I believe that good quality research, evaluation, training and consultancy is based on a strong connection with people, from community members and young people to practitioners and senior executives. Websites can be impersonal acts of self-promotion and veneer, and getting the balance between showing personal aspects and highlighting how I can help your project or organisation isn’t easy. On these pages I’ve tried to give you an insight into my background, what drives me, and what I can offer you if we work together.
I am committed to trying to make a positive difference for young people, community groups, organisations or society in general. This isn’t always easy to do, or to measure, but I’m most interesting in working with people who have a spirit of enquiry and a passion for what they do.
I enjoy working with others in a collaborative manner. Collaborative approaches enable much greater opportunity for appropriate and sensitive enquiry, shared learning and long-term change through embedding findings and developing realistic actions.
Social justice and social change are terms that have suffered from over- and mis-use in recent years. For me, quality social research and evaluation needs to be focused on both understanding and change, recognising and seeking to address inequality and injustice. This means paying attention to the structures, systems and cultures that perpetuate inequality, and not just on the circumstances and behaviours of individuals. This does not mean that we shouldn’t work to support and provide opportunities for individuals and groups, but that this work needs to be framed in its wider social and cultural context… Without this we risk contributing to blaming (or responsibilising) those experiencing inequality.
Making a difference is not always easy to define or measure (indeed most of my evaluation work focuses on this). I’m committed to undertaking research, evaluation or other work that seeks to make a difference, and I want my work to help this to happen. This means delivering robust and rigorous enquiry, being open to findings, and communicating and sharing these in a way that will support change or practice development.
We all want to deliver quality in what we do (hopefully). For me this is about being clear about what I’m trying to achieve in any piece of work, using evidence to support decisions and methodology, ensuring engagement with all stakeholders is based on authenticity and reciprocity, using the right tools for the job (methods, software, participatory tools etc.) and effective and meaningful dissemination / action. The end point for me is never a ritualistic ‘output’, but knowing that my work has contributed to future development.
Following time as an insurance clerk wondering what I was going to do with my life, I got involved with youth homelessness work, learning disability and general youth work whilst living in Blackpool, Lancashire. This led to me studying a degree in Youth and Community Work at St. Martin’s College, Lancaster and becoming a qualified Youth Worker. I spent a little time working with runaways and young people involved in sex-work in Manchester, before working for three years at The Foxton Centre in Preston, where I developed and delivered a range of community-based and city-centre-focused provision This included drop-in services for young homeless people, and the establishment (in partnership with other agencies) a multi-agency street-based response to sex work. Following this I became coordinator of a young person’s sexual health service in Preston, Talkwize, as well as undertaking other work around drug prevention.
Whilst at Talkwize, I started becoming involved in research and evaluation, working with St. Martin’s College as a research assistant (initially around mentoring in the emerging YOT pilots). This quickly led to a full-time role at the College (now the University of Cumbria) establishing and leading the ‘Applied Research and Evaluation Unit’ – bidding for, managing and delivering a wide range of research, evaluation and training contracts for charities, community projects, health trusts, local authorities and government departments. After some years in this role, and wanting a different challenge, I became project manager for the University of Cumbria’s cross-faculty response to the UK Government’s ‘Every Child Matters’ policy strand. This involved a wide range of interdisciplinary activity, including workforce reform (both nationally and within the institution), new course development, research and marketing. After the completion of this work I joined Edge Hill University’s postgraduate CPD staff team as a senior lecturer, delivering management and leadership, research and multi-agency working programmes to teachers and the wider children’s workforce.
In 2009 I left Edge Hill to (in no particular order): 1) commence a PhD at Durham University In relation to young people risk and practice, 2) be the primary daytime carer for my young daughter, and 3) undertake a range of freelance research and evaluation contracts. In this time I undertook a wide range of interesting work with academic colleagues, commissioners and organisations, ranging from research into young people’s e-cigarette and shisha use and evaluations of young carers, health champion and other provision, to an advisory role in support of the organisational development of and advocacy organisation (including a successful tendering process).
Now that I’ve completed the PhD (and my daughter is of the age whereby there’s no way she wants or needs me to accompany her to school), I’ve taken the step of formalising my freelance activity, with the intention of working with projects and organisations committed to similar values and good quality research.
A Person Too
My own research into practitioners’ experiences of risk highlighted how so many felt a central part of their work was related to “being human and humane”, yet sometimes this proved difficult in organisational and managerial contexts driven by targets, outputs, short-term funding and precarious work. What makes us human is our interaction with the world around us, both in the workplace and in our personal lives… it shapes our passions, our values and our sense of security.
Outside of work, I’m interested in many things, including reading (dystopian science fiction at the moment!), music (too diverse… or possibly ‘crap’ depending on how you view it… to mention) and film (similarly). I have a hot / cold relationship with a local gym, but when it is dry my real love is cycling. I’ve recently come back from cycling in Provence and the Alps and though I’m not very good at it, really enjoy cycling in the mountains. For me, it is the thing that both helps me think and stops me thinking too much sometimes. It also has helped me lose 4 stones in weight.