Wider societal impacts

Wider societal impacts

COVID-19 has shone a spotlight on many of society’s biggest challenges. Existing inequalities and injustices have been brought into sharp focus, and our research community is already taking steps to address some of the biggest concerns. 

Through research and innovation, we can play a crucial role in helping society to answer the immediate and longer-term questions we may face in the wake of this pandemic. The information below outlines the work we are doing to help ensure a happier, healthier outcome for everyone.


WiSE blogs

Glasgow Caledonian University is home to the WiSE Centre for Economic Justice. The centre carries out research under the broad theme of economic justice, including:

  • economic equality
  • new economics
  • public policy
  • gender
  • social history
  • poverty
  • migration
  • human rights

The centre’s blog series takes an in-depth look at a range of topics relating to COVID-19, including homelessness, working from home, addressing inequalities and economic recovery.

Follow us
WiSE and the series can be followed @WiSEResearch and at https://www.caledonianblogs.net/wise/

Expert advice on the pandemic

Advisory group on economic recovery

WiSE has submitted written evidence to the rapid consultation by the Scottish Government’s Advisory Group on Economic Recovery (AGER).  The submission focussed on the centrality of care in economic renewal and restructuring, the need for improved understanding and use of intersectional data, and expanded and improved participation in policy making.  WiSE was cited in the AGER report on recommendations on an equalities analysis approach to policy making, with a focus on improvements in data. In response to the AGER report, Dr Angela O’Hagan published a blog highlighting the significant omission of investment in care and the care economy from the AGER report.

Scottish Human Rights Commission

WiSE Centre’s Dr Angela O’Hagan has been part of the working group of the Scottish Human Rights Commission Report calling on human rights to be at the heart of government budget-setting post COVID-19. 

Social Renewal Advisory Board

The Social Renewal Advisory Board convened by Shirley-Anne Sommerville (Cabinet Secretary for Social Security) and Aileen Campbell (Cabinet Secretary for Communities) has been by Scottish Ministers to make proposals to renew Scotland as we emerge from the pandemic. Dr Angela O’Hagan, Reader in Equalities & Public Policy and Deputy Director of the WiSE Centre for Economic Justice, and also Chair of the Scottish Government Equalities Budget Advisory Group was one of only two academic members of the Board.

The report, 'If not now, when?' was published in January 2021 and sets a course towards this future.  The report urges ministers to put tackling poverty and inequality at the heart of the recovery.  Dr Angela O’Hagan, Reader in Equalities and Public Policy, said: "It is a serious set of calls to action that members of the Board have been able to shape and influence, meaning that GCU has had a direct hand in this process and the final output."

Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell said: “This ambitious report is a challenge to be bold as we recover from COVID-19. 

"The actions recommended build on work to tackle poverty and reduce inequality, taking a human-rights based approach.”



Scotland and the US link up to tackle child food poverty

Delegates from Scotland and America have been discussing the impact of COVID-19 on tackling child food poverty at a UK/US webinar to mark International School Meals Day.

The event, hosted by the Scottish Poverty and Inequality Research Unit at Glasgow Caledonian University and supported by the Poverty and Inequality Commission, explored how school meal provision can increase food security and promote healthy eating habits in the wake of the pandemic. 

International Actions on School Meals in Times of Crisis outlined outline how the US and Scotland have shared a similar approach to the provision of school meals for over a decade.

Cabinet Secretary for Education John Swinney delivered a pre-recorded address to the assembled audience of hundreds of American and Scottish delegates, including Cindy Long, the senior US government administrator leading federal child nutrition programmes in America. 

Other leading national and local education and nutrition figures from both countries also shared their experience delivering vital meals.

We cannot go back to a pre-COVID world of inequality

We cannot go back to a pre-COVID world with the same health, social and economic inequalities, leading social business experts have warned.

In an article co-written for No Going Back - Academia Report on Social Business 2020, Professors Cam Donaldson and Michael Roy, of GCU's Yunus Centre for Social Business and Health, said the pandemic has laid bare the challenges facing the world.

They state: "We must continue to advance to an economic and social system based on regard for one another; one in which social purpose, not profit-maximization, becomes the driving force.  This is reinforced by the dynamic world in which we live, whereby, the pace of change has the potential to leave behind those who are most socially disadvantaged."

Other contributors to this year's report include GCU's Emeritus Chancellor Professor Muhammad Yunus, world-renowned economist Jeffrey Sachs, and Andrea Jung, CEO of Grameen America.

Read the full report - http://studio-nima.com/projects_ar2020

Emergency food support in Scotland during the coronavirus crisis

In his regular column in Scottish Anti-Poverty Review, Professor John McKendrick – Co-Director of the Scottish Poverty and Inequality Research Unit (SPIRU), based at Glasgow Caledonian University – examines the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the wellbeing of workers and volunteers working on the frontline in supporting people experiencing food insecurity.

