Fiona Shirani (Cardiff University)
I have recently completed my PhD on the ‘right time’ for fatherhood, which takes a temporal approach to fertility decision-making. In addition to evaluation of new and existing techniques for the elicitation and analysis of temporal data, the thesis takes forward discussion of concepts used in temporal theory, such as notions of gendered time. The thesis was undertaken alongside my research work on the ‘Men-as-Fathers’ project at Cardiff University, part of the UK-wide qualitative longitudinal network Timescapes, which aims to foreground the importance of temporal study.
Alongside my continuing involvement in Timescapes, I am currently conducting a theoretical review of concepts related to community-level strengths and their impact on health and wellbeing, which is part of a broader review funded under the AHRC Connected Communities research programme. From August 2011 I will be employed on an ESRC funded research project ‘Energy Biographies’ which seeks to explore the formation, embeddedness and development of energy practices as part of everyday life and the life-course. One of the study’s aims is to develop improved understandings of which different community configurations can provide a strong basis for transition in everyday energy consumption and practices when framed around people’s biographies. As part of this work, I will be building on my existing understanding of temporal study and applying relevant concepts to the community context.
I am Research Fellow at the ESRC Third Sector Research Centre, University of Birmingham. I work on two projects: the Real Times qualitative longitudinal study, which examines the continuity and change of third sector organisations over time, and the pilot ‘Street-Walking’ mapping project that aims to find groups and activities that go unregistered (and, subsequently, tend to be neglected in the policy field). By third sector we tend to mean a diverse range of non-profit activities undertaken beyond the market and the state, for example, by charities, social enterprises and less formal community-based groups and associations.
My doctoral thesis was on the third sector’s engagement with government employment initiatives (Sociology, University of Manchester). Before this, I worked on a three-year project that examined the extent of (funding) crises in women’s voluntary organisations. Years later, recalling the frustrations of compiling (often dated) directories in which organisations were pre-defined, I developed TSRC’s ‘Street-Walking Mapping’ pilot study to look beyond formal organisations with institutional structures (that appear on regulatory lists).
With an attempt to suspend definition and preconceived ideas of what these activities might look like, geographic boundaries were used to manage the project. As the title suggests, the project involves going out on the streets in search of (third sector) social activities and groups that use shared space – many of which may not have a name or explicit structure. Understanding community and ‘shared’ space are important features of the research, including the role of space in bringing people together and the tensions that can play out.
I am a Research Fellow at the ESRC Third Sector Research Centre based at the University of Birmingham, where I am responsible for coordinating a qualitative longitudinal research study of third sector organisations and activities called “Real Times”. The team includes my colleague and co-presenter Andri Soteri-Proctor. By third sector we tend to mean a diverse range of non-profit activities undertaken beyond the market and the state, for example, by charities, social enterprises and less formal community-based groups and associations.
As well as having some practical experience of this ‘field’ of activities (as an employee, volunteer, etc.), I have been able to focus my research over a number of years on what I think of as its contested qualitative dynamics – how it works in practice over time. “Real Times” is partly underpinned by this theoretical imagining, and involves following the challenges, strategies, fortunes and performance of third sector activities as they unfold through time. The research is based around a diverse set of case studies, and in the workshop presentation we aim to provide a momentary glimpse of community-based activities in a couple of these settings.
Understanding the interplay of diverse temporalities - for example, around continuity and change; duration, sequence, pace and time expectations; and around memory and anticipation - is a strong feature of the research. We hope to be able to share our reflections on the temporalities involved in community-based action, and to hear other accounts and perspectives of the relationship between time and community.