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Professor John Mawson


Director of the Institute for Local Governance

Professor Mawson holds a Chair in Durham University Business School and has been Director of the Institute for Local Governance since 2010.


John Mawson is Director of the Institute for Local Governance (ILG) which is a research and knowledge exchange partnership operating across the North East, from the Scottish Borders to Teesside. He has a multi disciplinary academic, professional and management background having worked as a town planner for Strathclyde Regional Council and subsequently as Director of Economic Development at West Midlands County Council and was Chief Executive of the pioneering West Midlands Enterprise Board Ltd., a local authority controlled venture capital institution.

In the academic world John held the position of Director of the MBA programmes in the School of Public Policy at Birmingham University. He went on to serve as Professor and Head of the School of Town and Regional Planning at Dundee University, and Professor and Group Convenor of Public Policy and Management at Aston Business School. More recently he worked as Director of the Local Government Centre at Warwick Business School, which over a decade carried out a wide range of policy analyses and evaluations for central government departments, the National Audit Office, the Audit Commission and local government. The Centre also ran the Warwick Local Authority Research Consortium and various Social Exclusion Networks involving leading councils (including Birmingham, Manchester, Cardiff and Bristol) in research focusing on innovations in policy and service delivery. In carrying out this research agenda the Centre adopted coproduction methods of engaging elected members, officers and academics in the work.

Professor Mawson currently holds a Chair in Durham Business School and has been Director of the Institute for Local Governance, since 2010. This is a regional research and knowledge exchange intermediary which sources University research expertise for its public sectors from North East Academics. Since its establishment in 2009 it has brokered and/or delivered some 90 research projects worth some £2,000,000, raised a further £600,000 for its Partners and organised 187 knowledge exchange events involving 4,500 participants held across the North East. Of particular note are region-wide projects delivered for the Association of North East Councils including the impact of enhanced Scottish Devolution on the North East; the consequences of public expenditure cuts on the region; the monitoring of welfare reform; the provision of mental health services for children and young people; and Borderlands strategic collaboration.

In the world of practice John Mawson served on the Board of several partnerships and community initiatives including the West Midlands Technology Transfer Centre, Warwick Science Park, Greets Green New Deal for Communities, and Youth Homeless North East. His consultancy work has involved leading the successful London wide bid to establish the London Development Agency, undertaking two central government evaluations of Regional Development Agencies and he was a member of the Cabinet Office Team which prepared the Labour Government’s decentralisation strategy for the Civil Service: Reaching Out.

He worked on a voluntary basis to develop a support infrastructure for social enterprises in the West Midlands. This included Chairing the West Midlands Social Economy Partnership, a £3.5 million central government funded action research programme involving 21 business projects, and latterly establishing Social Enterprise West Midlands, the development agency and regional voice for the sector involving some 450 businesses. Based on the above experience he served as a Board Member of the ESRC’s Third Sector Research Centre. Since coming to the North East, John has been involved in commissioning and delivering a number of research projects and knowledge exchange activities for ILG partners involving charitable, voluntary and community organisations.

Professor Mawson has published several books and over a hundred journal articles together with official publications on the management of cities and regions. He has secured some 11 Research Council grants and raised over £4 million of grants from central and local government, the voluntary sector, research foundations and the ESRC. The latter projects have included a study of the restructuring of the West Midlands economy; innovation in local economic development; an evaluation of Government Offices in the English Regions; emergence of local and regional governance in England; a comparative study of partnership working in England and Northern Ireland; research collaboration between Universities and local government. 

Reflecting his experience at the research practice interface, he served as Special Advisor to the House of Commons Environment Committee on regeneration issues and Chaired the Local Authority Research Council Initiative (LARCI) concerned with research and knowledge exchange between Universities and central and local government. His Chairmanship of LARCI saw the negotiation of the first National Research Concordat between the Research Councils, central government and national local government bodies.

Research Interests

  • Regional and local economic development
  • Management of Cities and Regions
  • Public sector management and local governance
  • Social enterprise
  • Theory and practice of knowledge exchange between academia and practice

Research Groups


Contact Details

Director of the Institute for Local Governance
+44 191 3349291