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Research Team

Marie Gillespie is Professor of Sociology at the Open  University. She was the Principal Investigator for the OU team on this project. Her primary focus is on migration and media, international security, development and diplomacy. Books include: Diasporas and Diplomacy: Cosmopolitanism at BBC World Service and Drama for Development: Cultural Translation and Social Change. Recent research with and about refugees has led to collaborations with and research on UN Women, the European Commission, UNHCR and international broadcasters and cultural relations organisations. Building on previous research on international news and after 9/11 and the Iraq War 2003, her current work examines the repercussion of war and conflict in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. She also researches the brighter side of human culture, for example, in her national survey of the changing face of British humour with the BBC. She has won numerous grants working extensively in partnership with international organisations to promote participatory methods.

Colin Wilding worked at BBC World Service/BBC Global News from 1979 to 2011, in the audience research department. For many years he had a central role in performance evaluation, developing and deploying indicators for internal and external performance assessment. Since 2011 he has worked as a freelance consultant in international research. Much of his activity has been in sample survey design and implementation, data quality review and data analysis. In parallel with this he has been working with the OU on the Cultural Value Model; his enthusiasm for the CVM derives in large part from his experience of the limitations of instrumentalist and reductionist approaches to performance evaluation. In the course of his BBC career he analysed data from over 100 countries, and this has given him a keen awareness of the dangers inherent in taking data at face value and separating it from its context and from the methodology used for its collection. His email address is and he can be found on LinkedIn.

Simon Bell is Professor of Innovation and Methodology at the Open University. His research and scholarship focuses on participation and methodologies to promote it, including the role of information systems. The main methodologies developed through research are: ‘Imagine’, ‘Triple Task’, ‘Multiview’ and Logical Framework. I am primarily interested in methods which help us to understand complex issues. 

Dr Eva Nieto McAvoy is a postdoctoral fellow at the Open University and was the associated researcher for the ‘The Cultural Value Project: Cultural Relations in Societies in Transition’. She holds a PhD in Iberian and Latin American Studies (Birkbeck, University of London, 2017). Her interdisciplinary research is broadly framed by an interest in the historical configurations of exile culture and politics in contact with intellectual, political and social networks in the host state, mainly within institutional settings, such as the BBC World Service, the British Council or PEN International. She has worked on audiences of soft power and the digital turn, contributing to articles published in Participations: Journal of Audience & Reception Studies (2015) and The Routledge Handbook of Soft Power (2016). She has also conducted previous research for the BC, contributing to ‘The Culture Value of Shakespeare Lives 2016’.

Margie Cheesman is a digital anthropologist based at the Oxford Internet Institute. Her doctoral research examines the use of blockchain technologies in humanitarianism, and involves fieldwork in Jordan’s refugee camps. Margie’s research interests include digital identity, inequality and rights. She has previously worked for the civil liberties initiative, Open Migration, and conducted research with organisations such as the GSMA Mobile for Development group and InfoMigrants. As a researcher at the ESRC Centre for Research on Socio-cultural Change (CReSC) (2013-16) she evaluated digital strategies for international cultural diplomacy and news provision. Margie is also an editorial assistant for academic publications such as the ARITHMUS collected issue, Data Politics: Worlds, Subjects, Rights (Routledge, forthcoming).

The Cultural Value Project often collaborates with other researchers. For our most recent project, 'The Cultural Value Project: Cultural Relations in 'Societies in Transition', our team included the following researchers.

Ben O’Loughlin is Professor of International Relations and Co-Director of the New Political Communication Unit at Royal Holloway, University of London. He led the Ukraine fieldwork on this project. He was Specialist Advisor to the UK Parliament’s Select Committee on Soft Power, producing the report Power and Persuasion in the Modern World. He is co-editor of the Sage journal Media, War & Conflict. Ben’s next book is Forging the World: Strategic Narratives and International Relations (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, with A. Miskimmon and L. Roselle, eds.). With Marie Gillespie, Ben has researched the British Council’s Shakespeare Lives campaign of global cultural engagement. He has received grants to research media and conflict from the European Commission, UK Economic and Social Research Council, Technology Strategy Board, Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure, and the British Council. Ben is currently writing a book about the idea of ‘the people’ in global politics.

Dr Olga Onuch is a Senior Lecturer [Associate Professor] in Politics at the University of Manchester. She co-led the research on Ukraine in the project. Olga’s comparative study of protest (elections, migration & identity) in Eastern Europe and Latin America has made her a leading expert in Ukrainian and Argentine politics specifically, but also in inter-regional comparative analysis. Her book ‘Mapping Mass Mobilisations’ explores the processes leading up to mass protest engagement in Ukraine (2004) and Argentina (2001). She is the author of several scholarly articles (in Journal of Democracy, Europe-Asia Studies, Problems of Post-Communism, Post-Soviet Affairs, GeoPolitics among other journals), book chapters, and policy briefs. Her research regularly appears in leading media outlets (The Washington Post, The Times, The Guardian, BBC, ITV, Al Jazeera, AFP, among others). Onuch’s research on protest politics in Ukraine has resulted in her consulting policymakers in Canada, Ukraine, the UK and US.

Dr Dounia Mahlouly is a postdoctoral research fellow at King’s College London. Dounia co-led the research in Egypt for this project. She completed her PhD at the University of Glasgow, College of Social and Political Sciences, investigating the role of social media campaigning in the constitutional and presidential debates in post-revolutionary Tunisia and Egypt. Her thesis discusses the process through which different political groups incorporated participatory media as part of their campaigning strategy and assesses the extent to which such tools might contribute to consolidating a sustained ideological message. She conducted ethnographic fieldwork in affiliation with the American University in Cairo and contributed to a cross-country comparative case study hosted by the Adam Smith Research Foundation co-funded by Google and the ESRC. Her research interests extend beyond social media campaigning, to the role of digital media in shaping debates on  national and cultural identity, especially with regards to political