Suzanne Wilson

Suzanne Wilson

Research Fellow in Social Inclusion and Community Engagement

School of Social Work, Care and Community


Subject Areas: Social work, Sociology

Suzanne joined UCLan in spring 2014, after a background of working in mental health, ranging from community psychology to inpatient nursing. Her current research focus is challenging poverty (especially child poverty), through promoting youth citizenship and aspirations.

Suzanne is passionate about justice and equal opportunities, particularly in marginalised groups, such as those in poverty and those with mental health difficulties, and a majority of her professional experience has focused on these two areas.

Full Profile

Suzanne is a Research Fellow in Social Inclusion and Community Engagement at The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan). The research agenda, which is in partnership with the Samuel Lindow Foundation and The Centre for Citizenship and Community, is to work with communities to identify effective and sustainable means of increasing community capital. This expanding portfolio of research focuses on working-class, coastal communities, often regarded as being ‘left-behind’. It spans all along the Cumbrian coastline and includes partnership working with key stakeholders such as the Cumbria Police, Cumbria County Council and local schools. This research won a Golden Apple Award for ‘Best Community Imitative’ in 2019.

Currently working towards a PhD, Suzanne was awarded a Commendation for her Msc Dissertation at Lancaster University, which explored community resilience in West Cumbria following the November 2010 floods and West Cumbrian Shootings of June 2011. This work was presented at the British Psychological Society annual conference in 2014.

With over 10 years’ experience in mental health, Suzanne has worked with a range of local services such as Mind in West Cumbria, Whitehaven Community Trust and Psychological Services at WCH, and is trained in integrative counselling and brief solution focused coaching. Suzanne is passionate about social justice and equal opportunities, and is a member of the British Psychological Society, Social Policy Association, British Educational Research Association, West Cumbria Child Poverty Group, Academics Against Poverty and The Centre of Citizenship and Community.

In June 2012 Suzanne was honoured to carry the Olympic flame through Carlisle, after being nominated as a Torchbearer for her charitable work for Mind in West Cumbria. This sparked a love for running, especially in the Cumbrian fells and coastline.

  • PhD Educational Sociology, UCLan 2018 
  • ​MPhil Applied Policy Science, UCLan, 2017 
  • MSc Psychological Research Methods, Lancaster University, 2013
  • BSc (hons.) Psychology, University of Bath, 2006
  • An Introduction to Brief, Solution Focused Therapy, 2016
  • CMI Level 5 Certificate in Leadership & Management, 2015
  • AQA Counselling Skills Level 1& 2, 2011
  • Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector, 2010
The Conversation

Suzanne has published articles on The Conversation, to read them please follow the links below:


Wilson, Suzanne (2019) 'Hard to reach’ parents but not hard to research: a critical reflection of gatekeeper positionality using a community-based methodology. International Journal of Research & Method in Education . ISSN 1743-727X

Wilson, Suzanne (2019) Child poverty is at a 20-year high – but in one English community, children themselves are intervening. The Conversation.

Slavin, Willie and Wilson, Suzanne (2019) CHILD POVERTY: The Impact of Poor Housing on Children’s Life Chances. Project Report.

Wilson, Suzanne (2018) Connected Communities with Cumbria Constabulary: Promoting Community Capital in Vulnerable Localities. Project Report

More Publications

Research Groups

  • The Centre of Citizenship and Community


  • British Psychological Society
  • Applied Social Policy Association
  • Academics Against Poverty
  • British Educational Research Association

External Affiliations and Roles

  • West Lakes Academy, Egremont, Cumbria: Sponsor Governor, Link Pupil Premium Governor and Link Wellbeing Governor
  • West Cumbria Community Action Trust: Founding Trustee and Secretary
  • Member of West Cumbria Child Poverty Forum
  • Member of Infinity Science Festival Working Group
  • Member of Well Whitehaven Working Group


Wilson, Suzanne (2019) Cultivating Citizenship though Community Capital. In: XVI European Congress of Psychology 2019, 2-5 July 2019, Moscow, Russia.

Wilson, Suzanne and Williamson, Emma (2019) Cultivating Citizenship through Connected Communities: Challenging Intergenerational Loneliness through Youth Led Co-Production. In: Communities for Change Seminar, 26 June 2019, University of Central Lancashire, Preston.

Wilson, Suzanne (2019) "Police are people too": Revised perceptions and critical reflections of police-community identities. In: Identity, Diversity, Community Cohesion and Conflict: What Now?, 26 June 2019, University of Central Lancashire, Preston.

