Ambiguities and Complexities of Obtaining Value for Money in the National Health Service: Storytelling Approach

This thesis examines a quest for Value for Money in the United Kingdom National Health Service and argues that in spite of considerable achievements, the Value for Money approach has “crowded out” CARE. Essentially, CARE involves sympathy, empathy, and compassion. It has so many different manifestations in practice that a) it can only be shown through narratives, and b) this requires a more decentralised–bottom up–approach than has been adopted by the Value for Money strategy. We represent Value for Money as a Grand Narrative in the sense of Lyotard (1979, 1984), and treat it as a representation of the archetypal Net Present Value model.  To capture the idea of CARE, a story approach, which we summarise as multi-narratives, is adopted. The multi-narratives derived from interviews are deconstructed using panel data, further stories and Socratic Dialogue, including ongoing academic dialogues. Using an open-ended interview approach, we find that disparity exists between the Value for Money strategy as perceived by the strategy designers in one part of the National Health Service hierarchy (or network) and those implementing the same strategy in another. Asking people who implement strategies to tell individual stories that illustrate CARE will enhance the Value for Money strategy, and CARE can then become a route for enhancing the existing Value for Money strategy by placing value on the stories about the delivery of CARE. The framework of the approach emerges from a wide range of current and historic literature related to Value for Money, ranging from the models of Irving Fisher to postmodern and post-structural perspectives of deconstruction, narratives, Socratic Dialogue, Différance, and the presence of the ‘Other’.  You will find a copy of my thesis here: ZRINKA MENDAS THESIS 2010

ERI CfEE seminar “Rural and remote ecosystems: issues and considerations”

My gratitude to Professor Gibb from the Environmental Research Institute at the University of Highlands and Islands in Thurso, for the opportunity to share my research, and to Lonneke for organising it.



In this seminar, I share my research in rural and remote regions of island archipelagos and forest ecosystems. When combined, remoteness and rurality are characterised with geographical and spatial remoteness, isolation and peripherality and, thus, are not always seen as a priority. Yet, they significantly contribute to their regional economy through the provision of a diverse range of ecosystem services. And while ecosystem approach is a widely accepted, it seems to focus too much on generating a big picture while neglecting the local context. Studies suggest that despite the remoteness there are signs of growing re-population and resilience that could be contributed to communities’ greater involvement in decision making process related to ecosystems development and management. This seminar raises the argument for thinking about a bottom up and locally driven ecosystem approach based on confluence and reciprocal altruism. And naturally, given a sheer heterogeneity of space and data, comparative statistics are difficult to obtain. This calls for a pluralistic approach based on pure fieldwork and a mixed method, e.g. ethnographic methods, storytelling, remote sensing and GIS. This approach may prove to be useful for policy makers involved in a regional smart and sustainable rural development, including urban and rural island planning; improving the quality of stakeholder engagement; and future scenario planning for ecosystems in question.

EIP-AGRI Workshop ‘New value chains from multifunctional forests, 10-11 November 2016 Vienna, Austria

Attendance to his two-day workshop was by invitation only. For anyone interested in forestry, including multi-functionality, innovative business practices and management, see the programme: EIP-AGRI network.

I love forests. Forests are everywhere, sea forests, island forests, mountain forests, and lake forests. My earliest image of forest is going there with my dad who used to take endless pictures of us, kids (four of us) and dogs, wrapped up in willow trees tiny branches around our heads. And I cherish these memories that created bond not only between us, kids, and dad but also between us and forest.

The workshop was interesting and stimulating opportunity to develop new knowledge and think about transferring the existing research skills to a context of forestry management. You would be surprised how much you already know and how you can use this, e.g. an interaction between science, policy making, and practices. I also learned about the research, policy making and practices in forest management. I met and chatted with many practitioners (foresters and farmers), policy makers in the Department of Forestry and their point contacts. We exchanged opinions and identified new issues that could be explored as research ideas for setting up our own operational group.  During the workshop, we participated in interactive discussions, e.g. we worked in small teams from 9am to 5pm and in my team we discussed various issues, e.g. technology transfer in forestry, educating for forests, free access to a scientific information on the EU website, etc. I hope to stay in touch with them.

The workshop, thus, helped me to think more precisely about I could do next and how to proceed with it, e.g. I am looking to set up my own operational group on one of the research themes, for which then I could apply for funding, providing that it is feasible and that I have committed partners. Let’s see what happen next!


