Manchester lecturer wins inaugural Jo Cox Prize

A Geography lecturer from The University of Manchester has won the inaugural Jo Cox Prize for Public Service and Active Citizenship, to recognise the positive impacts of her research.

The Political Studies Association’s Jo Cox Prize recognises early career academics who work closely with policymakers and/or wider society for the ‘public good’. The judges at the awards ceremony commended Dr Hall for her ‘research into socio-economic issues, including the unique ‘Everyday Austerity’ project which moved beyond academia and the media to engage directly with the public and ultimately reflecting the values and ethos espoused by the late Jo Cox’.

Dr Sarah Marie Hall’s research seeks to understand how socio-economic processes are shaped by gender relations, lived experience and social differences. From 2012-2015, her Everyday Austerity research project explored the impact of austerity on everyday life in the UK, with a focus on familial and intimate relationships, gender, class and intergenerationality. The project gathered first-hand, personal accounts of everyday life in austerity, with public sector cuts as the backdrop.

In July 2016, the Everyday Austerity Exhibition was launched: a compilation of original field notes, interview soundbites and collected materials were displayed, alongside illustrated vignettes by local zine-maker Stef Bradley, to ‘lift the lid’ on austerity. This unique multi-sensory exhibition then embarked on a year-long Ten Borough Tour of Greater Manchester, visited by thousands of people across the region and beyond.

In early 2017, this time working with North-West illustrator Claire Stringer, findings from the project were turned into a zine and distributed across the country. The key aim of both the exhibition and zine was to engage the public in the research in novel ways, beyond hefty reports, florid academic language, closed-door conferences and steep pay walls.

Sarah is also a member of the Management Committee of the Women's Budget Group and co-author of the Intersecting Inequalities research report (also with Runnymede and RECLAIM), the first study to evidence the disproportionate and devastating impact of austerity policies on BME women in the UK. Using these research expertise and findings, Sarah has worked with local and national organisations, including Citizens Advice, Shelter, LGBT Foundation and Manchester City Council, to advise, train and empower groups to tackle the injustices produced and perpetuated by the current economic system.

I am absolutely over the moon to have been awarded the inaugural Jo Cox Prize, and I'm so grateful to those who nominated me. Jo was well-known for her activities both in her community and parliament for fostering solidarity and togetherness, and questioning prevailing injustices in society. To be given an award bearing her name for my research on the impacts of austerity in the UK gives me confidence in the value of this work, and the need to challenge such damaging and discriminatory ideology and policy from the ground up.
Dr Sarah Marie Hall

In addition to Sarah’s award, three other Manchester academics were winners on the night. Rob Ford, Jonathan Mellon and Patrick English were part of the nine-strong team which projected the BBC/ITV/Sky exit poll for the 2017 General Election - they received the Special Recognition Award for their efforts. The judges agreed that the academic members of the team deserved recognition 'for their wide range of academic skills and the methodology used as well as the subsequent analysis of the forecast, which had an immense impact during election night'. 

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