2010 Michael Young prize winner announced

Thursday 11 March 2010

The winner of the 2010 Michael Young Prize has been announced as Dr Ann Le Mare for her work on the impact of fair trade on the wellbeing of women, businesses and organisations in Bangladesh. This prestigious prize is awarded for excellence in the social sciences and is sponsored by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and The Young Foundation.

Conceived in honour of the founder of the ESRC, the late Lord Michael Young, the prize aims to reward and encourage early career researchers whose work offers genuine new insights and is likely to have an impact beyond academia. Dr Le Mare wins £6000 to help her communicate her research findings to businesses, organisations as well as producing a booklet for fair trade workers and schools in Bangladesh and the UK.

Dr Le Mare's research focuses on the impact of fair trade, first on the wellbeing of women who produce decorative items made completely by hand and secondly, on businesses and organisations. Through comparing woman who were employed in fair trade with other paid work opportunities it was found that fair trade employment had a significant influence on reducing poverty and improving social wellbeing.

Fair trade partnerships with organisations were used as a way to implement ideas of fair national development and to counteract corruption in business practices. The research focused on an important and often over looked, aspect of fair trade - the effect of the philosophy and practices of the fair trade organisations in producer countries.

Dr Le Mare comments on her plans: "With my research into the social and business impact of fair trade handicraft production I intend to engage with the business and development communities more generally. Besides producing a booklet, I will prepare a video on fair trade to be used in schools. Through these activities I hope to make the fair trade movement more democratic, by increasing the capacity of business and individual artisans in Bangladesh to work together and to encourage them to make links with academics and researchers in their country."

Funds from the Michael Young prize will be used to make the findings accessible to people in Bangladesh especially to the staff, the producers and the wider community. Discussions of the research will inform and provide ideas of improving impact, addressing problems, and considering ways in which fair trade businesses could co-operate with other agencies and individuals interested in similar aspirations.

Dr Le Mare's booklet for the producers and the artisans who took part in the research, will explain the principles of fair trade and the main research findings. As many of the producers are semi-literate, the information will be in pictures, diagrams and simple sentences. Various discussions within villages will be arranged, ultimately leading to impact on different levels, empowering women producers and improving skills.

Dr Astrid Wissenburg, Director of Communication and Information at the ESRC comments: "Getting research into practice so that it has a demonstrable impact on policy, business and wider society is at the heart of what the ESRC does. I am delighted that, by working with The Young Foundation, we can encourage researchers at the start of their careers to do just that."

In conjunction with the Michael Young Prize , the joint winners for the Neville Butler Memorial prize were also announced as Dr. Mayada Elsabbagh for her research on 'The British Autism Study of Infant Siblings' and Dr. Luna Muñoz for her research on Parenting and Youth Conduct Problems and Delinquency: Reciprocal Effects and Moderation by Callous-Unemotional Traits. This prize is a fitting memorial to Neville Butler who died aged 86 on 22 February 2007, founder of the 1958 and 1970 Birth Cohort Studies.

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Notes for editors

  1. Dr Ann Le Mare is currently a lecturer in the Department of Geography at Durham University. Her research and academic interests focus on various aspects of development, including poverty, inequality, gender and livelihood transformations.
  2. The Michael Young Prize promotes excellence in the social sciences by rewarding the very best early career researchers whose research has the potential to make a positive and far-reaching impact beyond academia. Now in its fourth year, the prize was set up in honour of the late Lord Michael Young of Darlington by the Economic and Social Research Council and the Young Foundation to encourage early career social science researchers to effectively communicate their socially relevant research to a non-academic audience.
  3. The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK's largest organisation for funding research on economic and social issues. It supports independent, high quality research which has an impact on business, the public sector and the third sector. The ESRC's planned total expenditure in 2009/10 is £204 million. At any one time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and independent research institutes.
  4. You can now follow updates from the ESRC on Twitter (@ESRC), including new funding calls as they are posted, press releases, events and more.
  5. The Young Foundation was founded in 2005, formed from the merger of the Institute of Community Studies and the Mutual Aid Centre. The foundation is a centre for social innovation identifying and understanding unmet social needs and developing practical initiatives to address them. The foundation works in many fields - including health, education, housing and cities and bringing together research and action, including the creation of new enterprises. The Young Foundation has been established to re-energise this powerful combination of research and practical action.