Mary leads our research work at The Young Foundation, making sure it is challenging, insightful and innovative in the style of the Institute of Community Studies, which forms part of The Young Foundation today. We work across a range of international, EU focused and national projects to understand more about inequality, change and the use of social innovation to create greater equality through practices and solutions which are social in ends and means. We are a mixed methods team with particular expertise in ethnographic methods and a 360 degree approach to understanding complex social issues, and we are particularly interested in community-led change and social innovation and its potential, in the tradition of our founder, Michael Young.
Mary is a trained anthropologist and experienced mixed methods researcher who has specialised in running innovative and impactful research projects in the academic, public and voluntary charity sectors.
She joined The Young Foundation as its Head of Ethnography in Summer 2015, joining to develop its ethnographic focus and expertise. Recent projects include: the use of action-research to understand more about community action and innovative practice in different places across the UK as part of our place-based programmes; the use of organisational ethnography to understand narratives, values and practices with Mondragon, the world’s largest industrial cooperative; as well as employing ethnographic methods to understand community viewpoints and experiences of complexity in cities.
Before joining The Young Foundation Mary led large funded partnership projects, most of which focused on the study of inequality, the experience of change and knowledge sharing and participation between organisations and communities. They tended to use ground-breaking methods, or to be new ways of applying methods or analytical frameworks, in which Mary is particularly confident and experienced. These projects included a Big Lottery funded ground-breaking longitudinal qualitative and ethnographic four year study of how the wellbeing of vulnerable homeless people was affected over time after moving into the private rented sector, for Shelter and Crisis. They have also included research council funded digital innovation and research projects which created knowledge sharing platforms and experimented with innovative ways to create, share and disseminate knowledge. These included a live digital archive, mapping and tracking the changes experts and local people believed were taking place in East London during the London 2012 Olympics as they happened, and community knowledge sharing projects between cultural institutions, universities and the local community. She was a Postdoctoral Fellow exploring the impact of the Olympics on local communities in host cities, and her PhD explored how people who view themselves to be unaffected by inequality account for it and explain why some people suffer from it, to understand the potential for change. To do this she worked with varied people, from city elites, politicians and middle classes to people rough sleeping and using homeless shelters. She has carried out fieldwork in different countries and scenarios including homeless shelters, construction sites, First Nations reserves, farms and varied urban environments.
Mary is a Visiting Research Fellow at the Department of Anthropology, Goldsmiths College, and on several advisory boards, including the ONS Social Capital Steering group and the Participatory City Advisory, and an experienced conference speaker and panellist.
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