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Dr Melissa Edwards


Melissa Edwards is a Senior Lecturer at the UTS Business School and a researcher at Centre for Management and Organisation Studies and the Cosmopolitan Civil Societies Research Centre. She is researches and teaches about sustainability, management and social impact. Her work is  transdisciplinary and directed towards understanding how people organize, learn and adapt to enable sustainable transitions.
She has co-developed and managed two innovative undergraduate programs, one is a cross-disciplinary program that  challenges students to address contemporary wicked problems and to design sustainable entrepreneurial solutions. She co-edited and contributed to two books on design-led innovation processes and ran applied courses through u.lab, including one with the City of Sydney, to develop community projects. She is currently coordinating a project based subject for final year management students and team teaching on the Managing for Sustainability masters subject.
She conducts research that draws together sustainability, complexity, social capital and network theories with a focus on social impact, open innovation and new business models. Her recent projects include developing innovative indicators of social impact for Surf Life Saving Australia, coordinating a Big Top Tent as part of the Circular Economy Disruptive Innovation Festival and developing and managing a open access sustainability education platform and community of practice (www.sustainability.edu.au).
Tweeting from @meledwards1 and @sustaineduau


Member: Academy of Management - Organisations and the Natural Environment and Social Issues in Management Divisions.


Image of Melissa Edwards
Senior Lecturer, Management Discipline Group
Core Member, Centre for Management and Organisation Studies
Core Member, Cosmopolitan Civil Societies Research Centre
Senior Lecturer, Management Discipline Group
Core Member, Centre for Management and Organisation Studies
Core Member, Cosmopolitan Civil Societies Research Centre
+61 2 9514 3319

Research Interests

Sustainability, circular economy, social impact, complexity theory
Sustainable Enterprise, Management, Social Impact


Bajada, C., Brown, P.J., Edwards, M. & Jonson, P.T. 2014, Integrating Business Perspectives, 3rd, McGraw-Hill, Australia.
Jakovich, J., Schweitzer, J. & Edwards, M. 2012, Practicing: Handbook of design-led innovation, Freerange Press, Melbourne, Australia.
Design thinking aims to capture designers' creativity-driven approach to innovation that can be applied to anything from physical products and intangible services, to formulating and solving complex social problems. Design thinking promotes a particular mind-set that takes the user experience, or a human-centred perspective, as point of departure. While research into the application of design thinking to business problems is well documented, the utilisation of design thinking in university innovation is limited to few cases, and requires better understanding of specific practices for establishing a design thinking capacity in an academic context. This research develops and tests a series of emerging design thinking practices for application in a university context. Small case studies demonstrate each practice, offering interpretation for use. The research identifies six application areas for the practices: strategy, engagement, knowledge making, enactment, presentation, and reflective practice. Through an enactment of the model and practices described in a non-linear and reflexive way, a design thinking capacity can be established and tested. Design research typically applies design thinking tools to the framing and solving of challenges for products and services. This research demonstrates new ways and new tools for adopting design thinking to address innovation challenges specifically towards establishing and growing a design-led innovation lab. The volume offers fifty practices and several case study examples that form the groundwork for future research. 'Practicing' is published by Freerange Press, Melbourne.
Bajada, C., Brown, P.J., Edwards, M. & Jonson, P.T. 2012, Integrating Business Perspectives, 2nd, McGraw- Hill.
Jakovich, J., Schweitzer, J., Brookes, W.C., Edwards, M., Jupp, J.R., Kirchner, N.G. & Nikolova, N. 2011, U.lab - It's about you: An Emerging Interdisciplinary Framework for Innovation Projects, 1, DAB Documents Faculty of Design, Architecture & Building University of Technology, Sydney, Sydney, Australia.