To access the report, please click on the link below:

Beyond the headline: examining worker and volunteer wellbeing within community organisations delivering emergency food support in Scotland during the coronavirus crisis

Local action in Scotland to tackle food insecurity during the Coronavirus crisis

Stephen Campbell and Professor John McKendrick of the Scottish Poverty and Inequality Research Unit (SPIRU) surveyed over 200 community organisations delivering emergency food in Scotland.  The research was undertaken for Poverty and Inequality Commission.  Key findings were reached on current experiences, changes over the last month and changes expected over the next twelve months. Twelve recommendations were presented.  The Poverty and Inequality Commission issued a formal response to the report Visit: Poverty and Inequality Commission

Brexit, COVID and the Intersection of inequalities in Scotland and Ireland

Dr Janet Greenlees (with Dr Nancy Lombard and Professor John McKendrick), are proposing to examine how both Brexit and COVID-19 issues have impacted societies’ most vulnerable groups: low-income mothers; people experiencing mental health issues; victims of domestic violence; and minorities and ethnic groups already vulnerable to social exclusion.  Of particular concern within each cohort are the short and long-term consequences for children and young people.  This network will formalize and expand existing links between social scientists working in history, social policy, public policy and sociology at Glasgow Caledonian University and University College Dublin, and non-academic partners.  This network will develop the trans-national links required to address the complexities surrounding inequalities.

For more information contact janet.greenlees@gcu.ac.uk.

Practising social science for the common good

Practising social science for the common good

GCU's Department of Social Science and the coronavirus crisis

The world has been grappling with COVID-19 for much of 2020.  On March 1st, the first positive case was confirmed in Scotland.  The first case of community transition in Scotland that was unrelated to travel, was identified on the same day that the World Health Organisation declared the virus a pandemic (March 11th); the first death in Scotland attributed to COVID-19 followed two days later.  ‘Lockdown’ started on March 24th, with the move to the first phase of moving out of lockdown beginning on May 29th, and the move to its second phase introduced on June 19th.

Our social science has responded to the challenge of COVID-19.  The Department of Social Sciences at GCU has been researching and teaching social science for almost fifty years.  It now comprises twenty academic staff spanning criminology, history, politics, social policy and sociology.  It has an established postgraduate community, and a vibrant and active undergraduate student community.  The BA Social Sciences is its signature degree; staff also contribute to a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate degree programmes across GCU.

As the Campaign for Social Science demonstrates, the social sciences provide an essential evidence base for the policy response to COVID-19.  This report shows how the Department of Social Sciences at GCU is contributing toward this effort.

Furthermore, this report highlights that social science has a positive impact that extends beyond research impact; as the title of this report suggests, our community is practising everyday social science for the common good.

The report can be access via the link below:

Practising social science for the common good

For more information about the report, please contact Professor John McKendrick

GCU leads drive to tackle violent extremism across Europe

Glasgow Caledonian University is to lead a £2.7million study into radicalisation and violent extremism across Europe.

Researchers from the UK and 16 other countries will examine the growing threat from lone wolf acts of terrorism and far-right nationalist groups across the continent.

The project, De-Radicalisation in Europe and Beyond: Detect, Resolve, Re-integrate (D.Rad), will seek to identify trends in radical ideologies, help shape policies to improve social inclusion, and forecast the potential impact on society of the widening inequalities created by COVID-19.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning will also be used to understand how radicalisation develops over time, using information gleaned from online interactions, including social media, blogs, and discussion forums.

The project has secured more than €3m from the European Commission's Horizon 2020 fund and will focus on practical ways to re-integrate radicalised young people back into society. It is led by a team from Glasgow Caledonian University headed by Professor Umut Korkut, Dr Xander Kirke and Dr James Foley.

Domestic violence and abuse, coronavirus and the media narrative

Article in the Journal of Gender Based Violence:

Following lockdowns in countries around the world, reports emerged of a ‘surge’ or ‘spikes’ in the number of domestic violence and abuse cases. It is critical to contextualise this: more men are not starting to be abusive or violent; rather, the patterns of abuse are becoming more frequent.  Spiking and surging make us think in terms of more one-off incidents but it is more likely that the pattern of abuse that is already there is increasing in terms of frequency and type because both parties remain together at all times.  Amid such a crisis, it is imperative that we continue to see the dynamics of domestic violence and abuse as both a pattern of abusive behaviours and a product of gendered social and cultural norms, rather than a reaction to a specific factor or event, such as COVID-19.

Access the article here

Details of the article also appeared in Transforming Society.

For more information contact Dr Nancy Lombard

Presentations and webinars

The "devastating impact" the pandemic has had on gender equality was explored by GCU's Dr Angela O'Hagan and a panel of experts at the Scottish Parliament's Festival of Politics.  Also, seminars given has part of 'Our World Re-imagined Series' for Glasgow Council for the Voluntary Sector and A Caring Economy for Now' for Glasgow Centre for Population Health.

Professor John McKendrick has given a number of presentations linked to the Coronavirus crisis including:

  • Emergency food provision - Voluntary Health Scotland, Food Foundation
  • Reflections on poverty and living and learning through a pandemic - EIS PACT Project
  • Five hidden poverties of and in Scottish School Education - Northern Alliance and Education Scotland
  • Attitudes towards social security in Scotland, in and beyond crisis - Bright Blue and JRF


Research at GCU

Research is instrumental in tackling society’s biggest problems. The health, social and economic challenges uncovered by COVID-19 brings into sharp focus our commitment to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure peace and prosperity for all.

Sustainable Development Goals

These global goals reflect our ethos as the University for the Common Good and our mission to make a positive difference to the communities we serve. Read our institutional research strategy to find out more about our commitment to the SDGs during the COVID-19 pandemic, and beyond.

The icons below show which of the 17 SDGs we aim to impact through the research above.