Rachel Bray

csm bray photo 3ea1b923f7

Rachel Bray is a social anthropologist whose work focuses on understanding poverty, childhood, family and inter-generational relationships with the aim of informing policy analysis or development. Her current research is in partnership with ATD Fourth World, a non-profit social movement in which people living in poverty are active leaders and shapers of their work.  

With Robert Walker and Fran Bennett, Rachel supported the design, analysis and dissemination of a six-country study to identify and define the dimensions of poverty. This four year study scaled up a participatory approaches termed Merging of Knowledge through which three groups of working age adults become co-researchers, namely those experiencing poverty, practitioners providing services to those living in poverty, and academics who study and write about poverty. Rachel co-designed pilots for engaging younger and older people in defining and ranking the dimensions of poverty in Bangladesh and Tanzania, based on the principles and practices applied in the working age populations. 

Rachel’s earlier work as a research officer in the Department of Social Policy and Intervention focused on the concepts and practices that underlie parenting support as a form of strengthening families and reducing child or adolescent risk, specifically within Europe and southern Africa. Collaborators included Mary Daly, Lucie Cluver and colleagues in the Department of Social Policy and Intervention, plus partners in the UNICEF Office of Research and the University of Cape Town.

Rachel is currently applying her social science skills leading Oxford’s new Research Staff Hub, the purpose of which is to welcome, support and equip researchers and teaching staff employed by the Collegiate University on fixed term contracts, in ways that will enable them to be and feel their best at Oxford, and to facilitate their chosen next career chapter. She also plays a strategic, collaborative role in shaping the University’s activity to meet goals articulated in the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers and related research culture ambitions.

  • Family and parenting support policies, programmes and services
  • Governing 'new social risks': the case of recent child policies in European welfare states
  • Young carers for AIDS-ill parents: social, health and educational impacts
  • Bray R., De Laat M., Godinot X., Ugarte A., Walker, R. (2019) The Hidden Dimensions of Poverty, Montreuil, Fourth World Publications
  • Robert Walker, PhD; Rachel Bray, PhD; Marianne de Laat; Xavier Godinot, PhD; Alberto Ugarte. Realising poverty in all its dimensions: A six-country participatory study. In press. World Development.
  • Rachel Bray and Isha Bhallamudi; Research rigour and social transformation in the study of poverty: Exploring a participatory approach founded in a social movement. Under revision for Journal of Poverty and Social Justice

2016-ongoing: Working pro-bono (through Consultancy Leave granted by the Careers Service) to guide, analyse and disseminate research to identify and define dimensions of poverty. 

This initiative sits within a partnership between Oxford researchers (Prof Robert Walker and myself primarily, plus involvement from Fran Bennett, Elaine Chase, Kathryn Oliver and several DPhil students) and the social movement ATD Fourth World, a non-profit organisation and social movement in which people living in poverty are active leaders and shapers of their work.

I am one of five ‘international research coordinators’ and have had particular input in the choice and design of methods for engaging people with direct experience of poverty, service providers and other practitioners, and academics, in a collaborative analytical process tailored to the cultural and physical contexts within each country (Bangladesh, Bolivia, Tanzania, France, UK and USA). I also led the team’s thinking and preparation for piloting the means for children to engage in a similar process to define poverty in childhood.

The main 3-year study was completed in May 2019, launched at a major conference hosted by the OECD and further disseminated in three events, plus follow-up meetings, at the UN High Level Political Forum during July in New York. I worked with colleagues across the project, including researchers with direct experience of poverty, to prepare, facilitate and contribute to these events. In the UK, similar sharing of process, results and discussion about the implications for research, policy and practice have taken place in University seminars (LSE, Oxford, plus others run by colleagues) and cross-sectoral events (Conference hosted by Amnesty UK, JustFair in London, and by ATD Fourth World Ireland in Dublin).

Our current focus is on learning from the six country teams’ experiences in applying the methodology in order to understand its potential for future research (including paper in process as below). I am supporting country teams in documenting their key decisions and outcomes, ready for a 3-day seminar with the team who led the RE-InVEST studies across Europe in Feb 2021 at the University of Leuven.