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Launch of the Gender and Social Policy Network at the OU

28 May 2019

This blog is written by Dr Lorena Lombardozzi, Lecturer in Economics at The Open University.

On the 13 May 2019, The Open University held a workshop to launch its new Gender and Social Policy theme.

This initiative originated from a discussion I had with Dr Cristina Santos and the Discipline Lead of Economics at the OU, Dr Stuart Parris. Based on a previous workshop on “How can we empower women and girls worldwide?” held in July 2018, we realised that there are numerous academics scattered around OU faculties who are working on gender and would benefit from a permanent platform which could support their voices, research and scholarship at large.

The event on the 13 May was highly inter-disciplinary as it was attended by academics from the Faculty of Social Sciences (FASS), the International Development Office (IDO), the Faculty of Business and Law (FBL), and the Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies (WELS). Economists, lawyers, criminologists, development studies experts and gender experts met to help shape a space dedicated to them.

This event, which was funded by the Innovation, Knowledge and Development Research Centre (IKD) consisted of two parts.

In the first part, OU academics had the opportunity to get to know each other’s work. Every participant had the opportunity to share their past, present and future research interests. Researchers reflected on how their work spans different methodologies, theoretical framework, literature and regional experiences. Yet, they have found profound theoretical and empirical links, and they relate to common policy impacts which proved the need for more dialogue across disciplines.

Also, we discussed what would we like this platform to become. The common feeling was that there is a need to ‘institutionalise’ spaces where people working on gender-related fields could feel they are part of a group that could serve as a network, as a mentoring scheme, or simply to create a sense of community. The new theme therefore can offer the opportunity to discuss on-going research and policy debates among colleagues in an informal setting. Members could find an engaged venue to share completed and on-going research, and discuss opportunities for potential collaboration in research bids. 

In the second part we organised a roundtable discussion open to the public. Dr Ania Plomien, Assistant Professor in Gender and Social Science at the London School of Economics (LSE), Professor Sue Himmelweit (LSE), The Open University's Dr Jerome De Henau and collaborators of the Women’s Budget Group presented their work on EU and UK social policy, the impact of austerity on gender, and the need for social infrastructure investment in the care industry.

A second workshop will take place in the Autumn of 2019. We plan to organise a mini conference where OU academics will present their work and continue the discussion on gender and social policy within the OU.

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