Before joining the Open University, James worked at the Universities of Birmingham and Manchester within a range of disciplines including Geography, Politics and Social Policy. His work is inter-disciplinary and is concerned with the voluntary sector in its broadest sense, but also more particularly in relation to current transformations in public services in the UK. 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 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. 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, for example in the Work Programme. His jointly-edited collection on The Third Sector in Public Services was published by Policy Press in July 2016.
He has always sought to produce research that is accessible and relevant to non-academic audiences, and to take part in and influence policy debates. Recent collaborative work with TSRC colleague and partners such as Clinks, NCVO and New Philanthropy Capital involved the creation of a capacity building action plan for the Ministry of Justice in 2013, evaluation of Data Lab initiatives, and ‘tracking’ the development of the Transforming Rehabilitation programme (both ongoing). Previous research has been funded by ESRC and AHRC, Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG), the European Commission (ESPON), and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).