The project team

Michelle Lefevre

Role: Principal Investigator

Read more

Michelle Lefevre is Professor of Social Work at the University of Sussex and Director of CIRCY – the Centre for Innovation and Research in Childhood and Youth. Her research primarily focuses on professional practice with children, young people and families where there are issues of risk and harm, and it is rooted in her background as a child protection social worker and arts psychotherapist. 

You can learn more about Michelle here or contact Michelle at  

Tammy McCann

Role: Project Co-ordinator

Read more

Tammy McCann brings a wealth of experience in programme management to her role as coordinator of the project. Working closely with the Principal Investigator she ensures the programme runs smoothly, meeting contractual and financial obligations. Tammy is based at the University of Sussex

Contact Tammy at

Kristine Hickle

Role: Co-Investigator, leading the Contextual Safeguarding strand, and providing thematic expertise on Trauma-Informed Practice

Read more

Dr Kristine Hickle (known as Kristi) is a Senior Lecturer in Social Work at the University of Sussex. She originally trained as a social worker in the US. Her research has particularly centred on child sexual exploitation and human trafficking and she has been providing trauma-focused group interventions for victims of sexual violence for the last 12 years.

You can learn more about Kristi here or contact Kristi at

Carlene Firmin

Role: Co-Investigator, leading the Trauma-Informed Practice strand, and providing thematic expertise on Contextual Safeguarding

Read more

Dr Carlene Firmin is Professor of Social Work at Durham University. Since 2011 she has led the design and testing of Contextual Safeguarding as a theoretical and operational framework which could be used to draw attention to, and address, the social and cultural contexts in which extra-familial abuse occurs. She has overseen the integration of this framework into local children’s services departments and child protection guidance in England, Wales and Scotland, and is interested in the implications of Contextual Safeguarding for the ethics and legal frameworks underpinning social work practices globally. You can contact Carlene at:

Gillian Ruch

Role: Co-Investigator, leading the Transitional Safeguarding strand

Read more

Gillian Ruch is Professor of Social Work at the University of Sussex where she directs the Centre for Social Work Innovation and Research. Gillian trained originally as a social worker, practising in local authority child care posts in London and Essex before moving into academia. Her particular interests are in reflective and relationship-based practice and psychosocial research and reflective practice in social work. 

You can learn more about Gillian here or contact Gillian at

Nathalie Huegler

Role: Research Fellow, Transitional Safeguarding strand

Read more

Dr Nathalie Huegler originally trained as a social worker and social pedagogue in Germany and has since worked in a variety of research, academic and practice roles in the UK focusing on adolescents and young adults, with a particular interest in social work with young refugees. As well as fieldwork on the Transitional Safeguarding research strand, Nathalie is working on the policy documentary analysis in year 1 of the project.

You can learn more about Nathalie here or contact Nathalie at

Carlie Goldsmith

Role: Research Fellow, Trauma-informed Practice strand

Read more

Dr Carlie Goldsmith is a social researcher who has worked in higher education and the not-for-profit sector for the past fifteen years. She has designed and conducted a range of national and local research and evaluation projects in the fields of crime and justice, suicide prevention, human trafficking and modern slavery, and trauma-informed practice. Carlie is really interested in research that works with people and that aims to make a tangible and positive difference to their lives, especially those living in the most insecure and challenging circumstances. Carlie is working on a review of innovation theory and practice in year 1 and conducting interviews on innovation practice with professional expert informants.

You can learn more about Carlie here or contact Carlie at

Delphine Peace

Role: Research fellow, Contextual Safeguarding strand

Read more

Delphine Peace is a researcher in the Sociology Department at Durham University working on the Contextual Safeguarding research programme there. Alongside the ‘Innovate Project’, Delphine is also working on a project called ‘Contextual Safeguarding Across Borders’, which explores the applicability and feasibility of Contextual Safeguarding as an approach to protect adolescents from extra-familial harm in international settings.

You can learn more about Delphine here or contact Delphine at:

Jeri Damman

Role: Researcher on the Transitional Safeguarding strand 

Read more

Dr Jeri Damman has extensive experience from the US and UK in working with children, adults, and families in direct service delivery, providing front-line social work supervision, and strategic service delivery at a senior management level. Her research addresses how participatory practices with birth parents at multiple levels in the child welfare system can contribute to service improvements and more positive child and family outcomes.

