About us

The Participation Lab aims to co-produce knowledge with communities and practitioners, provide research training and build capacity within and beyond the University of Reading.

Established in 2016 by core members of the Human Geography Research Cluster, Sally Lloyd-Evans, Hilary Geoghegan and Ruth Evans with an Advisory Group of key partner organisations and practitioners, student representatives and staff, we  held our first Advisory Group meeting in September 2016. Since then, we have developed our activities and research in Reading through on-going partnership work with Reading Borough Council, Alliance for Cohesion and Racial Equality Equality, Reading City of Sanctuary and Reading Refugee Support Group and other third sector organisations.

Meet the Lab Leaders:

Sally Lloyd-Evans is the 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.

Ruth Evans is a Co-Leader of the Participation Lab 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.

Hilary Geoghegan was a Co-Leader who established the Lab with Sally Lloyd-Evans and Ruth Evans and remains involved in the Lab’s work. Hilary is 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.

Meet the Advisory Group members:

Sonia Linkedin

Dr. Sonia Bussu is a Research Associate at UCL’s Department of Primary Care and Population Health where she is responsible for conducting a qualitative and participatory evaluation of integrated care in East London. This work focuses specifically on organisation development, culture change and collaborative governance. 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 co-produce evidence and new knowledge 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. Prior to joining UCL she worked in the Third Sector, where she designed and evaluated participatory processes to increase citizen voice on policy making and, more recently, community development programmes such as Big Local.


Alice Mauchline is a Senior Research Fellow in the School of Agriculture, Policy & Development at the University of Reading. Her research focuses on methods of sustainable crop production and the impact of agri-environment policies. She has wide-ranging experience of using participatory research approaches to enable co-production of outputs including improved public service tools and engaging stakeholders in policy evaluation. She has a strong interest in educational research to advance field teaching and learning in Higher Education and is part of the Enhancing Fieldwork Learning team (www.enhancingfieldwork.org.uk). Her work is currently focused on advancing synergies between citizen science and education.

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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.

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.

Sonia Duval

Sonia has been a Whitley Researcher since we started in 2014 and she’s been a key member of our team working on all our projects as our community administrator and data management expert. Sonia is now employed at the University and is currently the Community Administrator on the FoodSEqual project.

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

Andrew Anslie

Andrew Ainslie, International Development

Caroline Knowles

Caroline Knowles, Head of Research Communications

Rhi Smith

Rhi Smith Director of Institute for Heritage and Creativity

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

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

Postgraduate and undergraduate student representatives

Participation Lab tweets