While starting out running a small business in community arts I unearthed a seemingly unshakeable passion; facilitating environments which enable people to hear and share stories with each other, and build a sense of belonging, safety, and self-worth. In my opinion, us dealing with the darkest corners of ourselves is the only way we’re going to be able to build and sustain anything that resembles a society worth living in long-term (whatever that society ends up looking like).

This passion – sometimes driven by ego, fuelled by a need to write a hero’s journey out of traumatic experiences, and sometimes driven by a genuine desire to help others – and exposure to endless stories of poverty, distress and exclusion, propelled me into participating in co-production projects focused on health and social care policy, as a person with lived experience of being in foster care. I quickly took on new roles in event design, facilitation, findings analysis and dissemination, while completing a MA in project management and trading as a sound engineer and gigging musician.

“Fast forward a few years and I’d gotten pretty good at translating the languages of policy makers, practitioners and the rest of us. I’ve spent several years as a social researcher and engagement practitioner, marvelling at how purpose-built social spaces can enable new understanding between all kinds of people.”

After some time at Traverse working in my first full time role as a junior researcher, I landed at Ipsos MORI as a Research/ Engagement Manager in the Social Research Institute, specialising in deliberative engagement and qualitative research. I learned a lot about the world, particularly disability, inequality, climate change and health services. I am grateful for that, and for the privilege of working with policy specialists, behavioural scientists, ethicists, and all kinds of researchers and engagement practitioners from across the globe, to support clients who serve the public.

Alongside this, I carried out a sense of duty to the care experienced community (others who have been in foster care) and the wider community of those who find themselves unfairly marginalised by society. This involved advocating for improving practices around EDI in the projects and teams I could influence, joining the sound delivery network of spokespeople utilising lived experience for change, and facilitating the care experienced young people’s network; a group of care experienced young people who delivered their own research projects and created a series of podcasts. I am grateful to the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation for giving us space to set our own agenda.

In mid-2022 I brought my skills and passions together in a new role at What Works for Children’s Social Care, as a Senior Researcher and overall qualitative research lead within the organisation. This role included overseeing the Research Ethics Committee and supporting a team of junior researchers to deliver an ambitious portfolio of projects focused largely on interventions to reduce domestic abuse and improve support for care leavers across England. I’m proud of the work myself and the team did in that year, and I’m equally proud of myself for leaving as a merger took hold; the organisation I joined no longer exists. As it stands, I’m prioritising my wellbeing, looking into behavioural science, expanding my qualitative and engagement toolkits, and coming to terms with being, at minimum, quant-curious.