You can learn more about Jeri here or contact Jeri at

Reima Ana Maglajlic

Role: Researcher, Trauma-informed Practice strand

Read more

Dr Reima Ana Maglajilc (known as Rea) trained originally as a social worker in Croatia, where she gained particular experience with refugees and displaced persons. She subsequently worked to support the development of the mental health system survivor movement in Bosnia and Herzegovina. She has a particular interest currently in reform processes in health and social care (particularly in post-conflict societies), and in theorisations of mental health.

You can learn more about Rea here or contact Rea at

Jenny Lloyd

Role: Researcher, Contextual Safeguarding strand

Read more

Dr Jenny Lloyd is an Assistant Professor in the Sociology Department at Durham University. She is a social and cultural geographer working in the area of peer-on-peer abuse and extra-familial harm in adolescence. Prior to joining Durham she worked at Bedfordshire University in the Safer Young Lives Research Centre.

You can contact Jenny at

Rebecca Godar

Role: Analysis of Data Management Systems

Read more

Rebecca Godar works as an independent consultant and researcher with local authorities and local partnerships to develop data-informed strategy for children and families. Her interests are in developing capability to use data and intelligence for strategic decision making and building a culture of curiosity around data.

You can contact Rebeecca at

Susannah Bowyer

Role: Thematic expert for Transitional Safeguarding

Read more

Dr Susannah Bowyer is Assistant Director at Research in Practice, where she leads the children and families team on core delivery to the Partnership network, as well as a range of commissioned project activities. Susannah provides intel on emerging Transitional Safeguarding approaches and will support knowledge exchange on the project with the Research in Practice network as findings emerge.

You can learn more about Susannah here or contact Susannah here.

Dez Holmes

Role: Thematic expert for Transitional Safeguarding

Read more

Dez Holmes is the Director of Research in Practice. She is interested in knowledge mobilisation, systems leadership, adolescence, safeguarding and participative practice. She is a senior project advisor, supporting practice influence and impact building in the social care sector and providing intel on emerging Transitional Safeguarding approaches.

You can learn more about Dez here or contact Dez at

Matthew Horne

Role: Lead innovation consultant

Read more

Matthew Horne is Deputy Chief Executive of Innovation Unit. He has extensive experience in working with local systems and places to grow and scale innovative solutions that improve outcomes and reduce costs. He currently leads Innovation Unit’s contribution to the Children’s Social Care Innovation Programme for the Department for Education – a multi-million pound programme to revolutionise children’s social care. Matthew has led national innovation programmes for the NHS and local authorities and spent the last 20 years developing new solutions to social problems that are asset based, grounded in coproduction, and build personal agency

You can learn more about Matthew here or contact Matthew at

Martha Hampson

Role: Innovation expertise

Read more

Martha Hampson is an Associate of Innovation Unit. She has built up expertise in innovation across public services, having worked on a range of projects in health and social care, education, complex families and probation services, including included three years in the Innovation Unit team delivering the DfE’s Children’s Social Care Innovation Programme, Martha is working on two research reviews in the first year of the project: a critical interpretive synthesis of existing knowledge on innovation in children's social care, and a documentary analysis of policy and guidance on approaches from around the UK to addressing complex safeguarding risks in adolescence.

You can learn more about Martha here or contact Martha at

Hannah Jackson

Role: Innovation expertise

Read more

Hannah Jackson is an Innovation Consultant at Innovation Unit. She has experience with social entrepreneurship and scaling across a variety of sectors including health, education, environment and poverty. She has also led and run programmes in youth development, employability and mentoring.

You can learn more about Hannah here or contact Hannah at

Lisa Holmes

Role: Consultant on Cost Benefit Analysis

Read more

Lisa Holmes was appointed as Professor of Applied Social Science in the School of Education and Social Work at the University of Sussex in early 2022. Lisa was previously based in the Rees Centre at the University of Oxford. Over the past twenty years Lisa has undertaken a range of research projects and evaluations to inform child welfare policy and practice and carried out responsive studies for various government departments, including the Department for Education and Ministry of Justice. On the Innovate Project, Lisa’s consultancy will focus on methods and approaches to assess cost effectiveness and will be informed by her work to develop the Cost Calculator for Children’s Services.

You can learn more about Lisa here or contact Lisa at

Get updates about the project

If you’d like to receive updates about The Innovate Project, including our latest findings, blog posts and events, please sign up to the mailing list: