Tracey Sagar and Debbie Jones
Dr Tracey Sagar and Debbie Jones are lecturers and researchers with the Centre for Criminal Justice and Criminology. They have worked with a number of third sector organisations to develop knowledge and understanding on sex work. Local projects include: explorations of street sex work and off street sex work; community perceptions of street based prostitution; the experiences of women from BME communities engaged in sex work. From 2010-2014, in partnership with Gibran UK, Tracey and Debbie conducted an All Wales project (funded by the Big Lottery) that sought to provide national knowledge on sex work. Currently, they lead an innovative project (again Big Lottery funded) that investigates student’s participation in sex work. ‘The Student Sex Work Project’(TSSWP) is the first large scale project seeking to understand students experience, motivations and Higher Education responses to sex work.
Throughout a ten year research partnership, the values that drive their work are based on equality and opportunity. Much of their work adopts a participatory approach, working with participants and stakeholders on an equal footing. They also adopt a dynamic approach to developing research projects – moving beyond traditional social science research. For example, TSSWP undertook ground breaking research and it also developed innovative online services to support student sex workers. They also worked with film makers to ensure that the project findings travel far beyond the usual academic dissemination routes. Through premiers, screenings and the inclusion of film in various training packages, visual data is used to inform and influence a very wide audience.
However, research is only one element of their role. Together they have developed a work placement programme for students across Wales who want to work on a live research study. In total TSSWP has worked with over 60 student volunteers, providing the skills and inspiration needed to develop potential researchers of the future. Indeed, it is the people they have encountered through their work who inspire them, from the determination of sex workers who face multiple barriers to inclusion, to the students who so enthusiastically tackle stigma and discrimination. Of course, this also makes research led teaching a joy.
Reflecting their research partnership, Tracey and Debbie believe that women in academia are a powerful force for change and empowerment, but that such endeavours do not have to be a solitary task. Their research stands as testimony to the effectiveness of research partnerships that can bring inspiration and support to women.