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Prof Matt Baillie Smith


Department: Geography and Environmental Sciences

Matt is a Professor of Global Development and Dean of Research Culture at Northumbria University. His research interests focus on the relationships between civil society, citizenship and development in the global South, with a particular focus on volunteering in humanitarian and development settings, and on young people as development actors. He is Principal Investigator of Refugee Youth Volunteering Uganda (, an ESRC/GCRF funded project exploring volunteering by young displaced people in Uganda and its impacts on their skills and employability and experiences of inequality. He is also PI of a BA/GCRF project exploring youth agency for Sustainable Development in Palestine, and a Co-Investigator and Work Package Lead for UKRI/GCRF Living Deltas (, an interdisciplinary research hub working to support more sustainable futures for deltas in South and South East Asia. Matt is also Research Director of the Swedish Red Cross Led Volunteers in Conflicts and Emergencies Initiative (, a research, innovation and learning project to support the safer and more effective engagement of volunteers in crises.

Matt previously worked for a development NGO and he continues to work in partnership with a range of national and global development organisations. This work includes co-designing and delivering research projects, acting as a critical friend to organisations and work to help build research and data collection and analysis capacity within development organisations and the groups they engage with. At Northumbria, Matt is co-director of the Northumbria Centre for International Development.

Visit Matt’s personal website here.

Matt Baillie Smith

Campus Address

Lipman Building 202
City Campus

Matt’s interests are broadly focused on the intersections of civil society, citizenship and development in the global South, with a particular focus on volunteering, and on young people as development actors.

Volunteering in humanitarian and development settings:

Matt’s current research focuses on the diverse forms of voluntary labour mobilised by and for development and crises in the global South. This includes research on international volunteering and development, and on the ‘gap year’, with a particular focus on the kinds of citizenship that these activities produce. More recently, he has challenged the focus on international volunteers from the global North, researching volunteering between global South countries as well as turning attention to the roles of local and national volunteers. This has included co-authoring the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Global Review on Volunteering, and acting as research director of the Volunteers in Conflicts in Emergencies Initiative. His current project, the ESRC/GCRF funded Refugee Youth Volunteering Uganda (RYVU), is being undertaken in partnership with Uganda Martyrs University and Mbarara University of Science and Technology, and uses quantitative and particularly qualitative methods to understand volunteering activity by displaced youth in 4 settings in Uganda, and how it impacts on their skills and employability.

Young people as development actors:

Overlapping with his interests in volunteering, Matt is particularly interested in the ways in which young people are engaged in development activity and how they seek to shape it. As part of the UKRI/GCRF Living Deltas Hub, he is exploring young people’s experiences of change and ideas and action for more sustainable futures in the Red River, Mekong and Ganges-Brahmaputa-Meghna deltas. In Palestine, he is leading a BA/GCRF project working with academics from design, law and education to explore youth agency for sustainable development using cultural probe methodologies.

 Ways of working:

Matt is particularly interested in participatory and visual methodologies, interdisciplinary and challenge led research, and in co-designing and development research with diverse development actors. This includes an interest in development and humanitarian practitioners as researchers, and building organisational capacities to gather and analyse data.

  • Please visit the Pure Research Information Portal for further information
  • Uneven geographies of youth volunteering in Uganda: Multi-scalar discourses and practices, Baillie Smith, M., Mills, S., Okech, M., Fadel, B. 1 Aug 2022, In: Geoforum
  • Rethinking Volunteering and Cosmopolitanism: Beyond Individual Mobilities and Personal Transformations, Baillie Smith, M., Thomas, N., Hazeldine, S. 4 Oct 2021, In: Geopolitics
  • The Gendered Experiences of Local Volunteers in Conflicts and Emergencies, Cadesky, J., Baillie Smith, M., Thomas, N. 28 Jun 2019, In: Gender and Development
  • Unsettling Geographies of Volunteering and Development, Laurie, N., Baillie Smith, M. 1 Mar 2018, In: Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers
  • South-South volunteering and development, Baillie Smith, M., Laurie, N., Griffiths, M. Jun 2018, In: The Geographical Journal

  • Justine Carrion-Weiss Start Date: 01/10/2019 End Date: 17/09/2019
  • Eleanor Seaver How do child beneficiaries experience international volunteers? Implications for policy, practice and the conceptualisation of international volunteering in child-care settings Start Date: 01/10/2016 End Date: 08/09/2023
  • Shamima Akter Shanu Voluntary labour in the climate emergency: exploring the everyday experiences of youth volunteers in the context of climate-vulnerable Bengal delta Start Date: 01/10/2021
  • Joseph Bamborough Logistics of the everyday in emergencies: how the work of humanitarian logisticians shapes humanitarian response Start Date: 01/10/2021
  • Lindsay Bewick Women’s lived experiences of entrepreneurship in Uganda: navigating livelihoods, solidarities and settlement spaces. Start Date: 01/10/2021
  • Robert Bowden Localisation and global social change: agency (power), intent and learning in INGO/supporter relationships. Start Date: 01/10/2018
  • Kate Mukungu Women’s Anti-Violence Activism Relations in Post-conflict Namibia and Northern Ireland Start Date: 23/05/2016 End Date: 13/10/2022
  • Karen Williamson Frame analysis of UK media coverage of foreign affairs, and more specifically coverage of rapid political transformation in a selection of foreign societies Start Date: 30/07/2015 End Date: 12/03/2017
  • Madeleine Le Bourdon What kinds of global citizenship are produced by non-formal international education actors? A case study of CISV International Start Date: 23/03/2016 End Date: 13/11/2019
  • Nisha Thomas Diaspora Volunteering: Promoting Flexible Ways of Re-engagement, Volunteering and Development in Nigeria and Nepal Start Date: 04/10/2011 End Date: 03/10/2016
  • Thuy Tran Start Date: 07/10/2013 End Date: 23/06/2014
  • Philip Gibby Conceptualising the response of transnational non-governmental development organisations to the value for money agenda Start Date: 23/03/2016 End Date: 11/06/2019

  • Sociology PhD September 01 1994
  • Sociology MPhil September 01 1993
  • Politics BA (Hons) September 01 1990

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