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Centre for Applied Research in Empowering Society (CARES)

We are the Centre for Applied Research in Empowering Society (CARES), a multi-disciplinary group of academics joined by our dedication to applied research and knowledge exchange with public institutions, community groups, third sector organisations and socially responsible businesses. We support London Metropolitan University’s commitment to the sustainable development agenda by taking a multidisciplinary approach to tackling social problems.

The aim of CARES is to challenge social injustices by using empowering models of engagement to address systems that produce inequalities.

Our mission is to critically develop interdisciplinary and system wide solutions to institutional reform, policy change and delivery issues, and to creatively enhance the economic potential to deliver social and planetary justice to service users and stakeholders.

CARES Values and Ethos

  • Empowering: We design solutions and practices that are based in relational ethics of care, contemporary relational and collaborative management models. In our applied research, we work with our local communities.
  • Inter-disciplinary: We actively seek to attract colleagues and students from all disciplinary backgrounds and recognise the importance of tackling society’s challenges from multiple perspectives to yield sustainable solutions.
  • Collaborative: We support collaboration internally and externally and develop a community of practice where researchers at all stages in their careers can thrive.
  • Social Justice Focused: We focus on addressing systemic problems through empowerment and social justice.

CARES aims to develop effective methodologies that empower citizens to be part of these systemic changes. We are impact driven and seek to elevate the lived experience or individuals and communities into actionable policy recommendations, at the same time as translating complex policy and frameworks into usable knowledge for community groups and networks.

CARES, which is linked to the London Met Lab, will drive impact delivery of the Giving Back to the City strand of the University’s strategy.

Contact Details: cares@londonmet.ac.uk

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Our members

CARES Co-Director - Prof. Diana Stirbu

Diana is a Professor of Public Policy and Governance and has expertise in the design, evolution and change of political institutions sustaining democratic processes and decision making.

CARES Co-Director - Dr. Torange Khonsari

Dr Khonsari’s Reader in Art, Architecture and Design Activism and her research focuses on Commons as a third political sphere that focused on community and citizen power mediating the sphere between the state and the market, advocating public-commons partnership. CARES

Deputy-Director Dr. Stephen Hills

Dr. Hills Reader in Health and Sport Management in the Guildhall School of Business and Law and his research focuses on sport-for-development - the use of sport to empower society.

Dr. Jane Lewis

An expert in social policy and housing, Dr. Lewis’ work focuses on tackling inequalities in accessing employment experienced by Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic residents and by people with disabilities.

Donna Jones

Donna’s recent work focuses on community-based participatory approaches that emphasize co-production of knowledges with people from marginalized communities through arts-based initiatives.

Dr. Shaun Yates

Dr. Yates is an expert in criminal court justice (magistrates courts) and in evaluating their efficiency (how ideas of due process balance with crime control).

Assoc Prof. Siân Moxon

Siân’s practice-centred design research explores urban biodiversity within the School of Art, Architecture and Design’s Centre for Urban and Built Ecologies.

Assoc Prof. Sarah Illingworth

Assoc Prof. Illingworth’s current work is exploring novel approaches to health care education as well as strategies to alleviate food poverty in the current cost of living crisis.

Jen Ng

With a background as an economist and an economic development consultant, Jen is now working across the Architecture, Design and Fine Art clusters to curate, instigate and develop community art and architecture projects.

Emma Short

Dr. Short’s research focuses on the experience of cybervictimisation, including cyberstalking and image based sexual abuse.

Dr. Jane Clossick

Dr. Clossick researches on the socio-spatial dynamics of architecture, focusing on healthcare, high streets, and industry.

Dr. Mariam Akinlolu

Dr. Akinlolu’s research focuses on creating decent work and sustainable livelihoods and ensuring quality education.

Dr. Elaheh Homayounvala

Dr. Homayounvala’s work focuses on using Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and statistical methods to analyse data, to extract knowledge from data.

Dr. Amr Khafagy

Dr. Khafagy is an expert in econometric modelling and has an interest in financial systems in economic development.

Dr. Jianghong Liu

With a primary focus on empirical finance, Dr. Liu’s work is exploring the interconnectedness of finance, governance, and sustainable practices within the corporate landscape.

Dr. Abu Naser

Dr. Naser’s work examines financial systems and the effectiveness of loan supply in fostering stability and promoting financial development. 

Dr. Raymon Hunte

Dr. Hunte’s research focuses on the impact of cognitive exertion (primarily self-control) on subsequent physical performance.

Dr. Dee Bhakta

Dr. Bhakta’s work focuses on developing innovative dietary assessment tools and delivering nutrition interventions in the community.

