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Durham University

Department of Sociology

Sociology Department Staff

Dr Laura Venn

Honorary Fellow in the Department of Sociology

Contact Dr Laura Venn


Laura is a qualitative social researcher with over 14 years’ experience of public, private sector and academic research. She specialises in applied qualitative research methods from design through to execution and analysis. In July 2011, Laura co-founded Innovative Futures Research Ltd (IFR) and is now a freelance researcher working on several national and European projects with a number of different universities.

At Durham University, Laura is currently working on the Step Up to Social Work Longitudinal Evaluation commissioned by the Department for Education with Professor Roger Smith, Professor Simon Hackett and colleagues from Bristol University. The aim of the evaluation is to assess the effectiveness of Step Up to Social Work as a route into child and family social work, alongside other qualifying routes. The study aims to find out the destinations, current roles and responsibilities of this recently qualified group of practitioners (retention and progression), at three and five years after qualification; to gather their views on career plans, their likelihood of remaining in the profession, and any influences on their decisions; their views of the effectiveness of their qualifying programme in preparing them for child and family social work; to compare career choices and trajectories for those following different qualifying routes; and to assess possible reasons for leaving where graduates have left child and family social work. Laura’s role on the team is to develop and test research instrumentation, liaise with regional partnerships and negotiate interview access, data collection, analysis and interpretation of findings and report writing.

Previously, Laura worked with Professor Smith on the SUSW Programme Evaluation completed in 2013, the results of which can be found here:

Current and Recent Projects

  • TradeIT (Coventry University) (2015-2016) Support for the Traditional Food Sector. Contributing to knowledge transfer, liaison with UK SMEs, needs analysis.
  • Nottingham Child Safeguarding and Domestic Violence Research Project (DMU) (2013-2014). Responsible for focus group recruitment and data analysis using NVivo.
  • FOODMetres – Food for Metropolitan Regions. Short Chain delivery of food for urban-peri-urban areas (FP7-KBBE-2012-6). European Commission (2012–2015). IFR is jointly responsible for the Knowledge Brokerage Work Package and organising a series of participatory stakeholder workshops.
  • Short Food Supply Chains and Local Food System in Europe for the European Commission, (IPTS Seville) (2013). Co-Investigator responsible for data collection and database creation.
  • Research and Innovation Study for Marches Local Economic Partnership (IFR) (2013). Co-investigator responsible for online survey design, management and analysis.
  • National Step Up to Social Work evaluation for the Department for Education (DfE) (2010-2013). Responsible for case study liaison, data collection, analysis and reporting. 


Journal publications

Cox, R., Holloway, L., Venn, L., Dowler, E., Ricketts Hein, J., Kneafsey, M and Tuomainen, H (2008) ‘Common ground? Motivations for participation in a Community Supported Agriculture scheme.’ Local Environment 13(3) pp203-218

Holloway, L., Kneafsey, M., Venn, L., Cox, R., Dowler, E., Tuomainen, H. (2007) 'Possible food economies: a methodological framework for exploring food production-consumption relationships' Sociologia Ruralis

Holloway, L, Cox, R, Venn, L, Kneafsey, M, Dowler, E and Tuomainen, H (2006) ‘Managing sustainable farmed landscape through ‘alternative food networks’ a case study from Italy. Geographical Journal 172(3) 219-229.

Venn, L, Kneafsey, M, Holloway, L, Cox, R, Dowler, E and Tuomainen, H (2006) ‘Researching European ‘alternative’ food networks: some methodological considerations. Area 38 (3) 248-258.

Books and chapters

Cox, R., Kneafsey, M., Holloway, L., Dowler, E. and Venn, L. (2014) Greater than the sum of the parts? Unpacking ethics of care within a community supported agriculture scheme in Goodman, M. K. and Sage, C. (eds) Food Transgressions: Making Sense of Contemporary Food Politics, Surrey Ashgate pp61-81

Kneafsey M, Cox, R, Holloway H, Dowler E, Venn L and Tuomainen H (2008) Reconnecting Consumers, Producers and Food: Exploring Alternatives, Berg

Holloway, L., Venn, L., Cox, R., Kneafsey, M., Dowler, E., Tuomainen, H. (2007) 'Dirty vegetables: connecting consumers to the growing of their food in Campkin, B and Cox, R (eds) Dirt: New Geographies of Cleanliness and Contamination, London I.B. Tauris pp178-188

Cox, R, Kneafsey, M, Venn, L, Holloway, L, Dowler, E and Tuomainen (2007) Constructing Sustainability through Reconnection – the case of ‘alternative’ food networks in Robinson, G (ed) Sustainable Rural Environments, Ashgate.

Working Papers and Reports

Kneafsey, M., Venn, L., Schmutz, U., Balint, B., Trenchard, L. Eydon-Wood, T., Bos, E. Sutton, G. & Blackett, M. (2013) Short Food Supply chains and Local Food Systems in the EU: A State of play of their Socio-Economic Characteristics. JRC, Institute for Prospective Technological Studies, Seville.

Smith, R., McLenachan, J., Venn, L. Weich, H. & Anthony, D. (2013) Step Up to Social Work Programme Evaluation 2012: The Regional Partnerships and Employers Perspectives. Department for Education (DfE).

Owen, C., Venn, L., Lutz, J. and Willetts, G. (2009) Meeting regional culture and sport research and evidence needs: an options appraisal. Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Venn, L. and Willetts, G. (2007) Growing the Cultural Economy in the West Midlands. Culture West Midlands

Venn, L. (2006) Evidencing Culture in the West Midlands, in Real Lives, Real Issues, State of the Region report, West Midlands Regional Observatory.

Research Projects

  • Step Up to Social Work Longitudinal Evaluation