The Robert Oakeshott Lecture 2020

The EOA’s annual lecture commemorates and celebrates the life, legacy, and work of its founder, and employee ownership pioneer, Robert Oakeshott.

This year Naomi Climer CBE delivered the Employee Ownership Association’s (EOA) 2020 Robert Oakeshott Lecture, titled The Rise of the Robots: What Role for Employee Ownership in the 2030 Economy?”

This year’s lecture was kindly sponsored by our EOA member Postlethwaite, an employee-owned law firm whose purpose is to help businesses become employee-owned as a route to growth, improved performance, greater resilience and sharing of rewards with all who play a role.

“There is growing consensus that employee ownership brings benefits for business, employees and society alike.  But as artificial intelligence and the need to combat climate change ushers in a new industrial revolution, we need to ask what kinds of future organisation will employees own and what jobs will they have.

Robert Postlethwaite, Managing Director, Postlethwaite

Naomi Climer CBE

Naomi Climer CBE, Co-Chair of the Institute for the Future of Work, is an engineer and leader who is now a non executive director on the Boards of a number of quoted companies and charities. Naomi’s career has been in broadcast, media and entertainment technology, ultimately as President of Sony’s Media Cloud Services after which she became the first female President of the Institution of Engineering and Technology.

“Socially responsible automation is critical to spread the benefits of tech. We must craft the future of work, so it works for us all.”

Naomi Climer CBE, Co-Chair, Institute for the Future of Work

This Year’s Theme

Various social and technological drivers will influence the next decade and, specifically, how emerging technologies will recast our society and the way we conduct business by the year 2030. At the same time, economic insecurity is one of the major challenges.

The rise of automation, artificial intelligence and the gig economy is often cited for creating economic disruption which in turn impacts on people’s lives. However, there are other factors which need consideration – an unbalanced economy that creates inequality and a failing social security systems that fails to protect people are integral.

As we enter a new chapter as a country, post-Brexit and post-election, we have an opportunity to decide what kind of economy we want to see. In a landscape likely to be dominated by automation and autonomous systems, this lecture explored the impact of future work on society, productivity and the economy. It looked at the role human centred technology adoption including employee ownership will have for employees and business owners alike.

By 2030, what might employee ownership look like in an economy dominated by robots?

Get Involved

As part of her closing remarks, Naomi asked for Employee Owned businesses to adopt the 10 Points outlined in the “Good Work Charter”, she also asked for EO businesses to get in touch if they were interested in taking part in the Institute for the Future of Work’s latest research project with Warwick Business School looking at how a people-centered approach to technology adoption can be developed.

If you would be interested in taking part in either of these projects, please contact on 01482 682544


Previous Speakers:

About Robert Oakeshott

The EOA was established in 1979 by English journalist, economist and social reformer Robert Oakeshott.

Robert lived an adventurous life which saw him complete national service in Malaya, study Classics at Oxford, be named a hero of the Hungarian Revolution, and become a journalist for the Financial Times. He was also a government advisor in Zambia, founded a school in Botswana and stood for election as an MP before beginning his focus on worker cooperatives and employee ownership.

When Robert returned to the UK in 1973 he was the driving force in launching Sunderlandia, a builders’ co-operative in Sunderland.  After this he studied worker cooperatives  and employee owned businesses including Mondragón, the large co-operative complex in the Basque region of Spain which lead to him authoring two books ‘The Case for Workers’ Cooperatives’ and ‘Jobs and Fairness: The Logic and Experience of Employee Ownership’.

In 1979, Oakeshott founded Job Ownership Limited (JOL), a consultancy to advise on industrial co-ops and conversion to the employee-owned model. In its early life JOL was supported by the John Lewis Partnership and Scott Bader as well as those who Robert advised and supported to become employee owned including Scottish papermaker Tullis Russell and Baxi Heating, (now Baxendale) the domestic boiler manufacturer employing 1,200 people near Preston, which converted to an employee benefit trust.

Robert Oakeshott retired in 1999 at which point JOL became a membership organisation and subsequently became the Employee Ownership Association in 2006 – by 2015 it had 200 members and has since grown to over 350 members from across the UK.

Robert continued to be involved in employee ownership in the UK and beyond until his death age 77 in 2011. Since 2012 the EOA has held the annual Robert Oakeshott Lecture in his memory.