Design thinking aims to capture designers' creativity-driven approach to innovation that can be applied to anything from physical products and intangible services, to formulating and solving complex social problems. Design thinking promotes a particular mind-set that takes the user experience, or a human-centred perspective, as point of departure. While research into the application of design thinking to business problems is well documented, the utilisation of design thinking in university innovation is limited to few cases, and requires better understanding of how to establish design thinking capacity in an academic collaboration context. This research establishes an interdisciplinary design thinking framework at the University of Technology, Sydney, that forms the basis for three experimental projects. New design thinking tools, such as '5X5' and 'faceboard', are developed and a novel public and university innovation program is tested over ten repeated scenarios. The design thinking framework can be adopted for practice and further research. This volume documents the first-steps taken by a cross-faculty university group towards developing an interdisciplinary innovation capacity. It demonstrates how through trialling the practices and methods of design thinking, a deep appreciation of designing, thinking, and practicing creativity emerges across non-design participants. Diverse disciplinary backgrounds and perspectives are illustrated as a source of opportunity to address complex teaching and research challenges. 'U.Lab - It's About You' is published by DAB Docs, University of Technology, Sydney.
Pratt, J. & Edwards, M. 2008, Management and Organisational Behaviour Workbook, 1st, John Wiley and Sons Australia, Ltd, Milton, Qld.
A workbook with applied case studies, group-based experiential activities and individual skills diagnosis and development exercises designed to accompany leading textbooks in in first year business courses in generation, and 21129 Managing People and Organisations in particular.


Edwards, M., Logue, D.M. & Schweitzer, J. 2015, 'Towards an understanding of open innovation in services: Beyond the firm and towards relational co-creation' in Agarwal, R., Selen, W., Roos, G. & Green, R. (eds), The Handbook of Service Innovation, Springer, London, pp. 75-90.
Schweitzer, J., Edwards, M. & Nikolova, N. 2012, 'Designing Entrepreneurial Work Environments: Exploring Emergent Design Practices' in Schweitzer, J. & Jakovich, J. (eds), Crowd-Share Innovation: Intensive Creative Collaborations, Freerange Press, Melbourne, Australia, pp. 260-269.
In this paper we aim to outline an approach for fostering entrepreneurial creativity by utilizing design-thinking methodology. We explore designing as a practice driven approach to entrepreneurship that involves iteration and play during problem solving, team divergence, a stimulating and porous space, and entrepreneurial creativity that emerges from interpersonal relations within and between teams of entrepreneurs embedded in open networks.
Onyx, J., Bullen, P. & Edwards, M. 2009, 'Social capital: A meta analysis' in Woolcock, G. & Manderson, L. (eds), Social Capital and Social Justice: Critical Australian Perspectives, Charles Darwin University Press, Darwin NT, pp. 151-168.
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Edwards, M. & Sulkowski, A.J. 2014, 'Shaking Stakeholders to Leverage a Firm's Unique Capacity in Issue Networks', 25th Annual Conference of the International Association for Business and Society (IABS), Proceedings of the 25th Annual Conference of the International Association for Business and Society (IABS), International Association for Business and Society, Sydney, Australia, pp. 129-139.
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Firms are often seen to react to stakeholder pressure. However, if one changes the unit of analysis to a social or environmental issue, a firm emerges as a key influencer in mobilizing and connecting other stakeholders. For a variety of reasons, including the firm's raison d'etre of creating value, a firm may be a critical leader or lynchpin in a movement, especially where it bridges gaps in a previously disconnected network. Two previously underappreciated aspects of stakeholder ties are highlighted in this paper. First, the firm can be seen as shaking otherwise latent stakeholders out of complacency, inasmuch as a firm informs and stimulates concerns, emotions, and actions among stakeholders in relation to a particular issue. Second, the firm can be seen as shaking-up the connections between stakeholders, catalyzing new contacts and relationships within an issue network.
Edwards, M., Wilden, R.M., Jonson, P.T. & Sivabalan, P. 2012, 'Implementing interdisciplinary business learning that is industry relevant', Proceedings of UTS Teaching & Learning Forum, UTS Teaching & Learning Forum, UTS, Sydney, Australia.
Dalton, B.M., Green, J. & Edwards, M. 2012, 'Social enterprise: challenge or opportunity for university nonprofit management programs.', International Society for Third-Sector Research 10th International Conference - Siena, Italy - July 2012., ISTR, Siena, Italy.
