I am currently working on a collection of research and writing projects around the broad themes of faith and society, poverty, community, and social justice. This includes contributing to the AHRC-funded Megachurches and Social Engagement in London project, within which my focus is on faith and social policy and public engagement. Drawing on my community-based experience in Aston, Birmingham, and my previous research on voluntary organisations and the state, I am also developing work on foodbanks and social justice. This sits within the portfolio of the newly formed Edward Cadbury Centre for the Public Understanding of Religion, and involves close collaboration with colleagues in the Third Sector Research Centre.
My interest in people’s wellbeing, particularly in urban contexts, and in a holistic sense, has led me along an inter-disciplinary route as a social scientist. My MA training in Human Geography gave me an interest in ‘geographies of care’ and the way in which ‘therapeutic landscapes’ may (or may not) be brought into being in urban environments. I became interested in the different roles that both the voluntary sector and the state play in facilitating wellbeing, particularly amongst vulnerable or marginalised groups in society. My doctoral research in Sociology and Social Policy explored the role of both faith-based and secular third sector organisations in supporting single homeless people, investigating the implications of differing levels of interaction (and contracting) with local government on the values and practices of the organisations concerned.
Since then, my research has included work on social enterprise, national level third sector leadership, and the relationship between the state, third sector and markets. I was particularly involved in the Third Sector Research Centre’s ‘Third Sector Futures’ series, which engaged practitioners, policy makers and academics in lively discussions about key issues affecting the third sector.
Joining the Department of Theology and Religion has enabled me to shift the emphasis of my research, allowing me to focus specifically on the significance of faith in relation to wellbeing, both with regard to people’s lived experiences within urban contexts and in terms of the relationship between faith and public policy and discourse. This includes working on the Megachurches in Social Engagement in London project, contributing to a Barrow Cadbury Trust funded study on social welfare and inter-faith work amongst faith communities in Birmingham, and developing further work around the theme of therapeutic landscapes, faith and urban communities.