Thursday 16 April 2020

Chris Goulden – Reducing poverty in the UK

Chris Goulden - Deputy Director of Evidence and Impact

Chris Goulden (Geography and Sociology 1991) is helping to transform the lives of thousands of people living in poverty in the UK through his role as Deputy Director of Evidence and Impact at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

His work has strong links to the UN Sustainable Development Goal 1: to end poverty in all its forms everywhere. He told us more about how he is helping make a difference.

How did you get involved in the work you’re doing now?

After graduating from Leeds I worked as a statistician in the NHS, which kindly paid for me to do a Masters in research methods at South Bank University. This helped me get into the civil service, where I was a social researcher at the Home Office and Cabinet Office. About 16 years ago, I moved to York to join the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) as a research manager and I'm still there today, now in a role as Deputy Director of Evidence and Impact.

How is your role linked to sustainability?

JRF has a mission to solve poverty in the UK. "Ending poverty in all its forms everywhere" is the number one sustainable development goal. In our society, we don't think it's right that people should be trapped in poverty, unable to take advantage of the opportunities needed to make a better life. Unless we solve poverty in the UK, our other ambitions on sustainability will be restricted.

“Solving poverty is everyone’s business.”

Chris Goulden (Geography and Sociology 1991)
Deputy Director of Evidence and Impact, The Joseph Rowntree Foundation

What does sustainability mean to you?

Sustainability when it comes to poverty means widening the lens to see the bigger picture - currently, high rents and low pay hold back many of our citizens from being able to afford a decent standard of living. We need a social security system that acts as a public service. Welfare should be there for when people need it the most, to hold them steady in the face of an uncertain economy. Sustainability to me therefore means sustainable markets and public services that work together to reduce poverty.

What sort of actions do you think individuals need to take in the next five years to create a sustainable future?

Solving poverty is everyone's business, from employers to governments to landlords, charities and individuals. But focussing on what we can do as individuals risks missing the bigger drivers at play. Too often individuals are blamed for their poverty, rather than the high cost of living, low pay and low levels of social security benefits. For the public at large, tapping into our natural sense of compassion and justice holds the key to re-designing our economy and public services to bring the needs of people in poverty to the fore.

In 2019, UN updates outlined that current measures around the world will be insufficient to achieve the target of reducing the number of those living in extreme poverty to less than 3% by 2030. It identified that further work and investment in social protection systems and support organisations will be key in helping those most vulnerable to escape poverty. Chris’s work with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation is critical in helping to ensure that rates of poverty, in the UK and around the world, continue to decline.