Personal profile

Research interests


Sarah’s work has explored the complexities of devolution and city governance by exploring the inter-play between formal and informal structures, processes and outcomes. Her research has provided critical insights into how ‘informal’ decision making, i.e. what happens behind closed doors between political elites, has shaped devolution in the UK.

This research has made a distinctive contribution by examining the impact of so-called ‘informal governance’ on different aspects of mainstream governance theory, including political innovation, democracy, policy effectiveness and the creation of public value.

Sarah has been an academic advisor to three successive UK Governments on English devolution and regularly provides written and oral evidence to both Government consultations and House of Commons Inquiries.

Research projects

2019-2024 Tackling the Root Causes Upstream of Unhealthy Urban Development Decision-making (Truud) funded by UK Prevention Research Partnership (UKPRP) (£6.7m).

2018-2019 Enabling Best Practice in Place Based Policy, Regional Studies Association Policy Expo Grant (£15k). 

2017-2018 Promoting ‘informal governance’ as a leadership asset: A case study of Bristol Pound, Economic and Social Research Council (£33k). 

2016-2017 Assessing the impact of 'informal governance' on devolution in English cities: A Case study of Bristol, Regional Studies Association Research Fellowship (£7.5k).

2016 Sub-national Governance and Policy Effectiveness, Éupolis Lombardy, Italy (€10k).

2015-2016 Urban dialogues: Creating inclusive urban spaces in uncertain global times, British Council (£42k).

2015-2016 Examining the role of ‘informal governance’ on devolution to England’s cities, Political Studies Association Research Commission (£5k).

2013-2014 How does collaborative governance scale up?, University of Bristol's Strategic Research Initiatives Fund and Policy & Politics (£5k).

2009-2011 Examining Regional Policy, South West Regional Development Agency (£16k).

2007-2010 English regionalism: rhetoric or substance? Evaluating decision making procedures for Regional Funding Allocations, ESRC, RES-061-23-0033 (£270k).

2006-2007 A gendered analysis of public service agreement targets, Equal Opportunities Commission (£20k).

2002-2005 Emerging patterns of governance in the English regions, L21951113, ESRC’s Devolution and Constitutional Change Programme (£80k).

2004 Reviewing and aligning regional priorities for rural areas, West Midlands Regional Assembly & Countryside Agency (£6k).

2004 Rural strategies, frameworks and policies, Midlands Regional Assembly & Countryside Agency (£5k).

2003 The implications of the Devolution White Paper for Rural Policy, ESRC & West Midlands Regional Assembly (£14k).

2002 The implications of the Devolution White Paper for Transport, ESRC, West Midlands Regional Assembly & West Midlands Constitutional Convention (£5k).

2002 Devolved approaches to regional governance in the West Midlands, West Midlands Regional Assembly & West Midlands Constitutional Convention (£5k).

2002 Who governs the West Midlands? An audit of government institutions and structures, West Midlands Regional Assembly & West Midlands Constitutional Convention (£5k).

1997-2002 Negotiating Regional Futures: the successes and failures of the Regional Development Agency network in the West Midlands, R00429824267, ESRC PhD studentship (£15k).


Structured keywords and research groupings

  • PolicyBristolGovernanceAndPublicServices
  • Urban Research Cluster
  • Cabot Institute City Futures Research


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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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