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My research expertise is in local participatory democracy. I have been working in the fields of community development and public policy as practitioner and academic for over 20 years. My current research examines the ways in which community groups and third sector organisations mobilised to support vulnerable people during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 1993 I first studied at the University of Glasgow graduating with a first class honours degree in Human Geography in 1997 and an award from the Royal Geographical Society for best graduating student. After a professional career, I returned to the University of Glasgow in 2011 and gained an MRes in Public Policy with distinction as part of a 1+3 PhD scholarship with the ESRC. My PhD thesis, examined the emergence of ‘superdiverse’ neighbourhoods in post-industrial cities drawing on the theories of multiculturalism, interculturalism, social contact and trust. The research, funded by the ESRC, comprised an ethnographic case study of a neighbourhood in Glasgow.  The study provides insights into neighbourhood change and the contexts that increase cooperation and trust between people from diverse backgrounds.

2014-2018 I worked as a post-doctoral researcher for What Works Scotland (WWS), a research collaboration funded by the Scottish Government and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). At WWS, I develop my knowledge of place-based approaches to reducing inequality and poverty. My research included: community-led action planning; community profiling; knowledge mobilisation and evidence use; and resettlement of Syrian refugees. Methods included collaborative action research, case studies and theory-based evaluation methods.

2019-2022 I led a research team to develop a multi-site action research project to improve the wellbeing of children and young people in high poverty neighbourhoods in Scotland.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, our team conducted research on the impacts of the pandemic on children, young people. 

My current research (2022-2023) is a rapid realist evidence review. The review examines how third sector organisations in the UK adapted and responded to the COVID-19 pandemic and sustained support for vulnerable individuals and communities. This research was funded by the Scottish Government and was conducted in collaboration with colleagues from Glasgow Caledonian University.

Research Interests

  • Place-based initiatives, voluntary and community sector
  • Participatory democracy, participatory and collaborative governance
  • Neighbourhoods, super-diversity, social cohesion
  • Climate adaptation, sustainability, just transition
  • Mixed methods research, participatory and collaborative action research, evaluation and realist evidence synthesis

College Research Themes

  • Governance and Democracy
  • Identities and Inequalities
  • Health and Wellbeing


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