2 March 2015

Meet the WWS staff: Research Fellows Richard Brunner and Claire Bynner

Since the launch of What Works Scotland in June 2014, we have been establishing our case study areas and setting up a staff team.  Here we introduce two of our research fellows Richard Brunner and Claire Bynner.




Richard started work with What Works Scotland as Research Associate in January 2015 and is based at the University of Glasgow. Richard is working with Professor Nick Watson to support community planning partners in Glasgow, one of the four What Works Scotland case study areas.

Social research is the third stage of Richard’s career. Stage one included supporting homeless people, mental health advocacy, and supporting people living on housing estates in Hackney, East London to organise and improve the quality of their lives. Stage two involved social policy analysis in the voluntary and statutory sectors in Scotland, including for the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Stage three has involved a wide range of social justice-related research, including work as a Research Fellow at the University of Strathclyde.

Richard has conducted studies using a wide variety of qualitative research methods, including with the Scottish Pakistani community in Govanhill; with disabled parents; about teaching human rights; and exploring how mentoring can help young people from disadvantaged communities in Glasgow.
Richard came to the University of Glasgow to do a PhD in October 2011, supervised by Professor Nick Watson and Professor Kirsten Stalker (University of Strathclyde). His study, funded by the ESRC, involves interviewing people in Glasgow who have been in psychiatric hospital. Richard is applying the capabilities approach to interpret their social justice experiences, so aiming to reframe social understandings of mental distress and ultimately to improve social justice outcomes for this group. 

Claire joined What Works Scotland at the same time as Richard and is based at the University of Glasgow. Her professional background and expertise is in the field of community participation and empowerment within local strategic partnerships.  As a Development Officer for CVS Inverclyde, she was responsible for facilitating the involvement of the local community and voluntary sector in community planning.  She then worked for Glasgow Community Planning Partnership (GCPP) developing community planning structures and outcome focused approaches to community engagement.  As part of this role Claire undertook a review of Community Engagement in Neighbourhood Management in a neighbourhood in south Glasgow.

In 2010 Claire returned to the University of Glasgow (where she had been an undergraduate 20 years previously) to undertake a Masters in Research and PhD thesis supervised by Professor Annette Hastings and Professor Ade Kearns of the Urban Studies Department. Her thesis examines new migration and the emergence of ‘superdiverse’ neighbourhood in post-industrial cities drawing on the theories of multiculturalism and the concepts of intergroup contact and trust. The research, funded by the ESRC, comprised a mixed methods case study of a neighbourhood in Glasgow.  The findings provide insights into the contextual factors which influence cooperation and trust between people from extremely different backgrounds.

The main motivation for applying for the position of Research Associate with What Works Scotland was Claire’s previous experience of policy-making and academia. On the practitioner side, she observed scepticism regarding the potential benefits of academic research and little awareness of the evidence that could be useful. On the academic side, the realities of implementing public policy were often overlooked or the evidence was unsuitable for policy makers.  What Works Scotland addresses this imbalance through a collaborative approach to the use of evidence in public service reform.  Claire will be working with Professor Kenneth Gibb to support community planning partners in West Dunbartonshire, one of the four What Works Scotland case study areas.


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