The CNS Team

The CNS team is made up of talented professionals with a wide range of skills and experience. We love what we do, and we do it with passion. We look forward to working with you.

Professor Chris Chapman

Principal Investigator

Professor Chris Chapman is Director of Policy Scotland, and holds the Chair of Education and Public Policy and Practice at the University of Glasgow, based at the Robert Owen Centre for Educational Change. Chris is also a member of the Scottish Government’s International Council of Education Advisers, Senior Academic Advisor to the Scottish Attainment Challenge and a member of the UK Department for Education advisory group for the Evaluation of Early Education in England. Chris is one of the leads for Children’s Neighbourhoods in Scotland.

Professor Nick Watson


Professor Nick Watson is the Chair of Disability Research at the University of Glasgow and is a co-director of What Works Scotland. He is also director of the Centre for Disability Research based in the School of Social and Political Sciences. Nick has written extensively on disability and public policy reform and has contributed to a large number of national and international advisory groups and strategic initiatives. Nick is one of the leads for Children’s Neighbourhoods in Scotland.

Alison Drever

Programme Director

Alison Drever was formerly a Senior Education Officer with Education Scotland, where she held a number of different roles including Lead Officer for the Scottish Attainment Challenge and Attainment Advisor.  Alison has also worked with head teachers and teachers across Scotland, supporting different areas of strategic curriculum development and design. Before joining Education Scotland Alison held a variety of teaching and leadership roles in the education system, covering both the primary and secondary sectors at local authority level.

Dr Jennifer McLean

Associate Director

Dr Jennifer McLean is a Public Health Programme Manager at the Glasgow Centre Population Health where she leads a research programme exploring the use innovative approaches for improving outcomes, supporting transitions to new ways of working and community-based responses to population health improvement. With a focus on improving health and wellbeing and tackling health inequalities, Jennifer is supporting the operational and strategic development, delivery and management of CNS.

Kevin Lowden

Senior Research Advisor

Kevin Lowden is a Senior Researcher in the Robert Owen Centre for Educational Change (ROC) at the University of Glasgow. Kevin has over 30 years of experience leading and conducting major national and international education research and evaluation projects for Government, charitable organisations and research councils. Key themes in his research include: collaborative working and enquiry to drive educational and social change. His recent research has included providing evaluation and support for the Schools Improvement Partnership Programme (SIPP) and national evaluations of STEM CLPL programmes. Kevin is also involved in research and development activity, conducted by the ROC, promoting teachers’ Collaborative Action Research (CAR) and partnership working to tackle educational inequity.

Dr Claire Bynner

Research Team Lead

Dr Claire Bynner is an expert in neighbourhoods, diversity, local governance and public participation. With a professional background in urban regeneration and community empowerment, she is currently a Research Fellow in the College of Social Sciences at the University of Glasgow. While at What Works Scotland, Claire was the principal investigator for the project ‘What Works in Local Decision-Making’, leading the place-based approaches workstream. Other place-based research projects led by Claire include community-led action planning to reduce poverty; community profiling; knowledge mobilisation and evidence use; and resettlement of Syrian refugees.

Dr Victoria Bianchi

Local Coordinator for Clydebank

Victoria Bianchi has worked in a number of education and outreach roles prior to joining CNS. Most recently, she coordinated the early years outreach programmes at the Tron Theatre and PEEK, a youth charity in the East End of Glasgow. She completed her PhD studies in South Ayrshire, where she delivered a range of arts projects with diverse community groups. Victoria has also worked as a freelance facilitator for, amongst others, The Village Storytelling Centre (Pollok), the Macrobert Arts Centre (Stirling) and Scottish Youth Theatre, working with children, young people and adults with disabilities.

Iain Corbett

Local Coordinator for Drumchapel

With a background in Theatre and Performance, Iain spent several years working with children, young people on community theatre and drama-based projects within local authorities, before moving into third sector youth and community work. Iain also spent a number of years as a Neighbourhood Warden within a housing association, focussing on strengthening community links. Most recently Iain worked with PEEK Project as their Volunteer Coordinator, supporting young people to build resilience and confidence, develop soft skills and work through accredited awards and qualifications.