What should be taught in nonprofit management programs? Is it a time to reposition and rebrand to embrace social entrepreneurship or do we risk challenging the academic legitimacy of distinct nonprofit programs? In 2005, Michael OâNeil described nonprofit management education (NME) as âlargely a phenomenon of the past two decades, [one that] has grown rapidly in the United States. The field was virtually nonexistent in 1980; by 2000 there were ninety-one masterâs degree programs with at least a concentration in NME... nearly one hundred undergraduate programs, and about fifty university based certificate programsâ? (OâNeill, 2005, p. 5). In Australia, the status of the nonprofit education has also increased considerably; the number of academics with research and consulting experience in third-sector organizations has grown; new journals have emerged and the numbers of books sharply increased. By the mid-1990s, a small but visible presence of nonprofit sector management education had established itself. This rapid growth of these programs has been attributed to a number of trends. Foremost is the rapid professionalization and growth of the sector and a growing consensus that nonprofit management is distinct in a variety of ways that require suitably tailored university courses. In the last decade or so, however, rapid changes may have blurred sectoral boundaries. One major shift affecting the field has been the growing interest in social entrepreneurship and enterprise, a pattern that has already been observed in the US and UK (McKeown et al 2006; Eikenberry and Drapal Kluver 2004). This is mirrored at the university level, with interest in social enterprise perhaps stemming from the growing stature and prominence of entrepreneurship and business venturing in general within business schools (The number of colleges and universities that offer courses related to entrepreneurship in the US has grown from a handful in the 1970s to over 1,600 in Kuratko 2005). In ...
Baker, E., Onyx, J. & Edwards, M. 2010, 'Emergence of social entrepreneurial activities: Learning from community networks', Second Int' l Conf on Social Entrepreneurship, Systems Thinking & Complexity, Adelphi University Center for Complexity & Social Entrepreneurship.
dela Rama, M.J., Edwards, M. & Dalton, B.M. 2008, 'Honourable Intentions? Analysing Private Equity's Interests in the Aged Care Sector', Australia and New Zealand Third Sector Review 9th Biennial Conference, Australia and New Zealand Third Sector Review 9th Biennial Conference, ANZTSR, Auckland University of Technology City Campus, Auckland, New Zealand, pp. 1-27.
The abstract for the conference paper was accepted and currently appears on p.19 of the full list of abstracts for the conference. This paper was co-written with Melissa Edwards and Bronwen Dalton. This paper is currently under peer review for publication in a journal.
Edwards, M. 2008, 'Emergent Organisation for Sustainability', Demonstrate, ANZTSR, AUT, Auckland New Zealand.
Perey, R., Benn, S.H., Dunphy, D.C. & Edwards, M. 2008, 'Landcare : A narrative construction for ecological sustainability', The Questions We ask, Academy of Management Annual Meeting, Academy of Management, Anaheim, California.
Pratt, J., Edwards, M., Pitsis, T.S. & Crawford, J.D. 2008, 'Developing collaboration skills in first year undergraduate business students', The Quantitative Analysis of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education in Business, Economics and Commerce: Forum Proceedings, Quantitative Analysis of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education in Business, Economics and Commerce, The University of Melbourne, The University of Melbourne, pp. 47-58.
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Collaboration skills are defined as the set of skills and capabilities required to work effectively within and across groups to achieve group goals. The development of these skills are assumed but not taught directly or evaluated in undergraduate group assessments in many university subjects. This paper discusses a research project investigating the development of student collaboration skills in the compulsory first year undergraduate subject 21129 Managing People and Organisations. One of the key aims of the subject is to help students understand and acquire a range of collaboration skills that will enhance their work readiness. During August 2008, 290 student surveys were completed by students after their initial formation into groups during tutorials. These surveys asked students about their past experiences of group work, and their expectations and motivations with respect to group work in this subject over the coming semester. A follow-up survey was conducted in November, and attempts to capture the extent of changes, if any, in student perceptions of their experience developing collaboration skills over the semester. This paper reports on the findings of stage one of this project. An overview of student attitudes and perceptions is presented, as well as findings on the systematic variation of these with respondent characteristics. The finding of a number of statistically significant associations of student satisfaction with the method of group formation employed in tutorials is then discussed as a surprise finding from this research.
