In 2007 I was appointed Oxfam Australia’s first head of research with the mandate to establish a research strategy across our work in Asia, the Pacific Islands, Australia and southern Africa.
The strategy hinged on being able to broker partnerships between local organizations, Oxfam and academics that could support a strong research culture and enable applied research that would inform and drive programming and public policy engagement.
Over three years I led the development of partnerships with a variety of universities across disciplines such as medicine, law, economics, political science and social work, garnering over $5 million dollars of external research funding towards our aims.
Within Oxfam, I also led the development of a gender justice hub that enabled better support to and connections between staff working on gender issues around the world, and a more focused and effective research and advocacy agenda across the organization.
Within the Australian development sector, I led efforts to build culture and practices around ethical research and collaborative research.
It is remarkable that the ResU has been able to achieve so much, and develop such goodwill among internal and external stakeholders, in a relatively short three-year period. Given the diverse working relationships, projects and support it has had to navigate, and that its work represented a significant change in the internal culture of Oxfam, to have such a high degree of positive feedback about the work of the ResU is impressive. This achievement has been built on some solid foundations. The particular approach of the ResU Team, led by a Research Manager who has exemplified this approach, has been one of these. Many internal and external respondents said that they appreciated the ResU’s strong interpersonal skills – their collaborative spirit, accessibility, responsiveness, clear communication, critical thinking and willingness to help. The fact that they have worked successfully in different cultural contexts also points to a significant level of cultural competence.
– Independent, external evaluation of the research strategy, 2011
May is a driver of change and results. She led Oxfam Australia’s first research strategy, and brokered the successful Monash University-Oxfam partnership. She is an excellent researcher herself but also a big-picture research manager and knowledge broker for an organisation. May made a lasting impact on the Australian NGO sector, helping also to embed the first sector-wide university linkage network, which has led to the adoption of guidelines for ethical research for the Australian sector… As a colleague, she is dynamic, fiercely intelligent and collegial.
– Susan Harris-Rimmer, Griffith Law School