Studying island archipelagos as ecosystems: Reflections and Considerations

Many thanks to Professor Goulding from the Centre for Sustainable Development, University of Central Lancashire, for allowing me to share my research at research seminar series held 4th  July 2016. It was a great pleasure to meet new colleagues, learn about their research and exchange few ideas. You can find it on page 11: csd-summer-2016-edition



This seminar contributes to a dialogue on sustainability at the regional and local level of the EU rural development, focusing on rural island communities and governance. Despite their geographical and spatial remoteness, isolation and peripherality, rural and remote islands significantly contribute to their regional economy through tourism and various ecosystem services. Current ecosystem approach is heavily top down target driven, employing a substantial range of subjective measures and thus neglecting local island sustainable development, leading to social exclusion and slower economic growth in these regions. This seminar discusses a bottom up and locally driven ecosystem approach, including a better island connectedness, affordable ferry transport, investment into broadband and green technologies, as well as greater stakeholder engagement. Changing communities’ perceptions about sustainable island management is also vital. Despite their remoteness, there are signs of growing re-population and resilience that could be contributed, on one hand, to the government’ commitment to sustainable island development, and on the second, to island communities’ greater involvement in decision making process. Lack of comparable statistics and heterogeneity of space and data suggests adopting fieldwork approach, including ethnographic methods as well as storytelling and GIS, in gathering a local and regional picture.

Keywords: rural islands, sustainability, ecosystem, governance, stakeholder engagement

Rada at play

Long awaited article that was inspired by the network meeting that took place in old Warsaw in November 2014, with my danish academic friends, Kenneth, Lars and co. Many thanks for your comments on earlier versions.

You can find the article here: Rada at play


This paper explores the concept of dominance in traditional rural and remote island communities in the Zadar island archipelago in Croatia. Like their EU counterparts, these communities struggle with geographical remoteness; island depopulation, irregular ferry connections, lack of entrepreneurship, unemployment and poverty. A previous study captured a complex web of communal relationships that play a part in minimising these negative effects on the island communities’ lives. This study focuses on studying one such behaviour – dominance and, thus, is concerned with two questions: How does dominance reveals itself, and what is its significance in practice? A conceptual and methodological approach consisting of living acts in Roman Ingarden’s spirit, ethnography, deconstruction and storytelling becomes a tool for observing the rural island communities’ experiences. In the process, the approach undergoes a qualitative metamorphosis – it co-exists and co-evolves so to help us to better understand how island life unfolds. Findings show that dominance reveals itself as rada, signifying the approach of bonding the members into the island community. Rada in this sense symbolizes Deleuze’s weapon against the governmental economisation. To engage and support the needs of the island communities, it is vital to understand how they make informal decisions, and studying local communal practices in this sense, has practical implications for the policy makers with the responsibility for small island development.

Note: I dedicate this paper to my mum who recently left us. Without doubt, she inspired me to think about the topic of the paper differently. She remains in my memory forever…

Historico-economic traces in the former island cities of Zadar and Trogir

My latest article is out!  I dedicate it to my fellow Croatian intellectual community.


This article explores historico-economic traces in the ancient cities of Zadar and Trogir in the Adriatic Sea. Islands in the past, they emerged later as small peninsula-cities, connected by bridges, canals or both. The reasons for this were economic and political: to protect the islands’ natural resources, trade and territoriality. The historico-economic angle, covering the early and late medieval period, offers insight into ancient, urban and economic traces in Zadar and Trogir. Findings suggest that the peninsula-city space, representing the Mediterranean archetype, had an important purpose in organising political, economic and social life. Ancient traces point to the events contributing to the economic prosperity of Trogir and Zadar while urban traces remind us of the military and religious purpose of the peninsula city walls. Market squares served as the hubs of the economic life and influenced the development of various trading activities and artisan occupations. Such organisation of the peninsula-city space has created the foundations for a contemporary cultural heritage and has important implications for regional tourism. The biggest challenge for the administration lies in exploring creative ways of preserving the ancient peninsula city space, including artisan trades and archaeological artefacts. This requires stakeholder engagement between city planners, public and artisan tradesmen as well as finding and utilising various funding sources, including European Union funds, inward investment and education about heritage.

