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Anna Barford BA MA Ph.D

Principal Research Associate & Bye Fellow of Murray Edwards College

Work, Employment and Living Wages; Green, Circular and Care Economies; Youth livelihoods; Austerity and Inequality; Equitable Artificial Intelligence



  • 2024- : Principal Research Associate, University of Cambridge
  • 2023-2024: Youth Employment Technical Specialist and Gender Equality Diversity and Inclusion Technical Specialist, International Labour Organization
  • 2019-2022: Senior Research Associate, Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership
  • 2018-2020: College Lecturer, Murray Edwards College, Univ. of Cambridge
  • 2016-2019: College Lecturer, Girton College, Univ. of Cambridge
  • 2015-2018: Research Associate, Centre for Business Research, JBS, Univ. of Cambridge
  • 2013-2014: Research Associate, Department of Geography, Univ. of Cambridge
  • 2011-2012: Research Associate, Institute of Public Health, Univ. of Cambridge
  • 2011: Visiting Research Fellow, The Equality Trust and York Fairness Commission
  • 2010-2011: Researcher, School Report Survey, White City, BBC
  • 2005-2007: Research Assistant, Worldmapper Project, Univ. of Sheffield
  • 2005: Intern, Department of HIV/AIDS, World Health Organisation


  • Ph.D in Geography, University of Sheffield
  • MA in Sociology and Social Research, University of Nottingham
  • BA in Geography, University of Cambridge

College positions

  • Fellow / Bye Fellow, Murray Edwards College (2015-)
  • Fellow, Girton College (2016-2019)
  • Research Fellow, Homerton College (2014-2015)

Funding and awards

  • Social Science Impact Award, ESRC. Taking climate change to school. 2022-2023.
  • Prince of Wales Fellowship in Global Sustainability. 2019-2022.
  • Seed funding from the School of Technology, Univ. of Cambridge. 2021.
  • Asian Development Bank grant: Youth-specific livelihoods impacts and responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. 2020-2021.
  • British Academy Youth Futures grant: Peak Youth, Climate Change and the Role of Young People in Seizing their Future. 2020-2022.
  • Global Challenges Research Fund Impact Acceleration Account NGO Data ESRC-4: Understanding the experiences of young people making a living in low-income countries. 2018.
  • Cambridge Humanities Research Grants Scheme 2017/18 Round 2: Peak youth and work in low-income countries. 2018.
  • Returning Carers Scheme, Univ. of Cambridge. 2018.
  • Shortlisted for Best Supervisor in the Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Cambridge University Student-Led Teaching Awards. 2018.
  • Returning Carers Scheme, Univ. of Cambridge. 2015.
  • Roberts Funding, University of Sheffield, to support placement at The Equality Trust. 2011.
  • Buckley Summer Scholarship to attend the ‘Inequality and Social Change in Britain and the United States’ workshop of ‘Social Change: A Harvard – Manchester initiative’. 2010.
  • Gold Award from the U.K. Geographical Association for ‘The atlas of the real world’, 2009.
  • Dudley Stamp Memorial Trust research grant, Royal Geographical Society, 2009.
  • PhD funded by U.K. Economic and Social Research Council’s +3 Studentship, 2007.
  • Award for Excellence in Leading Geography from the U.K. Geographical Association, 2007.
  • MA full scholarship, Department of Sociology and Social Policy, Univ. of Nottingham, 2004.
  • David Richards Travel Scholarship & Vacation Study Grant for fieldwork in Nepal, Univ. of Cambridge, 2003.
  • Sidney Sussex College Downham Yeomans Scholarship, Univ. of Cambridge, 2003.


Anna’s research addresses the intersection of the economy, society and policy. One major research stream is the youth employment challenge of lower income countries, where most young people are underemployed and are in working poverty. This workstream draws upon young people’s perspectives, statistical data, and the broader policy context. Projects within this work stream have addressed how young people in Uganda are impacted by and responding to climate change in their working lives, diary-based research to understand how young people in Indonesia and Nepal got by during the Delta wave of COVID-19, and statistical and policy reviews on youth employment in seven African countries. This research is typically a collaboration with young people and institutions in-country, adopting a co-research approach. This work has been funded by the British Academy, ESRC, Asian Development Bank and Mastercard Foundation. Some of this work appears the special issue of the Journal of the British Academy, Being and Becoming: Uncertain Youth Futures, edited by Anna, to showcase research with and about young people. Also focussed on work and employment, a 2021 paper calls for greater social responsibility in the emerging circular economy, a 2022 report presented at the World Economic Forum in Davos investigates the case for living wages, while a 2024 report on Decent Work and the Care Economy provides the background for a high-level political discussion on care work at the International Labour Conference. Anna’s newest project, with Professor Anna Korhonen, concerns equitable artificial intelligence and the potential of Natural Language Processing to produce societal benefits in low-resource settings.

Anna’s earlier work includes the Regimes of Austerity: Economic Change and the Politics of Contraction project with Professor Mia Gray, examining the politics of austerity in British towns and cities as they respond to recession, recovery, fiscal uncertainty, growing economic inequality, and changing policy demands. Key outputs are a paper on the patterns of austerity cuts to local government in the UK, and another about how the gaps left by a lack of social provision are being filled (at least in part). Much of my work has had an international focus, including the history of infectious diseases amongst forced migrants, drawing data from population displacements around the world, as part of a team working on a project entitled Humanitarian Crises, Population Displacement and Epidemic Disease 1901-2010,. My Ph.D was concerned with attitudes and discourses about international inequality amongst people positioned differently along a spectrum of wealth, based on discussion groups with teachers in Kenya, Mexico and the UK. Prior to beginning my PhD I worked on a world mapping project with Professors Danny Dorling and Mark Newman, which produced hundreds of cartograms (apparently distorted world maps) to show variables ranging from to wealth distribution, to species at risk of extinction, to commuting times. This resulted in The Atlas of the Real World: mapping the way we live. These maps can be freely accessed at:


[Publications will load automatically from the University’s publications database…]


  • Department of Geography, University of Cambridge
    • MPhil and PhD supervisor to Kate Brockie and Grace Mueller on Geographies of Work
    • Undergraduate lecturer (Austerity and Affluence; Geographical Research; and Global Urbanism)
    • Undergraduate supervisor (Austerity and Affluence, Dissertations, and Global Urbanism)
    • Sutton Trust Summer Schools on Geography
    • Director of Studies at Homerton, Girton, Murray Edwards and Christ’s Colleges
  • University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership
    • MSt in Sustainability Leadership Lecturer
    • MSt in Sustainability Leadership Dissertation Supervisor
    • Bespoke Executive Education Lecturer and Facilitator
  • Department of Geography, University of Sheffield
    • Undergraduate tutor on Research Design
  • Environmental Policy Lab, ETH Zurich
    • Second PhD advisor to Jakob Pruess, on Circular Supply Chains
  • Guest lectures
    • University of Nottingham MA in Public Health
    • University of Northampton on BA in Development
    • In schools and colleges in Kenya, Mexico and the UK

Other activities