About us

The Participation Lab, led by core members of the Human Geography Research Cluster, Ruth Evans, Hilary Geoghegan and Sally Lloyd-Evans, aims to co-produce knowledge with communities and practitioners, establish a research training programme designed with NGOs, communities and public bodies and build capacity within and beyond the University of Reading.

We have established a Participation Lab Advisory Group of key partner organisations and practitioners, student representatives and staff and held our first Advisory Group meeting in September 2016.

Meet the Lab Leaders:

 Ruth Evans REvansis the Participation Lab Leader and has extensive experience of using participatory methods with children, youth and families and practitioners in East and West Africa and the UK.  Ruth has developed a range of participatory techniques and creative methods, including ‘My Story’ books, video-recorded drama sketches, rap performances and art posters which aim to co-produce research messages with young people, adult community members, policymakers and practitioners and enhance the potential social impact of research.


HilaryGeoghegan_w Hilary Geoghegan is a Co-Leader of the Participation Lab and an expert in understanding motivations for participation in citizen science and citizen heritage, ranging from volunteers and enthusiasts to professional scientists and museum curators. Her work has led to the establishment of a Tree Health Citizen Science Network in the UK, as well as roles advising Defra and the UK Environmental Observation Framework Citizen Science Working Group. Hilary is in the process of establishing a large-scale citizen social science project on enthusiasm, hobbies and leisure.


SallyLEvans2_200_w4 Sally Lloyd-Evans is a Co-Leader of the Participation Lab and has 20 years expertise in community development and participatory action research with public and voluntary sector organizations in the Global North and South on social justice issues ranging from diversity and inclusion (Race Equality Councils and House of Commons) to health (Reading Healthwatch; Reading Voluntary Action) and most recently with the Local Trust’s national Big Local £1 million initiatives.  Her recent participatory action research with the Whitley Big Local (2015) on the mobility needs of local communities led to the development of a co-production research network called the ‘Whitley Researchers’ with local residents, schools and undergraduates. Sally is also renowned for her work on social justice and participation at the Royal Geographical Society and she’s organised international conference sessions on participation and community activism with leading scholars in this field.


Meet the Advisory Group members:

Chris Bloomfield, Neighbourhood Initiatives Manager, Reading Borough Council

Dr Sonia Bussu, Research and learning co-ordinator, Local Trust
Sonia holds a PhD in Local Governance and Citizen Participation from the London School of Economics. Over the years she has led on research on coproduction and
citizen participation in policy-making and has published several publications on democratic innovations. She’s passionate about community-led and action research and helping citizens, practitioners, and academics to work together on impactful research that can inform policy change. She believes that the Participation Lab represents a great opportunity to create new synergies and experiment with new ways of working together. Sonia currently works at Local Trust as research and learning coordinator and has a key role in developing suitable ways to monitor and evaluate the Big Local programme. She designs internal research and evaluation methods and draws out strategic learning. Prior to this role, Sonia was a researcher at Involve, a think tank specialising in public participation.


Dr. Andy Curtis, Senior Research Officer, Institute for Volunteering Research (IVR), National Council for Voluntary Organisations

Andy joined IVR in 2012 and has worked in research roles in the education and non-profit sectors for over fifteen years. He led evaluations of government grant and empowerment programmes at the Community Development Foundation and has worked in various community focused projects in his current role. He completed his PhD in 2007 at the University of Southampton. His thesis explored the concept of ‘social capital’ and its relationship with civic engagement. Andy has been involved in a number of participatory research projects but is keen to expand his knowledge and understanding of this area through the Participation Lab. Contact: andy.curtis@ivr.org.uk

Sonia Duval, Whitley Researchers Network


Dr. Alison Dyke, University of York


Ian Hopwood, Consultant, UNICEF


Helen Leadbitter, The Children’s Society Include Project


Claire McEnoy, Community Development Manager, Whitley Community Development Association


Mo Mcsevney, Whitley Researchers Network

John Ord is a Big Local representative. Contact: john_ord1@hotmail.co.uk


Dr David Slawson, Director of Open Air Laboratories (OPAL)

David is Director of OPAL, a citizen science partnership based in the Centre for Environmental Policy, Imperial College London.  The OPAL network is a UK-wide partnership initiative that inspires communities to discover, enjoy and protect their local environments through citizen science-based activities. For more information, please visit the OPAL website or follow OPAL on Twitter @OPALNature

University of Reading Advisory Group members: 

Andrew Ainslie, School of Agriculture, Policy & Development. Contact: a.m.ainslie@reading.ac.uk

Anthony Atkin, Impact Manager, University of Reading. Contact: a.atkin@reading.ac.uk

Abbie Becker(Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme)

Harriet Hemmings (Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme)

Caroline Knowles, Head of Research Communications. Contact: c.l.knowles@reading.ac.uk

Alice Mauchline, School of Agriculture, Policy & Development. Contact: a.l.mauchline@reading.ac.uk

Tina O’Connell, Reading Art Lab. Contact: t.oconnell@reading.ac.uk

Nathan Salvidge (MRes student in Human Geography)

Rhi Smith, Director of Institute for Heritage and Creativity. Contact: r.smith@reading.ac.uk

Meet the Participation Lab members at the University of Reading.


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