Category E: New researcher of the year sponsored by skills for local government
Nominated: Oliver Hopwood
Having joined ESRO after four years working in a non-research role in local government, Oliver has reapplied his frontline knowledge and public service passion to remarkable effect. In under two years, he has delivered headline-grabbing insight into some of councils’ most pressing challenges – not least budget cuts and misunderstood communities.
Since leaving his local authority role and becoming a full-time researcher, Oliver Hopwood has been committed to using his experience to help support councils to make more informed decisions and deliver more impactful and cost-efficient services.
In the last two years, he has played a pivotal role in conducting the largest survey of illegal and undocumented migrants in the UK, delivered a headline-grabbing piece of research documenting the real stories behind local authority budget cuts, and shocked some council officers by taking them along to a fairly graphic, underworld transgender event as part of
their ethnography training.
Oliver’s success as a researcher has come through a combination of energy and intelligence. He loves the intellectual challenge of understanding the issues, keen to quench his thirst for data and trends, and understand the gaps in the data before embarking on more qualitative lines of questioning. The ‘budget cuts’ research, conducted over two financial years for the Family and Parenting Institute, saw Oliver conduct a painstakingly detailed analysis of eight council revenue budget books which he combined with sensitively – handled qualitative tracking interviews with senior decision-makers.
Oliver’s determination to understand the reality of an issue was shown in some recent work with new and often undocumented migrants in one of London’s most diverse boroughs. He hit the streets and spent time building relationships with informal community nodes who could introduce him to those trying to keep out of public view. Showing off his language skills, he conducted much of the research in French.
Oliver’s skill as a researcher is matched by his flair for presentation, carefully crafting and delivering powerful presentations for both frontline staff and senior decision-makers. Since becoming a researcher he has been asked to deliver presentations at the House of Commons, the Department for Education, and the Laria conference.
photo credit: Robin, Oliver (on mobile phone) and Neil Wholey at the 2013 awards