Perey, R., Dunphy, D.C., Edwards, M. & Benn, S.H. 2007, 'Landcare and the livelihood of knowledge', Proceedings of the 21st ANZAM 2007 Conference: Managing Our Intellectual and Social Capital, Australian and New Zealand Academy of Management Conference, ANZAM, Sydney, Australia, pp. 1-17.
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This paper explores how communities generate effective ecological solutions using both implicit narrative construction and explicit processes of knowledge creation and knowledge application. We argue that the act of developing a narrative frames our understanding of the environment and governs our relationship with our environment. We identify micro-narratives extracted from the interviews with members of Australian Landcare organizations and link these micro-narratives to knowledge creation and dissemination processes. We conclude that social change toward sustainability comes about through the rewriting of the environmental story within which we situate ourselves.
Benn, S.H., Edwards, M., Perey, R. & Dunphy, D.C. 2007, 'Emergence, complexity and sustainability: A study of the "sub-political arena"', Academy of Management, Academy of Management, Academy of Management, Philadelphia, pp. 1-36.
Edwards, M. 2006, 'Un-ordered organisation: exploring processes in an emergent social movement', Navigating New Waters: Eighth Biennial Conference of Australia and New Zealand Third Sector Research, Conference of Australia and New Zealand Third Sector Research, ANZTSR Secretariat, Adelaide, Australia, pp. 1-23.
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Edwards, M. & Benn, S.H. 2006, 'Emergence, complexity and sustainability: a study of the `sub-political arena'', Management: Pragmatism, Philosophy, Priorities - Proceedings of the 20th ANZAM Conference, Australian and New Zealand Academy of Management Conference, ANZAM, Yeppoon, Australia, pp. 1-17.
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Edwards, M. & Onyx, J. 2002, 'Inter-sectorial engagement: multiplexing between business and nonprofit organisations in Australia', Refereed Proceedings of the ANZAM2002 Conference - Enhancing Business and Government Capabilities: Research, Knowledge and Practice, Australian and New Zealand Academy of Management Conference, ANZAM, Victoria, Australia, pp. 1-9.
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Journal articles

Benn, S., Angus-Leppan, T., Edwards, M., Brown, P. & White, S. 2015, 'Changing Directions in Business Education: Knowledge Sharing for Sustainability', Building Sustainable Legacies: The New Frontier Of Societal Value Co-Creation, vol. 2015, no. 5, pp. 87-102.
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Edwards, M., Onyx, J., Maxwell, H., Darcy, S., Bullen, P. & Sherker, S. 2014, 'A Conceptual Model of Social Impact as Active Citizenship', VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations.
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Darcy, S., Maxwell, H., Edwards, M., Onyx, J. & Sherker, S. 2014, 'More than a sport and volunteer organisation: Investigating social capital development in a sporting organisation', Sport Management Review, vol. 17, no. 4, pp. 395-406.
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This paper presents the findings of a study that examines the development of social capital within an Australian sporting organisation, Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA). The study draws on the social capital literature across the not-for-profit sector and specific sport management social capital research. The research design incorporated an interpretive approach with data collected nationally from eight focus groups with key SLSA staff, board members and 'toes in the sand' volunteers. The findings provide fresh insights into the development and understanding of social capital within a sporting organisation. Both bonding and bridging were important social capital outcomes of the organisation's activities, albeit with important implications for antecedents and process. The data presented strong evidence for arguing that within the organisation bonding within the club comes first, which importantly provides a very strong sense of belonging and mutual support for club members, from volunteers through to the board. The strength of bonding provides a powerful base for subsequent bridging capital to the local, regional and national stakeholder communities that are associated with the organisation. Further, social capital develops in both the collective and individual, with leveraging of individual skills contributing to human capital development, which is closely connected to and inseparable from social capital. The paper concludes by discussing the theoretical implications for social capital generally and social capital in a sporting context.
Maxwell, H., Edwards, M., Stronach, M. & Brown, V. 2014, 'A 'fair go' on Australian beaches', Annals of Leisure Research, vol. 17, no. 4, pp. 476-494.
