Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research

Making sense of the social world


I am the Pears Philanthropy Fellow for the Centre for Philanthropy at the University of Kent’s School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research. I will be setting up and teaching an innovative online Masters course in Philanthropic Studies, funded by a generous donation from the Pears Foundation. The course is designed to appeal to practitioners working in the fields of fundraising, grant-making, and the voluntary sector more generally. It will run from September 2016. Meanwhile, I will be convening a Masters module on Fundraising & Philanthropy in Spring 2016.

Prior to this role, I was working on a project detailing the history of philanthropic giving to the University of Kent, funded as part of the University’s 50th Anniversary celebrations. I organised several events across the University campuses promoting active discussion of philanthropic donations to HE institutions, including an international conference. My book, Hidden History: Philanthropy at the University of Kent, was released in June 2015.

My interest in philanthropy and charity began following my BA (first class) in Sociology at Lancaster University, when I moved to Canada for a year and a half. During this time I became involved in fundraising for the Vancouver Rape Relief Crisis Line and Women’s Shelter, and the Vancouver Food Bank. This was the beginning of my long-term interest in charity and giving, which continued upon my return to the UK and my completion of a Masters and PhD at the University of York under the ESRC 3+1 scheme. My PhD focused upon the contemporary UK charity shop as a case study of the wider professionalisation of charity.

Contact Information


Room CW NE 210
Cornwallis North East
University of Kent
Kent CT2 7NF

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Research Interests

My previous research has been into many different areas of charity, volunteering, community outreach and donor behavior, as well as aspects of shopping and consumption, professionalisation and work. My PhD thesis, entitled “The ‘Quiet Economy’: An ethnographic study of the contemporary charity shop” involved two sixth-month participant observation case studies in charity shops in the North of England, and interviews with stake holders, volunteers, managers and other charity representatives asking them to reflect on the professionalised and less professionalised characteristics of the shops. The contributions to knowledge were the following findings about charity shop operations:

  • The Quiet Value Economy: transactions are based around an unpredictable and community-oriented pricing structure, in spite of efforts to rationalise pricing.
  • The Quiet Hierarchy: The types of workers and volunteers are employed under various obligations that extend beyond formal obligations (from the state) to conscientious/collaborative obligations – as a result, hierarchies are informal and often unfixed.
  • The Quiet Gift Economy: Charity shops form strong bonds with the public sector (through Gift Aid) and controversially, the private sector (through ‘Gifts in Kind’: donations of unsold goods), emphasising their active and constantly evolving role in capitalist economic systems.

I have worked on two significant research projects prior to joining the Centre for Philanthropy, including the international Habitele study with the Médialab, Sciences Po, Paris, into the way technology is becoming immersed into daily life; and the STEPCHANGE project at the University of Manchester, conducting qualitative research into long-term experiences of urban transport and mobility in the Leeds area.

My current research focuses around the history of philanthropic giving to the University of Kent, and I will be working alongside Dr Cathy Ross, Honorary Fellow at the Museum of London, to produce a report detailing these donations and their impacts for the institution.

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In the 2015-16 academic year I will be convening SO839 Fundraising and Philanthropy. This MA module provides an up to date overview of current academic knowledge about philanthropy, and industry knowledge regarding fundraising practice, with several expert guest speakers from the world of fundraising and charity research.

Students gain an understanding of historical and contemporary issues relating to philanthropy and fundraising, the various theories and ideologies regarding the existence of philanthropic behaviours and the role of government and policy-makers in shaping the legal, fiscal and cultural context for philanthropy and fundraising.

I will also be assisting teaching on SO833 Design of Social Research, providing an overview of different types of qualitative methods and the logic of qualitative design; when to apply qualitative methods; and key issues such as choosing cases and planning qualitative analysis when designing a research project.

From Sept 2016 I will be running the MA in Philanthropic Studies (funded by the Pears Foundation) which is an innovative distance-learning course aimed at professionals already working in the philanthropic/fundraising sectors, or those wishing to gain Masters level accreditation in the area.

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Telephone: +44(0)1227 823072 Fax: +44(0)1227 827005 or email us

SSPSSR, Faculty of Social Sciences, Cornwallis North East, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent CT2 7NF

Last Updated: 12/10/2015