Dr Rachel Lilley PhD, MPhil, PGCE

Dr Rachel Lilley

University of Birmingham
Senior Fellow with the Birmingham Leadership Institute

Contact details

The Exchange
Centenary Square
B1 2DR

Dr Rachel Lilley is a practitioner academic with expertise in environmental  and social change.  Her research has included a world leading project on improving decision making and collaboration in government, building  psychological capability in Senior Leaders through research and a training intervention using behavioural economics and attention practices such as mindfulness. She has over 20 years’ experience developing systemic approaches to environmental, social, individual, and organisational change.


  • PhD, Rethinking Government Capacities to Tackle: Wicked Problems: Mind, Emotion, Bias and Decision-Making. An Experimental Trial using Mindfulness and Behavioural Economics., Human Geography, Aberystwyth University, 2016-2020
  • MPhil, Human Geography, qualitative methods, pre-curser to PhD research, Aberystwyth University, 2012- 2013
  • PGCE PG Certificate in Education and Training in post compulsory education Newport University of  South Wales (2010-2011)
  • BA Communication Studies, Interdisciplinary, inc. sociology, psychology. Sunderland University (1985-1988)


Prior to her Academic Career Dr Rachel Lilley spent over 25 years leading NGO and public sector projects on issues such as climate change, health, well-being and homelessness. Her PhD research focused on building capacities in senior leaders in Welsh Government to address climate change. Recognised as world leading, it combined behavioural and psychological insights with embodied practices, to improve collaboration, reduce bias and help leaders work effectively with complexity.  Her work has been described as 'radical' by the Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford.

After completing her PhD Rachel became co-director of Aberystwyth University Behavioural Insights Research Centre. She is currently developing a Masters Programme in Systems Thinking and Leadership whilst working on a Sport England funded project in The East Riding of Yorkshire looking at a systemic approach to increasing activity,  She is currently a behaviour change consultant/trainer in a Sport England project in East Riding, providing research input through a partnership with the Birmingham University Leadership Institute.  She has recently joined the College of Life and Environmental Sciences as a Research Fellow.


  • MSc Systems Thinking and Leadership Practitioner
  • Systems Thinking and Leadership Practitioner Level 7 Apprenticeship


  • Using research to build systems leadership capacities to support climate change mitigation and social innovation.
  • The ethical application of behaviour change theory and how to optimize decision making in complexity using embodied practices such as mindfulness.
  • Changing understandings and practices of well-being, considering social models and systems approaches

Other activities

  • Behaviour change consultant, previous clients have included Ceredigion County Council the New Forest Parks Authority and East Riding County Council, Sport England funded project to improve health in Withernsea.
  • Expert on community engagement and environmental sustainability, particularly across Wales, previously working with Ymlaen Ceredigion, Mediation Wales, Welsh Government and The Centre for Alternative Technology.


  • Whitehead, M., Jones, R., Howell, R., Pykett, J. & Lilley, R., (2018) Neuroliberalism: Cognition, Context and the Geographical Bounding of Rationality:, In : Progress in Human Geography.p. 141 p.
  • Whitehead, M., Jones, R., Lilley, R., Pykett, J. and Howell, R., 2017. Neuroliberalism: behavioural government in the twenty-first century. Routledge.
  • Pykett, J., Lilley, R., Whitehead, M., Howell, R. 2016. Governing Mindfully, Emotional States Sites and spaces of affective governance, Edited by Eleanor JuppJessica PykettFiona M. Smith, 2017 – Routledge
  • Pykett, J., Lilley, R., Whitehead, M., Howell, R. 2016. Mindfulness, Behaviour Change, and Decision Making: An Experimental Trial. University of Birmingham, Birmingham Other
  • Whitehead, M., Lilley, R., Howell, R., Jones, R., Pykett, J. 2016. (RE)Inhabiting Awareness: Geography and  Mindfulness. Social and Cultural Geography 17 (4) pp. 553-573. 10.1080/14649365.2015.1089590
  • Lilley, R., Whitehead, M., Howell, R., Jones, R., Pykett, J. 2016. Mindfulness, Behaviour Change and Engagement in Public Policy – Evaluation Report 2. Prifysgol Aberystwyth | Aberystwyth University, Aberystwyth Other
  • Whitehead, M., Jones, R., Howell, R., Lilley, R., Pykett, J. 2014. Nudging All Over the World: Assessing the global impact of the behavioural sciences on public policy. Economic and Social Research Council 

Non academic articles and reports

View all publications in research portal