Assoc Prof. Justin Webb

Justin’s work focuses on the intersection between behaviour science and public health, predominantly in the health improvement domain.

Assoc Prof. Qicheng Yu

Assoc Prof. Yu’s work focuses primarily on applying data analytics techniques to address challenges faced by businesses and local communities.

Dr Julius Elster

Dr. Elster’s work focuses on understanding a range of issues that young people face and on developing interventions that can be implemented and sustained in the ‘real world’.

Dr. Josefine Nyby

An expert in applied social policy, Dr. Nyby’s work focuses on exploring lived experiences of the labour market (barriers and opportunities) and social inequalities (such as employment gap) among marginalised groups.

Dr. Clelia Clini

With experience and expertise in have experience in participatory arts research, Dr. Clini’s work focuses on migration and diaspora studies, postcolonial cultures and cultural heritage (mainly South Asian).

Dr. Mabel Encinas

Dr. Encinas’ research focuses on the use of creative strategies in early years learning, including co-production in relation to Communication and Language, and Personal, Social and Emotional development.

Cathrine Madziva

Dr Cathrine Madziva is a senior lecturer in Public Health and works on the role of International Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in supporting community-based organisations’ response to HIV/AIDS-affected children.

Sandra Fernando

Dr. Sandra Fernando’s current research is focused on development of computer
image processing for blind people, and computer-aided drawing techniques and technologies for blind students.

Ama Agyeman

Ama is an education practitioner and expert whose current work (EdDoc) focuses on exploring the lived experience of families whose children were permanently excluded from school.

Elsa Gonzalez Simon

Elsa is a social worker specialising in working with children and vulnerable women, and her current PhD research focuses on women’s political agency and social participation.

Dr. Chahid Fourali

Dr Fourali’s research experience covers Business, Psychology and Education. He published in areas related to social marketing standards, tackling conflict from a psychology perspective.

Assoc Prof. Hazel Messenger

Hazel is an expert in transformative learning cultures in higher education with an interest in student development, leadership development and creative research methods.

Dr Nipuni Sumanarathna

Dr Sumanarathna is a Lecturer in quantity surveying at the School of the Built Environment whose research includes transition towards circular economy through construction, demolition, and waste management in the Smart and Sustainable Built Environment.

Hilda Mulrooney

Dr. Mulrooney’s research focuses on community resilience and community food-related organizations and explores whether involvement in community food schemes impacts on community cohesion and sense of belonging, in addition to nutritional considerations.

Dr. Antanina Garanasvili

Featured projects and partners

Title: Predictors of Protective Behaviours to Prevent the Community Spread of SARS-CoV-2: Who does not accept or adhere, why and in what context?

CARES Members: Dr. Stephen Hills & Assoc. Prof. Justin Webb

Partner: Commissioned and funded by UNICEF

Summary: As vaccine availability has increased in much of the world, challenges remain related to acceptance and uptake of COVID-19 vaccines, compounded by global inequities in vaccine access and the emergence of new variants. As such, non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) continue to be an important tool in slowing and preventing the spread of SARS-CoV-2. A series of rapid evidence assessments (REA), using the COM-B model as a theoretical framework, sought to understand the existing evidence about who delays or refuses COVID-19 vaccination, and who does not adhere to NPI measures, why and in what contexts, to inform tailored policies and interventions that support vaccination acceptance and adherence to NPI measures using the Behaviour Change Wheel. Demographics did not consistently predict non-adherence to protective behaviours during the COVID-19 pandemic. In terms of psychological capability, people with less COVID-19 knowledge are more likely to be both vaccine hesitant and social distancing non-adherent. In terms of social opportunities, right-wing or conservative voters are more likely to be vaccine hesitant, social distancing non-adherent and mask wearing non-adherent and people who perceive less social normative pressure to engage in protective behaviours are more likely to be social distancing non-adherent and mask wearing non-adherent. In terms of reflective motivations, people who perceive the protective behaviour to be less effective are more likely to be vaccine hesitant and mask wearing non-adherent, people who perceive themselves to have less control over the protective behaviour are more likely to be social distancing non-adherent and mask wearing non-adherent and people who perceive themselves to be less susceptible to catching COVID-19 are more likely to be vaccine hesitant and mask wearing non-adherent.


