The EO Knowledge Programme methodology aimed to ensure maximum credibility of outputs within the scope and budget of the project, including partnering with a range of independent third party research institutions to ensure the sector would not be seen to be ‘marking its own homework’.

Alongside this document, we have published a full research report by WPI Economics. That report draws principally on a YouGov survey of 152 EOBs (roughly 9% of the total number of EOBs operating in the UK) and a group of 285 non-employee owned businesses (non-EOBs). The cohorts of EOBs and non-EOBs cover all major sectors of the economy, all parts of the UK and a comparable mix of business sizes.

The survey sought to capture information on financial performance and economic impacts; employee impacts; and social, community and environmental impacts. To assure high levels of confidence in the attribution of impacts to their ownership model, EOBs were also surveyed on changes in performance and practice pre and post employee ownership. Additionally, they were asked to state whether they could attribute reported impacts to their ownership model. The survey data was analysed by WPI Economics, who also undertook econometric modelling, GVA modelling, and wider analysis. More detail on their analytic approach, and the Theory of Change model that informed it, can be found in the full report.

To inform the research and support the extrapolation of findings to the whole sector, a census exercise was undertaken which combined and cleaned various existing informal datasets on UK EOBs. Alongside this, machine learning experts Glass AI were commissioned to undertake a trawl of publicly available online data, results of which were then manually verified. This exercise revealed a total of at least 1,650 EOBs as of October 2023. The true population is likely to be higher but this data is not formally recorded nationally in any standardised way. Support for this exercise, and the YouGov survey design, was provided by CBI Economics. OAW will continue to refine this approach.

Under the EO Knowledge Programme, interviews were conducted with representatives from 65 EOBs – 65 senior decision makers and 27 employee owners – by DJS Research, between June and August 2023.  Interviewees included a diverse range of EOBs covering a mix of business sizes and ownership types, from all major sectors of the economy and all parts of the UK. The WPI Economics report draws directly on the insights provided by these interviews to offer additional context to the survey data.

Oversight was provided by a Programme Oversight Board, consisting of employee ownership experts and practitioners from the world of business, academia, journalism and trade bodies. Quality Assurance was provided separately by the following academics with established reputations in relevant fields:

Dr Juliette Summers – Senior Lecturer in Sustainable & Responsible Business,

University of Stirling

Dr Ruth Yeoman – Fellow of the Centre for Mutual and Co-owned Business,
Kellogg College, University of Oxford

Dr Aneesh Banerjee – Reader in Management,
Bayes Business School at City, University of London

Professor Richard Hazenberg – Director of the Institute for Social Innovation and Impact,
University of Northampton

Professor Robert Blackburn – Director of the Brett Centre for Entrepreneurship,
University of Liverpool Management School


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Delivery of the EO Knowledge Programme is led by independent think tank Ownership at Work.

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