We are passionate about preparing young people for a diverse world. Our aim is to promote social cohesion through understanding how to support positive and meaningful interactions.

The Shared Spaces Project, funded by the Economic and Social Research council, explores the factors that influence whether or not young people in the UK chose to interact with people from different ethnic, religious or racial groups. We are interested in how individual characteristics, school environments, family and the wider community influence young people’s interactions and friendships.

Working with young people, their parents and local communities in Belfast and Bradford, our project involves three phases. In Phase 1, we focus on understanding the things that influence who young people chose to interact with. In Phase 2, we explore how young people use the social spaces around them. And in Phase 3, we consider the things that young people think support them to interact with people who are different to them.

We hope to develop a new understanding that will promote social cohesion in Belfast and Bradford, as well as beyond.

Learn more about the planned impact of our research here.



The Shared Spaces project team includes researchers based at the University of Oxford, University of Bristol and University College Dublin in partnership with the National Children’s Bureau.

We are team of social science researchers based in the UK and Ireland who are interested in understanding more about and promoting social cohesion. We have lots of experience working with schools, teachers and young people to tackle socially-relevant research questions. We are excited to be working in partnership with the National Children’s Bureau on the Shared Spaces project, ensuring that young people’s voices are represented and heard is central to our research.

Our core research team includes: Prof. Shelley McKeown Jones (Project Principal Investigator, University of Oxford), Dr Laura Taylor (Project Co-Investigator, University College Dublin), Prof. David Manley (Project Co-Investigator, University of Bristol), Dr Shazza Ali (former Research Associate, University of Bristol), Dr Pier-Luc Dupont (former Research Associate, Swansea University), Dr Christoph Daniel Schaefer (Research Associate, University of Oxford) and Dr. Sumedh Rao (Research Associate, University of Oxford). Our project is supported by Belfast City Council, Bradford City Council and the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education.

Meet our team and find out more about what we do.

Professor Shelley McKeown Jones

Principal Investigator

Dr. Laura Taylor


Professor David John Manley


Dr. Shazza Ali

Former Research Associate

Dr. Pier-Luc Dupont

Former Research Associate

Dr. Christoph Daniel Schaefer

Research Associate

Dr. Sumedh Rao

Research Associate


Want to know more about the Shared Spaces project and our project outputs? Check out details of our photo exhibitions, our related publications and our connected research projects.

Photo Exhibitions

The Shared Spaces Project photo exhibitions were held in September 2023 in Belfast and in June 2024 in Bradford. The exhibitions presented photographs and reflections from young people aged 16-18 who lived in or grew up in each city. The exhibitions told us about how public spaces, such as restaurants, parks, streets or buses, are viewed and how they shape young peoples’ experiences of social interaction and cohesion.

Digital copies of the exhibitions can be found in our Belfast Exhibition Booklet and our Bradford Exhibition Booklet. 

A fuller analysis of young people’s accounts from Belfast can be found in our published paper here.

Connected projects

Check out our connected research projects.

The Diversity Effect project. If you are interested in resources for supporting the teaching of diversity in school classrooms, you can find a co-produced teacher toolkit on this project website.

Shared Space project (NATRE). If you would like to know more about how to teach community relations within the Religious Education/Religious Studies classroom then look no further than this toolkit.

Helping Kids! If you would like to learn more about promoting children’s empathy and prosocial behaviours, check out the Helping Kids lab.

Get Involved

We’d love to hear from you. If you are interested in taking part in the Shared Spaces project or learning more about what we are doing, please get in touch.

Contact us:

Shelley McKeown Jones

Department of Experimental Psychology

Anna Watts Building, Radcliffe Observatory Quarter

Woodstock Road,

Oxford, OX2 6GG

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