Dr Rachel Lilley PhD, MPhil, PGCE

Dr Rachel Lilley

School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences
Research Fellow

Contact details

School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Dr Rachel Lilley has developed high impact and innovative research in decision-making, mindfulness and behavioural insights to support leadership, well-being and behaviour change policy initiatives aimed at improving sustainability and well-being.  She has over 25 years’ experience in community engagement, wellbeing and climate change. Her work has supported leadership development, aimed at supporting more collaborative and co-productive public sector working. She is an expert behaviour change consultant, working with public and private sector partners to design and  deliver behaviour change initiatives.


  • 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.  After completing her PhD Rachel became co-director of Aberystwyth University Behavioural Insights Research Centre. 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 at the Centre for Urban Wellbeing


  • Using research to build 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 
  • Lilley, R. Whitehead, M. Does mindfulness in politics make any difference? Improving democratic governance is a challenge that goes way beyond cultivating calm and compassion. https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/transformation/does-mindfulness-politics-make-any-difference/
  • Lilley, R. Considering the Welsh Ministers’ Principles for Organisational Performance Management and questionnaire through a behavioural insights framework,  Delivering Better Outcomes Team, Welsh Government
  • Mindfulness Initiative, contributing author: Building the case for Mindfulness in the workplace. Ver 1.0, published October 2016. http://themindfulnessinitiative.org.uk/publications/building-the-case

Non academic articles and reports

Jacques, B. Lilley R., Cass, J. Relationship Experts – behaviour change and home energy coaching, 2016, in partnership with Ymlaen  Ceredigion, Aberystwyth University and NEA Cymru. https://www.nea.org.uk/members-area/news/nea-cymru-working-ymlaen-ceredigion-partnership-ceredigion-county-council-aberystwyth-university/

View all publications in research portal