Title: Bow Neighbourhood Common - Grassroots neighbourhood development

CARES Members: Dr. Torange Khonsari and Jen Ng

School of Art, Architecture and Design Member: Jane McAlister

Partners: London Borough of Tower Hamlets, Clarion Housing Association, Roman Road Trust and Public Works Ltd

Summary: Led by Dr Torange Khonsari, Bow Neighbourhood Common was initiated collaboratively between London Metropolitan University and non-for-profit organisation public works Ltd and local organisations such as Bow Roman Road Neighbourhood Plan, Roman Road Trust, London Borough of Tower Hamlets and Clarion Housing Association. The project is a community-led, incremental neighbourhood development that started in 2014 and completed in 2023. Resulting in creation of 3 community gardens, a legal neighbourhood plan (NP), a new community -owned and run urban room, and a series of art and cultural programs created by communities for communities. The shift in power both in influencing how the neighbourhood is developed through NP and 25 years of rights over land as community asset makes this project fall within the sphere of citizen control. The theoretical discourse of the ‘New Commons’ (Hess, 2009) was used to explore how local community resources can be collaboratively governed, protected and managed using existing policies such as neighbourhood planning and architecture through meanwhile use. The project used creative and artistic models of event and empowering organisational design to map and record social value created in grassroots neighbourhood development. The ‘New Commons’ offer a third space within the binary political spheres of state (the public, policy and regulations) and markets (profit and economic growth). The ‘New Commons’ open the space for social relationships, trust building, social mobility and change to materialise in everyday life of the city.

The project received grants from:

National Lottery - Awards for all,

London Legacy Development Corporation,

London Borough of Tower Hamlet’s enterprise team,

Clarion Housing Association,

Greater London Authority crowd fund campaign,

Greater London Authority Green Infrastructure Fund


Title: Assemble – Developing Local Inclusivity Networks in England and Wales

CARES Members: Prof. D. Stirbu, Dr. Jane Lewis, Dr. Josefine Nyby, Dr. Qicheng Yu

Partner: National Youth Theatre, National Youth Arts Wales

Summary: Assemble is a National Youth Theatre (NYT) and National Youth Art Wales (NYAW) initiative funded by the National Lottery Community Fund. Assemble aims to promote collaboration between disabled and non-disabled communities, reduce isolation, and establish grassroots inclusivity networks in England and Wales for young disabled people. To support this program, the NYT and the NYAW have partnered with CARES to conduct research and evaluation in relation to the programme’s impact and desired long-term outcomes. Our research objectives are to: 

  • Develop a framework to evaluate the long-term impact of the programme
  • Co-design standards around inclusive cultural offer for and with young disabled people considering their lived experiences
  • Develop a data infrastructure supporting accessible, usable and timely information on the inclusive local cultural offer available to young disabled people
  • Identify enablers and inhibitors to developing successful collaborative local inclusivity networks that elevate young disabled people’s voices into decision making.

To achieve these objectives, our CARES team of will:

  • Conduct community and systems mapping to offer a better understanding of the ecosystem around young disabled people's access to an inclusive local cultural offer
  • Engage relevant stakeholders and beneficiaries of the Assemble programme in England (London and Manchester) and Wales (Cardiff, Swansea and the Rhonda Valley) beneficiaries of the initiatives
  • Map out the data infrastructure around the local offer for young disabled people
  • Conduct co-design workshops with young disabled people.

This research will provide a comprehensive understanding of the impact of NYT's Assemble programme in the specified areas of impact, namely reducing social isolation, supporting young disabled people’ development and empowerment, enhancing capaci building and the local inclusive cultural infrastructure, and fostering collaborative policy impact and influence.


Title: Reimagining Newham Hospital as a Healthy Hospital

CARES Members: Dr Jane Clossick

School of Art, Architecture and Design Member: Collin O’Sullivan

Partners: Dr Isobel Spender, Specialist Registrar in Public Health for Barts Health Trust; Newham Hospital Executive Board; Barts Public Health;

Summary: The “Reimagining Newham Hospital as a Healthy Hospital” is being developed as a KTP project which is about adopting design thinking to create a “Healthy Hospital” to function as a community asset. The intention is to develop a collaborative spatial vision and site plan, harmonising departments to drive efficiency and using spatial literacy to improve staff wellbeing, patient outcomes and community cohesion. A KTP associate, likely post-Doc level, will investigate the opportunities on the hospital site across multiple scales (and budgets), from the position of a bench to the relationship between the hospital and other community assets. They will explore the physical relationships with local resources, routes and journeys to shops, schools and the leisure centre; investigate and map connections across the neighbourhood, locality and city to understand and allow Newham to take advantage of wider spatial relationships; and undertake action research, with a spatial audit of the site to reveal social and cultural value which is not immediately apparent and to ascertain how the space is perceived by the patient, staff and community. The project is currently in development and will be presented to Innovate UK in early 2024. If the subsequent application is successful, it is expected to begin in early 2025.