Keywords: historico-economic traces, former island cities, peninsula-city, Zadar, Trogir, Croatia

SEGS & CECHR Seminar Regional rural development: a case of island archipelagos

It was a great honour to talk about my research at The James Hutton Institute in Aberdeen on 14th April 2016. Theme of the seminar was “Regional rural development: a case of island archipelagos”.


This seminar contributes to a dialogue on regional rural island development including island communities, funding and governance, with the rural islands in Scotland, Finland, Denmark and Croatia as the examples. Despite their geographical and spatial remoteness, isolation and peripherality, rural and remote islands significantly contribute to their regional economy through tourism and various ecosystem services. These elements can also represent a growing threat to island sustainable development and lead to social exclusion and slower economic growth. For governments, a better connectedness remains a key concern, including affordable ferry transport, investment into broadband and green technologies and stakeholder engagement. Changing communities’ perceptions about sustainable island management is also vital. Despite their remoteness, there are signs of growing repopulation and resilience that could be contributed, on one hand, to the government’ commitment to sustainable island development, and on the second, to island communities’ greater involvement in decision making process. Lack of comparable statistics and heterogeneity of space and data suggests adopting fieldwork approach, including ethnographic methods as well as storytelling, in gathering a local and regional picture.

Many thanks to Dr Katrin Prager for organising it.

Exploring resistance in rural and remote island communities

My long anticipated research article about island communities is out now. See: Exploring resistance in rural and remote island communities


The purpose of this paper is to discuss and use living stories to provide examples and some basic principles of cooperation as the alternative way of organising island community. This study draws upon autoethnography and storytelling to show co-operative practices. Storytelling is supported by deconstruction of living stories. Island communities create and maintain resistance through a culture of cooperation. Living stories (I-V) illustrate different instances of cooperative practices, for example, friends in need, gathering, search and moba, and where sympathy, gift, and humanity and care are essential elements. It would be interesting to explore whether island communities elsewhere exhibit similar patterns. Deconstructed stories helped in reconstructing the bigger picture of how the people on the island offer collective resistance by developing different ways of cooperation. Living stories (I-V) based on reciprocity of taking turns and giving back to the community, is a strategy for survival and of collective resistance within the rural island communities. Appreciation of the true value of collective resistance based on gift and reciprocity rather than financialisation and economisation aids to better understanding of the needs of traditional societies of island archipelagos, on the part of policy makers and other stakeholders who are involved in the process of planning for island development.


Harnessing Dis-Ability

My long anticipated paper about how disabled lecturers manage their learning and teaching, has now been published (See:Harnessing Dis-Ability). In honour of all of you out there!


Disabled lecturers at Anglia Ruskin University participated in the study ‘Harnessing DisAbility’ that explored how they manage their learning and teaching and engage students (disabled and non-disabled) in the process. The nature of study was exploratory and ethnographic. Data was collected from the lecturers on both campuses (i.e. Cambridge and Chelmsford) and include lecturer notes, video and audio recordings of the classroom lectures and individual and group interviews. The study has identified three major foci: Space, Communication and Career Development. All three significantly impact on the performance of disabled lecturers. Results show that disabled lecturers have adapted by developing their own specific capabilities in order to cope with the demands of teaching and learning. However, this means undertaking additional, unpaid work in their own time that alongside with the lack of the information often results in creating a stressful and working environment instead of a supportive one. The study concludes that disabled lecturers should be provided with a more supportive working environment through robust planning for better tailored management support as well as access to information that will, in turn, enable disabled lecturers to achieve their career aspirations and satisfaction at workplace.


Promoting sustainable island archipelagos

My paper on island studies research is currently in the press by the Regions (RSA magazine), No 301, Issue  1. You can find the copy here: R301_RN_Mendas


Better connectedness of isolated islands, better island access, affordable ferry transport and inward investment into communication and green technologies; remain key concerns for the European Commission. If the distance between remote and rural islands and the hinterland is too great, so is transport cost and this calls for a different approach to promoting the growth in rural regions as well as a paradigm shift in understanding
the relationship between distance, transportation costs, and growth in rural regions. Strong signs of resilience in remote islands and communities presents the opportunity for political actors, local SMEs and island communities to work together to ensure long-term sustainable development, including balancing their social, economic and environmental
needs. In this way, islands studies have a chance to contribute to the evidence based policy context and reserve a place within the regional studies context.