. 53-70)

"You can't Google everything": the voluntary sector and the leadership of communities of place (2022)
Rees, James; Sancino, Alessandro; Jacklin-Jarvis, Carol and Pagani, Michela
Leadership, 18(1) (pp. 102-119)

Fun, lifelong relationships, and a safer community: understanding collective leadership practice in a grassroots association (2021)
Jacklin-Jarvis, Carol and Rees, James
Voluntary Sector Review, 13(2) (pp. 207-225)

The contribution of the voluntary sector to mental health crisis care: a mixed-methods study (2020-07)
Newbigging, Karen; Rees, James; Ince, Rebecca; Mohan, John; Joseph, Doreen; Ashman, Michael; Norden, Barbara; Dare, Ceri; Bourke, Suzanne and Costello, Benjamin
Health Services and Delivery Research, 8(29) (pp. 1-200)

The difference leadership makes? Debating and conceptualizing leadership in the UK voluntary sector (2020-03)
Terry, Vita; Rees, James and Jacklin-Jarvis, Carol
Voluntary Sector Review, 11(1) (pp. 99-111)

Contribution of the voluntary sector to mental health crisis care in England: protocol for a multimethod study. (2017-11-08)
Newbigging, Karen; Mohan, John; Rees, James; Harlock, Jenny and Davis, Alex
BMJ Open, 7, Article e019238

Generating 'good enough' evidence for co-production (2017-01)
Durose, Catherine; Needham, Catherine; Mangan, Catherine and Rees, James
Evidence & Policy: A Journal of Research, Debate and Practice, 13(1) (pp. 135-151)

Commission incomplete: exploring the new model for purchasing public services from the third sector (2016-07)
Rees, James; Miller, Robin and Buckingham, Heather
Journal of Social Policy, 46(1) (pp. 175-194)

UK employment services: understanding provider strategies in a dynamic strategic action field (2016-04-30)
Taylor, Rebecca; Rees, James and Damm, Christopher
Policy and Politics, 44(2) (pp. 253-267)

Public harm or public value? Towards coproduction in research with communities (2015-06-01)
Beebeejaun, Yasminah; Durose, Catherine; Rees, James; Richardson, Jo and Richardson, Liz
Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space, 33 (pp. 552-565)

New 'new localism' or the emperor's new clothes: diverging local social policies and state-voluntary sector relations in an era of localism (2015-03-01)
Rees, James and Rose, Nigel
Voluntary Sector Review, 6(1) (pp. 81-91)

Mental health commissioning: master or subject of change? (2014-10)
Miller, Robin and Rees, James
Mental Health Review Journal, 19(3) (pp. 145-155)

Responsible Citizens and Accountable Service Providers? Renegotiating the Contract Between Citizen and State (2014-07-31)
Richardson, Liz; Purdam, Kingsley; Cotterill, Sarah; Rees, James; Squires, Graham and Askew, Rebecca
Environment and Planning A, 46(7) (pp. 1716-1731)

Support for All in the UK Work Programme? Differential Payments, Same Old Problem (2014-03-06)
Rees, James; Whitworth, Adam and Carter, Elle
Social Policy and Administration, 48(2) (pp. 221-239)

Public sector commissioning and the third sector: Old wine in new bottles? (2014-01)
Rees, James
Public Policy and Administration, 29(1) (pp. 45-63)

'Beyond text': exploring ethos and method in co-producing research with communities (2014)
Beebeejaun, Yasminah; Durose, Catherine; Rees, James; Richardson, Joanna and Richardson, Liz
Community Development Journal, 49(1) (pp. 37-53)

Voluntary and community welfare (2019-01-16)
Macmillan, Rob and Rees, James
In: Powell, Martin ed. Understanding the mixed economy of welfare. Understanding Welfare: Social Issues, Policy and Practice (pp. 91-112)
ISBN : 978-1447333210 | Publisher : Policy Press

Cross-Sector Collaboration for Public Value Co-Creation: A Critical Analysis (2018)
Sancino, Alessandro; Rees, James and Schindele, Irene
In: Stout, Margaret ed. From Austerity to Abundance?: Creative Approaches to Coordinating the Common Good. Critical Perspectives on International Public Sector Management (pp. 59-73)
ISBN : 978-1-78714-466-8 | Publisher : Emerald

Excavating social policy lessons from the New Labour era (2018)
Rees, James
In: Needham, Catherine; Heins, Elkie and Rees, James eds. Social policy review 30: Analysis and debate in social policy, 2018. Social Policy Review (pp. 203-207)
ISBN : 9781447349990 | Publisher : Policy Press | Published : Bristol

Leaving the city region behind? The growth and decline of metropolitan rescaling in Manchester, England (2015)
Rees, James and Lord, Alex
In: Jones, Kevin Edson; Lord, Alex and Shield, Rob eds. City-Regions in Prospect? Exploring the Meeting Points Between Places and Practice. McGill-Queen's studies in urban governance (pp. 73-92)
ISBN : 9780773546042 | Publisher : McGill-Queen's University Press | Published : London

Urban Housing Market Restructuring and the Re-casting of neighbourhood governance and community (2009)
Rees, James
In: Durose, Catherine; Greasley, Stephen and Richardson, Liz eds. Changing local governance, changing citizens (pp. 53-70)
ISBN : 9781847422170 | Publisher : Policy Press | Published : Bristol

Answering the English Question (2008)
Harding, Alan; Hazell, Robert; Burch, Martin and Rees, James
In: Hazell, Robert ed. Constitutional Futures Revisited: Britain's Constitution to 2020 (pp. 73-89)
ISBN : 9780230220744 | Publisher : Palgrave Macmillan | Published : Basingstoke

The English Regions and London (2008)
Burch, Martin; Harding, Alan and Rees, James
In: Trench, Alan ed. State of the Nations 2008: Into the Third Term of Devolution in the United Kingdom (pp. 123-146)
ISBN : 9781845401269 | Publisher : Imprint Academic | Published : Exeter

Social Policy Review 30: Analysis and debate in social Policy (2018-06)
Needham, Catherine; Heins, Elke and Rees, James eds.
ISBN : 978-1447349990 | Publisher : Policy Press | Published : Bristol

The Third Sector Delivering Public Services: Developments, Innovations and Challenges (2016-07-26)
Rees, James and Mullins, David eds.
Third Sector Research Series
ISBN : 978-1-4473-2239-9 | Publisher : Policy Press | Published : Bristol