I’m interested in how the public make sense of complex issues, and how research can help them become more involved in solutions.
Prior to joining NatCen, my work in qualitative public opinion research enabled me to understand how people approach the issues important to them. This included everything from what chocolate box to gift my in-laws to what party to vote for, and the impact of inequality on society. I then specialised in understanding attitudes towards extremism and institutional trust in Iraq by establishing a team of local researchers. When I returned to the UK, I wanted to use qualitative research to involve people in the decisions that affect their lives. Through a job in engagement I supported people to be involved in the closure of local A&E departments, location of radioactive waste disposal and lockdown exit strategies. I joined the Centre for Deliberative Research to apply my public opinion and engagement background to projects focused on democratic innovation.
My work in the Centre for Deliberative Research starts with where the public are at – their key frames and narratives on a given social issue – and then uses participatory techniques to design a process that enables people to give an informed view and influence policy. Some of our work is about bringing national issues to the public – online workshops and peer research tasks to ask, ‘How can society support us to live healthier longer lives?’. Other projects build out from community level – training Bedfordshire residents as peer researchers to understand the reasons behind disproportionate impact of COVID-19.
Over the next year, I’m looking forward to applying these approaches to more complex and controversial issues.