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Equality of opportunity is an ideal not always realized in community sport settings. This research explores if the symbolic notion of a 'fair go' can be enabled, and if so how participation opportunities can be enabled in community sport programme design to accommodate the variety of needs found in diverse population groups. We answer the research question, how is social inclusion interpreted in the mechanisms that support and sustain locally based community sport programmes? Using a mixed methodology, multiple case study approach, in the setting of an iconic Australian Civil Society Organization, programmes designed to engage recent migrants or refugees unfamiliar with Australian surf conditions and people with disabilities are analysed. Programmes were analysed using Bailey's social inclusion framework, encompassing spatial, relational, functional and power dimensions. Through comparative analysis, fundamental practices that allowed sustained implementation of socially inclusive programmes are identified. Additionally, the framework draws out the elements of the programmes that could be improved.
Benn, S., Edwards, M. & Angus-Leppan, T. 2013, 'Organizational Learning and the Sustainability Community of Practice: The Role of Boundary Objects', Organization & Environment, vol. 26, no. 2, pp. 184-202.
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Edwards, M. & Baker, E. 2013, 'Construction in Human Interaction Dynamics: Organizing Mechanisms, Strategic Ambiguity and Interpretive Dominance', Emergence: Complexity and Organization, vol. 15, no. 4, pp. 21-36.
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In this paper, we extend the understanding of human interaction dynamics by examining three case studies of social-action-networks whose purpose was to achieve collective action on a complex social or environmental issue. Our research questions were How do the organizing mechanisms of fine­ grained interactions construct emergent order? and Why do influencing strategies enable diffuse networks to emerge into discernible collective action? The studies provided information about the fine-grained interactions as well as the coarse-grained properties that emerged. At the fine-grained level, there was a dynamic tension between structured and formalized organizing mechanisms aimed at organization and those that actively permitted (dis)organization. Network strategic intent was coherent at the coarse-grained level and varied between a clearly defined strategy and strategic ambiguity. We examine these empirical findings in relation to recent literature on constructing forces, strategic ambiguity and interpretive dominance
Edwards, M., Burridge, N. & Yerbury, H. 2013, 'Translating Public Policy: Enhancing the Applicability of Social Impact Techniques for Grassroots Community Groups', Cosmopolitan Civil Societies: An Interdisciplinary Journal, vol. 5, no. 2, pp. 29-44.
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This paper reports on an exploratory action research study designed to understand how grassroots community organisations engage in the measurement and reporting of social impact and how they demonstrate their social impact to local government funders. Our findings suggest that the relationships between small non-profit organisations, the communities they serve or represent and their funders are increasingly driven from the top down formalised practices. Volunteer-run grassroots organisations can be marginalized in this process. Members may lack awareness of funders strategic approaches or the formalized auditing and control requirements of funders mean grassroots organisations lose capacity to define their programs and projects. We conclude that, to help counter this trend, tools and techniques which open up possibilities for dialogue between those holding power and those seeking support are essential
Logue, D. & Edwards, M. 2013, 'Across the Digital Divide', Stanford Social Innovation Review.
Edwards, M., Onyx, J., Maxwell, H. & Darcy, S.A. 2012, 'Meso level Social Impact: Meaningful Indicators of Community Contribution', Cosmopolitan Civil Societies: An Interdisciplinary Journal, vol. 4, no. 3, pp. 18-37.
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Social impact measures are not widely agreed, nor implemented by third sector organisations. Meso level indicators of social impact are underdeveloped. Financialised methods such as Social Return on Investment can only account for direct outcomes of defined programs and activities. The broader societal impacts of any such activities are undervalued. This paper outlines the findings of a grounded theoretical approach to determining measures of social impact within a large Australian iconic third sector organisation. Several key factors revealed in this study are discussed in regards to their potential for attributing social impact to organisational activities outside of a program specific outcome. Based on these findings the paper concludes that the development of a tool to measure meso level organisational social impact of third sector organisations may be attainable.
Onyx, J., Ho, C., Edwards, M., Burridge, N. & Yerbury, H. 2011, 'Scaling Up Connections: Everyday Cosmopolitanism, Complexity Theory & Social Capital', Cosmopolitan Civil Societies: An Interdisciplinary Journal, vol. 3, no. 3, pp. 47-67.
