Hi, I'm Rachel - a researcher and anthropologist who works in development. I do rigorous qualitative and mixed-methods research on people's experiences and on the systems and values that shape them.

Deeper understanding

Some social problems can't be solved by throwing more resources at them. Sometimes, we need to challenge our current ideas, and listen to more perspectives. Research can be used for many purposes, but building deeper understandings of ourselves, each other, and the situations and systems we find ourselves in is what I do best.

Rigorous research

Applied research can be rigorous! Being rigorous means being thoughtful about design, methods and analysis, and paying careful attention to nuance, patterns and details. It also means being aware of power dynamics and bias, and being transparent, accountable and open to critique. A systematic, thorough and humble approach yields credibility.

Practically applied

I do research about topics that matter deeply - power and prejudice, education and development, "us and them" paradigms. Research in these areas often points to the need for justice and social/policy changes. Empirical research can be an important foundation for social action, activism and accountability, when it is itself accountable to the people it is about.

What I do

Research & analysis

Qualitative and mixed-methods primary research to deepen understanding and inform action.

Trained and experienced in using a variety of methods including participant observation, social network analysis and spot observing, as well as interviewing and focus groups, I support clients with any and all aspects of their qualitative research projects, from design through to analysis.

My research spans a range of topics, but is all focused on people’s experiences and values, and the systems that form, perpetuate and/or constrain them.

Training & teaching

Rachel presenting to a group of seated adults

Practical, interactive training that puts across complex ideas in simple and memorable ways.

I’m an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and an experienced trainer, lecturer, seminar and workshop leader whose student feedback speaks for itself.

I currently offer training in qualitative research methods and monitoring and results measurement for market systems development, as well as bespoke courses for clients on a range of topics from inclusive systems development, to using social network analysis, to economic anthropology.

Consultancy & Coaching

Rachel, working as a consultant in a conference room

Support for teams who want to develop contextualised solutions to the challenges they face.

A good consultant straddles proximity and distance: close enough to a team to be trusted, to understand why entrenched problems occur, and to take into account local knowledge and systems, but external enough to make balanced evaluations, to suggest fresh perspectives, and to provide strategic insights drawn from global expertise and experience. I provide this kind of support for organisations who want to apply a systems approach to their work, or to improve their research practice.


Writing & Resources

Rachel, writing

Guidance for practitioners, tips and  ‘how-to’s, and emerging ideas, written in everyday English.

As a member of the Springfield Centre’s ‘advocacy, research and communications’ team, I develop case studies, working papers, presentations, blog posts, videos, webinars, social media and other tools to highlight good practice, provide guidance and advocate for more sustainable development.

I also publish research method tips and my own evolving thoughts on research, development, and the trouble with “us & them” thinking.

Research Focus

I do research about:

This has taken me around the world, from doing research about education in the highlands of Papua, Indonesia to doing research on and in market systems development programming. Through it all, I’m most interested in working out what’s really going on when things don’t seem to make sense – a goal that is usually served by digging deeper into experiences, systems and values.

Who I am

My career thus far has taken me from charity management through PhD research to market systems development consultancy and training. You can read a summary of my professional background below.

Outside work, I enjoy travel and exploration. I have been privileged to visit countries on each of the continents (except Antarctica – so far!). I love hiking, camping and really good conversations, preferably around a bonfire or immersed in wilderness beauty. I’m also a big fan of a strong cup of coffee and basically anything our red merle border collie does.

Rachel’s quest to answer the question of what she wants to be when she grows up has taken her on countless adventures from the beautiful highlands of Papua to the wilds of Southeast London. Born in Papua New Guinea and brought up in Indonesia, Rachel had ample opportunity to apply all she had learned about cross-cultural adaptation when she moved to Durham, where she balanced her studies with a mild obsession with Ultimate Frisbee.

Rachel has since trained as an anthropologist, obtaining a Masters in Research Methods and a PhD in Development Anthropology from Durham University. After six years of managing a community development project in North Peckham, Rachel moved to the remote highlands of Papua where she conducted a mixed-methods research project into the effect (and effectiveness) of primary education in a rural community of subsistence farmers. She worked with both indigenous and international stakeholders, including providing consulting for the director of an international NGO on evidence-based strategy and practice. As well as publishing, lecturing and presenting at conferences, Rachel enjoys teaching and training, and is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

In 2017 she joined the Springfield Centre where she applies her expertise in research methods and anthropology to market systems development projects.