Dr Sally Lloyd-Evans
Growing up in Mexico City, Associate Professor Sally Lloyd-Evans saw first-hand the effects of poverty and inequality on development. This sparked a lifelong interest in how communities grow and survive, and inspired her career in geography.
After completing a PhD in Development Geography, Sally worked in Mexico and Trinidad, exploring issues of community development. She built up extensive experience undertaking participatory research and outreach development work with local community projects ranging from informal micro-enterprise and youth training to gender, migration and social exclusion.
She began to study issues of development in the UK, applying her research skills to examine local questions around poverty and deprivation. Sally believes in co-producing research with local people and breaking down barriers using participatory methods, which empowers local communities and allows projects and their impact to be sustainable long-term.
Sally successfully works to bridge the gap between attitudes to development in the global South and local communities in the UK.
“My work is about using participatory research to empower communities to act for social change... I believe in helping people to undertake research that enables communities to tackle policy issues from the grassroots.”
Fighting social exclusion from a community perspective
In 2014, Sally was approached to facilitate a community-led research project to tackle social exclusion and mobility in a local community in Reading.
One of the the project's aims was to understand the travel needs in Whitley and identify transport barriers that could be addressed.
Sally is part of the Whitley Big Local initiative, funded by the National Lottery's £1 million grant to 150 disadvantaged communities in the UK, empowering them to help themselves and building close community ties.
Sally worked with local residents to create a community research network, the "Whitley Researchers", training the residents in participatory research methods to empower them to conduct the research themselves and take ownership of the project. For more information, download the Whitley Researchers leaflet (PDF – 664kb).
The output from the research was a report on transport issues in the area in 2015. The report led to immediate change for the community, with the research group taking the results to local transport authorities and working with them to change the service provided to include bus routes through the Whitley area, allowing residents better access to local services such as schools, work and the hospital.
The researchers gained new skills and have continued to work on developing their community, including setting up a primary schools travel programme and establishing a partnership with Reading Borough Council to shape their strategy and help to tackle poverty in South Reading. Their latest project on financial exclusion will be published in 2017.
“To collect research for the Whitley project, we conducted participatory research, including focus groups, questionnaires and interviews, using grassroots methods and techniques I learned throughout my degree. I was also able to use the analytical skills I gained from my dissertation to help interpret our findings. I have always been interested in communities and this project reinforced this interest. I was fortunate that Sally gave me a lot of responsibility and guidance, which meant I gained lots of skills and knowledge from this internship.”
Research that feeds into teaching
Sally's passion for community development feeds directly into her teaching.
Her third year module "Global Justice, Labour and Development" uses real world examples that engage students to debate key global issues such as child labour and precarious work. Sally is co-author of a number of textbooks in development geography and in 2013 she received a Reading University Student Union's award for Best Lecturer in Science.
The Whitley project is used as a case study in her second year module "Cultural Identity and Place", and each year of the project advertises paid internships via both UROP and the Reading Internship Scheme for students to get involved directly in the research. So far around 20 students have taken part in these placements. The internships allow students to shape real-world research, inform their understanding of the issues addressed by the project, and improve their career skills.
This close partnership with the community also has benefits for widening participation, helping to change local attitudes to higher education. The contacts and connections built up through the project has led several geography students to conduct their dissertations in the community, working with real-life service providers and residents.
“The whole project was really relevant to my degree (BSc Human Geography), and brought to life many of the issues and research methods we studied. I gained insight into working on a community development project and was able to apply the research methods I learned throughout my degree.”