Spotlight

Spotlight gives you the opportunity to learn more about the faculty and staff of the Cambridge Centre for Social Innovation, the MSt in Social Innovation, and Cambridge Social Ventures. We find out what motivates them and drives their passion for research and practice.

Dr Lilia Giugni

Dr Lilia Giugni, Research Associate, Cambridge Centre for Social Innovation

I always believed that knowledge is power, and that those involved in its production and exchange should contribute to address societal challenges. Within academia, this means conducting research that matters, that not only is intellectually rigorous but also critically engages with social problems, and the political relations that underpin them. The Cambridge Centre for Social Innovation has provided me with a home, inspiration, and a bunch of extraordinarily supportive ‘comrades in arms’ that enable me to pursue just that.

I joined the Centre in late 2016, as I was about to complete my PhD in Political Science across the river Cam (at the University of Cambridge’s POLIS Department). Having been involved in feminist campaigning and social justice activism for a few years, I was then in the process of co-founding GenPol – Gender & Policy Insights, a think tank consultancy carrying out research and advocacy work on gender equality matters.

Four years later, as a Research Associate to the Centre, I continue to explore the ways in which gender inequalities influence organisations’ and people’s lives. I am especially passionate about shedding light on the way oppressive dynamics based on gender, race, class, disability and socio-economic injustice constantly intersect, and on the spaces that may open up for resistance.

Together with my colleague Prof. Paul Tracey, for example, I studied how patriarchal structures shape social identities in mafia groups in Sicily (and how feminist and anti-mafia activists managed to meaningfully challenge this repressive status quo). Paul and I are also analysing gender washing – corporate actors’ appropriation of feminist language, its implications, and women’s rights groups’ reactions.

Another overarching interest of mine is digital gender-based violence, a phenomenon that deeply concerns me, and that I regard as one of the latest frontiers of patriarchal violence against women. I am currently working on a book on this topic, and related contributions of mine can be found on various outlets, and on a policy paper recently published by GenPol (whose activities focus largely on gender-based abuse and discrimination).

Further work in progress includes a discussion of the gendered side of social innovation, and an analysis of the reactionary political discourses that depict white, heterosexual men as a stigmatised majority in need of defence.

Meanwhile, I continue to devote much time and energy to grassroots activism and advocacy efforts. I regularly speak, write and talk to the media on gender issues, and sit on the advisory board of several feminist charities and networks. In particular, I often contribute to conversations on the role of men in gender equality initiatives, and of how alliances between progressive groups can foster social change.

Supervising CCSI students who wish to work on these topics for their dissertations is another great joy of mine. Above all, it never ceases to amaze me how the interaction with and between faculty, students, social entrepreneurs and their networks within the CCSI informs and inspires the work of each and every one of us. It has certainly shaped mine, in multiple ways.

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