Research and Knowledge Transfer Priority Areas
Dr Lisa Mckenzie 

Case study Community

Involving local disadvantaged neighbourhoodsin skill-sharing projects 

Centre for Advanced Studies

“I’m interested in how disadvantaged neighbourhoods are stigmatised.” Dr Lisa Mckenzie Next case study


How do you better understand and engage with a disengaged local community? 

This two-year research project is set on the St Ann’s council estate in Nottingham, a socially excluded inner city neighbourhood which has previously been the focus of research by The University of Nottingham.

It aims to reinvestigate the St Ann’s neighbourhood, famously studied in the 1960s by Ken Coates and Bill Silburn when it was demolished and re-built as part of Britain’s slum clearance programme. Their research, Poverty: The forgotten Englishman, was published in 1970.

“I’m what you’d call an ethnographer, which is someone who is embedded in their research neighbourhood. I’m not a traditional researcher. My purpose is to challenge. I want to challenge a lot of those negative stereotypes about poor neighbourhoods” Dr Mckenzie.



Coates and Silburn’s research was primarily concerned with surveying poverty and deprivation in the district. It involved a survey of attitudes, but no in-depth interviews. It was very much in the tradition of ‘poverty studies’ with a central assumption that poverty had ‘structural’ causes and could be eradicated by better social provision and access to more secure employment. In the 40 years since their study, the structural obstacles to inclusion remain, but the problem of poverty is increasingly seen as ‘behavioural’ in origin. For many of Nottingham’s other citizens, influenced by media representations of the poor, the residents of St Ann’s are stigmatised as an ‘underclass’ and as symptomatic of “broken Britain”.

Solo researcher, Lisa Mckenzie, is embedded ethnographically within the community, interacting with different groups, including young people from different ethnic backgrounds. The outcome of this two-year research project will be a strong and clear continuation of the ethnographic and collaborative research methodology of research from the unusual perspective of an ‘insider’. 


Although Dr McKenzie is embedded as resident and insider, collecting data through an ethnographic qualitative methodology interviews, she also practises and studies community and collaborative research methods which have been used predominantly in the United States. Methodology is important when working with local communities as it influences how the initial relationship is negotiated and also how the University can develop and support that relationship.

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By focusing upon community networks, participation and cultural practices, Dr McKenzie’s research will offer an in-depth insight into the most complex aspects of social exclusion relating to identity, and a rare street-level view of a marginalised neighbourhood in contemporary Britain.

Dr McKenzie has linked up with other universities and academics within the UK and the USA who are focused upon promoting the importance of community studies. Dr Mckenzie recently visited researchers and academics at the Virginia Ball Centre for Creative Inquiry, at Ball State University, USA, who have worked on various ‘Middletown’ projects in Muncie, Indiana. There she gained a deeper understanding of how community engagement can be embedded within the University and the higher educational process and experience in the US. She is interested in strengthening the network between these institutions as both have used their research and methodology to make a positive impact upon some of the problems within their local communities.


Scale of research

This research is being conducted in the Nottingham inner city neighbourhood of St Ann’s by solo researcher, Dr Lisa McKenzie. Dr McKenzie is a sociologist who lives within the St Ann’s community. 


This research is funded through the Leverhulme Early Careers Fellowship.



Sally Bowden,
Arts Faculty Research Development Manager 

+44(0)115 95 14593




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