I research care; global development; and the ‘gender data gap.’

I’m a scholar-activist. I see a critical role for academic research in policy making. Institutional ethnography, developed by Canadian sociologist Dorothy Smith, helps me understand how the world works. It sheds light on how institutions (for example in healthcare, education, development, and humanitarian aid) organize people’s everyday lives in ways that are often hard to see. It’s an action-oriented approach to research; it generates an understanding of power that is useful for those who seek to change it.

Why do I care about care?

In 2009, the Canadian government cut funding to women’s resources nationwide, and the women’s centre I worked at was forced to close its doors after 25 years of service. I came to understand this event as an indication of ‘uncaring’ priorities. I’ve worked in many countries globally and seen similarly uncaring priorities sideline women’s wellbeing in the name of fiscal austerity and ‘responsible’ social spending. I’m motivated by the hope that a more caring world is possible.

And why do I care about measurement?

My research on conditional cash transfer programs showed how a narrow handful of quantitative metrics obscures women’s experiences of participating in the program. While the numbers pointed to a programmatic success, they hid the poor quality of public services and infrastructure, and the unpaid caring labour women expended to overcome the gaps. I think that we need more evidence on ‘evidence-based policy.’

Where do i do my research?

I’m a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of British Columbia, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. I received my PhD from the University of Cambridge as a Gates Cambridge Scholar, an MA from the University of Toronto, and a BA from the University of British Colombia.

Email me at: tcookson@mail.ubc.ca