Ellen Crawford

Project Administrator

Ellen’s role at CNS encompasses financial administration, event organisation, project planning and wide-ranging support for the project team. Ellen has experience in a similar role at University of Glasgow’s international Centre for Sustainable, Healthy and Learning Cities and Neighbourhoods. She has been an administrator within the Third Sector for a number of years, previously administrating projects with Turning Point Scotland and Oxfam. She has a keen interest in social science research, having completed an MRes in Criminology.

Elaine Feeney

Local Coordinator

for Bridgeton & Dalmarnock

Elaine is a committed youth and community development worker and advocate for social justice and refugee rights. She has worked with a diverse range of communities in Glasgow and overseas and has a background in community learning and development (CLD), mental health, integration and refugee work. She has a strong interest in mental health, wellbeing and resilience and a passion for working with communities. She has a MEd in CLD and is also a community-based yoga teacher.

Irina Glinski

Local Coordinator for Rigside

Irina is an outreach worker, artist and writer from Glasgow (but born and raised in the Perthshire countryside). Most recently, she has worked in the widening participation sector, developing and leading on schools outreach work for UWS. She also has a wealth of youth work experience, having managed and delivered projects in Glasgow and London, where she helped set up an independent alternative education school for excluded children. Irina studied performance-making at University of Glasgow, and works freelance as a dramaturg and writer.

Dr Maureen McBride

Research Associate

Dr Maureen McBride’s research interests include poverty, class inequalities, racialisation and racism, religion and nationalism. She completed her ESRC-funded PhD, entitled ‘Rethinking Sectarianism in Scotland’, in 2018 at the University of Glasgow. Much of Maureen’s research focuses on public policy responses to social inequalities, and she has previously worked on research projects through What Works Scotland and the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research. Maureen recently co-edited and contributed to ‘No Problem Here: Understanding Racism in Scotland‘, a book published by Luath Press in January 2018.

Nathan McConway

Communications Officer

Nathan joined Children’s Neighbourhoods Scotland in 2019, and his role as Communications Officer sees him regularly involved in the planning and production of CNS content – from blog posts through to annual reports – which are then distributed across our online channels. With a background in content marketing, Nathan also has recent experience in managing digital projects for the likes of Edinburgh Napier University and Historic Environment Scotland.

Iain Mulholland

Local Coordinator for Smyllum

Iain formerly worked as a police officer in the East and North of Glasgow for 27 years, spending a significant part of this time in a community safety role, engaging young people to develop projects which would benefit them. He was subsequently seconded to a number of organisations as a specialist in youth issues including Social Inclusion Partnership and Glasgow Community and Safety Services. Iain has established and ran a number of charities and has experience of charitable boards and governance. 

Sara Vanatta

Local Coordinator for Castlemilk

Sara has over 10 years experience promoting social justice and health equity for young children and their families. Sara was most recently the Assistant Director of Family Services and Health with Acelero Learning, a Head Start provider in the US. In this role, she led a team of Family Advocates to close the opportunity gap through delivery of core family engagement and health strategies. Sara holds an MSW and is skilled in program development and implementation, instructional design, group facilitation, and coaching.

Dr Sarah Ward

Research Associate

Dr Sarah Ward’s recent research has focused on the evaluation of assets approaches, and using the Capabilities Approach in community settings. Sarah is a Community Development practitioner and member of CLD, and has worked in a range of roles and neighbourhoods across Glasgow over the past twenty years, including youth work, schools collaboration, parent and family support, and the development of Whiteinch Community Centre, a locally-owned community asset.

Dr Sarah Weakley

Research Associate

Dr Sarah Weakley is a Research and Impact Acceleration Officer for Policy Scotland at the University of Glasgow and works as a Research Associate for Children’s Neighbourhoods Scotland. She is contributing to the impact evaluation of CNS, particularly as a specialist in quantitative research methods. Sarah’s PhD research focused on measuring the impact of receiving government assistance as a young person on mid-life economic outcomes using longitudinal data, and her interests continue to focus on youth transitions and the welfare state. 

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