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One of the key questions of contemporary society is how to foster and develop social interactions which will lead to a strong and inclusive society, one which accounts for the diversity inherent in local communities, whether that diversity be based on differences in interest or diversity in language and culture. The purpose of this paper is to examine three concepts which are used in the exploration of social interactions to suggest ways in which the interplay of these concepts might provide a richer understanding of social interactions. The three concepts are everyday cosmopolitanism, complexity theory and social capital. Each provides a partial approach to explanations of social interactions. Through focussing on social networking as a significant example of social interactions, we will demonstrate how the concepts can be linked and this linking brings potential for a clearer understanding of the processes through which this inclusive society may develop.
Baker, E., Onyx, J. & Edwards, M. 2011, 'Emergence, Social Capital And Entrepreneurship: Understanding Networks From The Inside', Emergence: Complexity and Organization, vol. 13, no. 3, pp. 21-39.
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Communities are a major research context for both social capital and entrepreneurship, and 'networks' is a core concept within both frameworks. There is need for conceptualizing network formation processes, and for qualitative studies of the relational aspects of networks and networking, to complement the existing mainly quantitative studies. Within complexity theory, emergence has been linked with formation of entities including networks, and with social entrepreneurship. In this paper, community networks are interpreted as an emergent dynamic process of action and interaction through an empirical case study conducted in an urban community setting. Interviews were conducted with experiential experts at networking. The study was designed within a social capital framework, but frequent reporting of entrepreneurship prompted additional analysis. Practical and theoretical implications of the network study findings are examined in light of the three frameworks together, and further empirical studies are suggested.
Onyx, J. & Edwards, M. 2010, 'Community Networks and the nature of emergence in civil society.', Cosmopolitan Civil Societies: An Interdisciplinary Journal, vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 1-20.
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this paper challenges the limitations of extant knowledge of social formation by its focus on the ordinary, everyday lived reality of maintaining community and on identifying its operations from the internal perspective of civil society. We aim to explore the actual mobilising processes and structures that underpin the formation of social capital in the community. We examine how networks emerge and operate.
dela Rama, M.J., Edwards, M., Dalton, B.M. & Green, J. 2010, 'Honourable Intentions? Analysing the interests of private equity in the aged care sector', Third Sector Review, vol. 16, no. 3, pp. 63-82.
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The Australian aged care industry was once dominated by non-profit organisations but recently ownership has changed significantly with the entry of for profit and in particular private equity investment vehicles. This paper provides an overview of the main players and the effects of private equity on the Australian aged care sector. The analysis is framed within the literature which examines the relationship between ownership type and the quality of community services. It also presents a series of case studies which suggest that a change of ownership from non-profit to private equity may have significant consequences for the quality of service provision.
Edwards, M. & Onyx, J. 2007, 'Social Capital and Sustainability in a Community under Threat', Local Environment, vol. 12, no. 1, pp. 17-30.
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Onyx, J., Edwards, M. & Bullen, P. 2007, 'The Intersection of Social Capital and Power: An Application to Rural Communities', Rural Society, vol. 17, no. 3, pp. 215-230.
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Edwards, M. & Onyx, J. 2003, 'Business and nonprofit relationships in Australia: promiscuous or monogamous?', Third Sector Review, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 99-117.
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Burridge, N., Edwards, M. & Yerbury, H. 2012, What you do Matters: Demostrate your Community Impact, pp. 1-30.
A 'tool kit' for small grass roots organisations seeking to report their social impact to their funding organisations
dela Rama, M.J., Edwards, M. & Dalton, B.M. Australian Parliament House 2008, Submission No. 14 to the Australian Senate Community Affairs Committee on the Inquiry into the the Aged Care Amendment (2008) Measures No. 2 Bill, pp. 1-12, Canberra, Australia.
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With two other School of Management colleagues, Melissa Edwards and Bronwen Dalton, we made this submission into the following Community Affairs Committee Inquiry. This submission was later cited by Ian Verrender, a Sydney Morning Herald journalist in his business column "Profit Not Improvement", 29th November 2008 http://business.smh.com.au/business/profit-not-improvement-the-motive-for-many-in-care-sector-20081128-6mz2.html