Wilson, Suzanne (2019) Child Driven Policy using Youth Participatory Action Research. In: Tackling Child Poverty: Building a Positive Future for Britain’s Youth, Tuesday 5 March 2019.

Wilson, Suzanne (2019) Developing an Intergenerational Approach to Social Isolation through Connected Communities in West Cumbria. In: ODESSA PROJECT SYMPOSIUM: Towards Ageing-in-place: Policy and Practice Options, 1 March 2019, Royal Institute of British Architects, London.

Wilson, Suzanne (2018) Cultivating Citizenship through Community Capital. In: 5th Conference in Community Psychology in Slovakia, 3-4 December 2018, Comenius University in Bratislava, Bratislava.

Wilson, Suzanne (2018) Community Capital: The Value of Connected Communities. In: The British Psychological Society Annual Conference 2018, 2-4 May 2018, East Midlands Conference Centre

Wilson, Suzanne and Morris, David (2017) Community Capital: The Value of Connected Communities. In: British Psychological Society Community Psychology Festival 2017, 15th to 16th September 2017, Arnolfini Centre for Contemporary Art, Bristol.

External Activities


  • Connected Communities West Cumbria: UCLan, as part of the Centre of Citizenship and Community

    The Centre for Citizenship and Community at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) has developed the Connected Communities research approach (Parsfield, et al., 2015). The approach is used as a strategy for action based research in exploring how the community dimension of people’s lives contributes to well-being, and can be developed to analyse how different interventions build resilient, inclusive communities and empower individuals to take greater control of their lives, through relationships based on shared concerns and mutual trust. This process can serve to enhance community capital which refers to “the sum of assets including relationships in a community and the value that accrues from these” (Parsfield, et al., 2015, p.12). Rather than being a fixed methodological framework, the Connected Communities approach is purposefully one that is bespoke, responding to the unique features of each community as appropriate.

    In Cumbria the approach has been, and is currently being used, in some white working-class coastal communities with children and young people acting as community researchers. Completed research projects have shown that the children involved developed their community consciousness, their capacity and their sense of having a stake in their community, and co-produced interventions are currently being piloted in these communities. On the completion of the two current projects, a period of reflecting and writing will take place, resulting in a number of publications and public events describing a new framework for engaging with this population, which has been identified by nationally as being marginalised in terms of education and aspirations (Ovenden-Hope & Passy, 2019).

    This work is supported by my membership on West Cumbria Child Poverty Forum (WCCPF), whose aim is to share information and expertise and raise the profile of child poverty in West Cumbria, keeping the issue at the forefront of the public, and statutory services.


  • ‘In This Together’: UCLan in collaboration with Inspira, and with funding from the independent educational charity, the Samuel Lindow Foundation.

The aims of this project was to research, develop and deliver a family based intervention to raise aspirations and attainment. The intervention that was produced, ‘In This Together’, is currently funded by Cumbria County Council to be rolled out throughout West Cumbrian secondary schools, for two years.

The initial research consisted of a mixed methods design and sought to identify factors that impact on ‘disadvantaged ’ families’ aspirations. Local school data provided evidence of discrepancies in educational engagement, and focus groups and interviews provided insights into parents and teachers’ experiences. It was found that there was a tangible difference in parental engagement in ‘disadvantaged’ families and that this widened at secondary school. Focus groups and interviews showed that parents felt unable to support their children with their secondary school work and allocated responsibility with education exclusively to school. Parents felt judged by teachers and showed negative attitudes towards secondary school staff.

In response to these results, a brief solution focused approach was adopted to challenge the negative beliefs and attitudes held towards secondary school education, promoting a positive pro-active ethos. Through four one-to-one sessions and two follow up meetings, ‘In This Together’ cultivates parental agency and responsibility towards secondary education. A strong mentoring relationship between the facilitator and parents, along with practising practical strategies at home promotes confidence and perceived autonomy over their influence over their children.

‘In This Together’ has been piloted with 25 families, with pupil improvement in 5 out of 9 pupil progress measures, demonstrating a larger rate of progress than families who were not involved in the intervention. All family members who completed ‘In This Together’ recommended the programme to other parents, and follow-up interviews demonstrated examples of pro-educational attitudes, beliefs and behaviour. The implementation and sustainability of ‘In This Together’ was secured through liaison with Inspira directors, the development of a clear governance model and a comprehensive training package. It is concluded that ‘In This Together’ provides an original, innovate approach to work with families to close the attainment gap, increasing opportunities for pupils from ‘disadvantaged’ backgrounds to succeed and achieve academically.