UCL Engineering Exchange


10 Questions with Anne Laybourne

6 February 2019

Volunteering Service's new Community Research Manager battles stereotypes, listens to Les Misérables on repeat and facilitates community-engaged projects for students.

Anne Laybourne, UCL Community Research Manager

1. What is your role and what does it involve?

I am the new Community Research Manager at UCL, in the Students’ Union’s Volunteering Service. While there are already examples of some fantastic research engagement practice across UCL – like the Engineering Exchange! – my role is designed to focus on masters students and be open to all courses and students across the whole university. The aim is to give students an opportunity to experience working in partnership with a charity or community partner on their research. It’s a great opportunity for supervisors too, especially early career researchers. And of course, we hope to meet community need, as defined by them, through working in this way. My role therefore involves lots of communication and networking, making connections and talking! I love it. 

2. What is your experience with community-engaged research? 

My own experience is relatively new. I am a researcher and had an epiphany around 18 months ago when I took part in UCL Public Engagement’s Evaluation Exchange. I was part of a team solving an evaluation problem for a homeless charity. I have since worked with a community canteen project and a theatre dance company in a similar way, funded through the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE). It is hard work, I can’t lie, because you are forced to work in a different way and sometimes to think or see things differently. But it is always worth it and it’s a really enriching experience, working on something with an organisation on something that is important to them – not just what academics think is important from consultation or reading other research. It really broadens your mind to what evidence is, and what research is for. 

3. What are you most proud of, in work or in life? 

I am most proud of going fully grey at 30 and fielding almost a decade of queries about it! Almost daily, I feel like I am single-handedly taking on stereotypes around ageing and beauty.  

4. What saying do you try to live by? 

Although I am an atheist, what underpins 'Love thy neighbour as thyselfe' is probably closest to what I try to live by. 

5. If you could meet any person, at any point in history, who would you choose and why? 

Nye Bevan. To hear from the man who spearheaded the national health system in UK would be incredible. Someone dedicated enough to resign over his principles is impressive in my book! 

6. Which album, film, TV boxed set and book would you take on a desert island? 

I would have to take the original soundtrack of Les Misérables – it was the only tape that was allowed to be played in the car when I was little!

7. What do you think is the most important quality in a friend and/or colleague? 

In a colleague, being truly collegiate - recognising reciprocity and working as a team. Not just working for individual gain. In a friend, the most important quality is always being there when you need them most. 

8. What do you like best about where you live?

I love the diversity of Peckham, though of course I am aware of the gentrification that is happening. But Rye Lane is retaining its soul even in the face of the hipster! 

9. If you could be Mayor of London for a day, what would you do? 

Ban cars, including private and black taxis, in zones 1 & 2. 

10. What opportunities for community-engaged research are coming up for you or your organisation? 

I hope to be facilitating loads of community-engagement projects for students and through supervisors, throughout 2019/20 and beyond!!