Sarah has 20 years experience as a social development specialist in International Development focused on youth and children. This has involved working in a spectrum of thematic areas, including: youth engagement, non formal education, governance and accountability, safeguarding, gender/inclusion, youth livelihoods, post conflict transitions, and play work/therapy. She has been privileged to work in a range of places, with a variety of people - from trafficked children in Kathmandu care homes to expert panels at the OECD in Paris.
She is driven by creating and facilitating opportunities for young people to have a meaningful role in shaping their own futures, and understands that as an adult researcher and co-learner, there can be many challenges and contradictions in this.
Her work around the world has always encountered highly contested narratives and approaches relating to ‘creativity’, ‘empowerment’ and ‘participation’. She now wants to focus specifically on 'fun' - an elusive social construct - to assess its meaning in different cultural contexts, and to examine if/how ‘fun’ contributes to learning processes directed towards self and community social change.
Her research interests are interdisciplinary and will draw predominantly upon education, social anthropology and human geography. She is particularly interested to explore if/how 'spatiality', 'generationing' and 'citizenship' contribute to understanding how fun is used in specific out of school learning contexts.
Sarah is working closely with Coaches Across Continents (CAC), an NGO whose aim is to facilitate self directed learning through ‘fun’ in non-competitive soccer-related games. This is an assumption embedded in a lot of out of school 'life skills' programmes, that fun (or its big brother 'play') are vital, but why and how has not been fully examined or explained. Sarah believes that ‘fun’ remains undervalued and under-utilised in educational practices. She wants to explore if there is evidence as to why fun matters, and whether it should be acknowledged and made an integral part of children’s (and their 'coaches') learning processes.
Her methodology draws from interpretivist ethnographic foundations, focusing on creative and engaged practices, as well as critical participatory action research. She is particularly interested to situate 'fun' through performance and embodied practice, and in so doing explore how the wider senses can be used as a research tool, mapping onto children's own ways of meaning making.
Her challenge will be to embody 'fun' in the research process itself. Wish her luck!