Louise Morpeth, PhD

Senior Associate

louise.morpeth@dartington.org.uk | DEVON

Service design and system reform specialist and trainer with extensive experience of working with children’s services in local authorities, philanthropy and charities.

Louise’s primary interest is in using research and data to improve the lives of children. She has comprehensive knowledge of public systems, notably children’s social care, as well as experience of implementing and testing a range of evidence-based programmes.

Joining the Dartington Social Research Unit in 1997, she went on to become co-director and latterly CEO. She led numerous research and development projects, including convening a consortium that secured a £17 million contract to run the Family Nurse Partnership National Unit.

Louise was awarded a PhD in social policy from Exeter University in 2004. She has contributed to over 30 articles and books, and is a reviewer for the Journal of Children’s Services.

Louise is providing strategic leadership to the system reform project ‘Keeping more children safely at home’ and contributing to the development and dissemination of FNP ADAPT.


Nick Axford, PhD

Senior Associate

nick.axford@dartington.org.uk | DEVON

Extensive research experience in evidence/literature reviews of ‘what works’ and conducting randomised controlled trials of services for children.

Nick’s research interests are evidence-based prevention and early intervention to improve child well-being, notably designing services and evaluating their effectiveness and implementation.

He is particularly interested in forms of intervention that have the potential to achieve impact at scale and in methods for their developing and testing – including co-production with users and the use of rapid cycle innovation. He also enjoys engaging in debates about the value of evidence-based approaches in children’s services.

Nick holds a PhD in Advanced Social Work and Probation Studies from the University of Exeter and is currently a PenCLAHRC Associate Professor in Health Services Research at Plymouth University. Previously, Nick worked at Dartington Social Research Unit from 1997-2017, initially as a PhD Researcher and latterly as a Senior Researcher and Head of What Works.


Jason Strelitz, PhD

Senior Associate

jason.strelitz@islington.gov.uk | @strelitz_jason | LONDON

Jason is involved with work across all aspects of promotion of child health and wellbeing in two London Boroughs, including multi-agency programmes spanning conception through the early years, integrated care for children, healthy lifestyles, young people’s mental health, sexual health, and youth justice.

Jason has worked widely on policy around children and in particular child poverty. He is a Fellow of the Faculty of Public Health and has a PhD in Social Policy from the London School of Economics.

He has sat on several national advisory committees including for the Department for Education funded evaluation of children’s centres. His work with the Lab is focussed primarily around the Family Nurse Partnership (FNP) ADAPT programme, working on developing and testing a more personalised approach to the FNP.


Gretchen Bjornstad, DPhil


gretchen.bjornstad@dartington.org.uk | DEVON

Gretchen is primarily interested in the evaluation, implementation, and development of evidence-based interventions for improving the health and well-being of children and families.

Gretchen received her DPhil from the University of Oxford in 2009 and followed this by working at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London evaluating the evidence for parenting programmes with the National Academy for Parenting Research. She worked for the Dartington Social Research Unit for nearly 7 years until 2017, specialising in trials and systematic reviews of interventions and conducting the cost-benefit analyses for the Investing in Children project.

She is currently a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Peninsula Cerebra Research Unit (PenCRU), as part of the NIHR CLAHRC South West Peninsula (PenCLAHRC), situated within the University of Exeter Medical School. Her current focus is on developing and evaluating interventions for children with disabilities and their families.


Michaela Rawsthorne


michaela.rawsthorn@dartington.org.uk | Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

Michaela is founder of Mergen Consultants, a US-based consulting firm specialising in writing and research. She has a nearly 20-year career that includes serving as the Research and Evaluation Manager for the London-based Prison Advice and Care Trust and as a Policy Analyst for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US.

In August 2010, Michaela began working with the Dartington Social Research Unit in support of the evidence-based and innovative practices work. She is a skilled reviewer and is adept at transforming complex information into a readable narrative, that isn’t dumbed down.

Michaela holds a Bachelors of Arts, with honours, in American History, Political Science and Economics from the Ohio State University and a Master of Public Policy from the University of Chicago.


Ivana La Valle


ivanalavalle@outlook.com | LONDON

Ivana has over 20 years experience of conducting qualitative and quantitative research and evidence reviews to inform and evaluate children and families policy and practice.

Ivana has conducted key studies that have shaped recent family support policies, including national evaluations of: Children’s Centres; Family Intervention Projects; and the free early education entitlement. Ivana also has substantial experience of researching children’s social care. She has directed a study on the role of Independent Reviewing Officers in care planning in addition to international reviews on the effectiveness of children’s residential care and on dealing with child sexual exploitation.

Her current work includes: an evaluation of the early rollout of the 30 hours of free childcare; a project to develop a robust framework for assessing outcomes from children’s social care; and an evaluation of ‘No Wrong Door’, a DfE Children’s Social Care Innovation project.

Ivana’s previous roles include: Director of Research at the National Children’s Bureau and Head of the Families Research Programme at the National Centre for Social Research.


Laura Whybra


laura.whybra@dartington.org.uk | DEVON

Laura has a broad range of quantitative, qualitative and systematic reviewing expertise.

Laura was a Researcher at Dartington Social Research Unit for 6 years up to June 2017. Her experience includes working on randomised controlled trial (RCT) evaluations of social programmes and supporting service providers to improve outcomes for children and families through better use of evidence in the design, delivery and evaluation of these services. As well as conducting analysis and reporting of the Realising Ambition RCTs, she is also currently an editorial assistant for the Journal of Children’s Services.

Laura holds a BSc in Psychology and MSc in Psychological Research Methods, both from the University of Exeter. Laura is also training towards an Advanced Diploma in Therapeutic Counselling.


Claire Baxter

Senior Associate

claire.baxter@dartington.org.uk | NOTTINGHAM

Claire is the director of Richmond Baxter Ltd, a consultancy offering support to organisations that want to change and grow without losing sight of their social mission.

She is a specialist in public policy and how this affects business development, strategic planning and campaigning. She has helped design and evaluate services targeted at vulnerable groups including the homeless, unemployed young people, refugees and the financially excluded. Claire’s clients include national charities, partnerships, councils and health services.

Prior to setting up her own business, Claire worked in the local government, education and voluntary sectors for 20 years.

Claire has a degree in Economic and Political Development, a postgraduate qualification in Research Methods, is a member of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy and the RSA.


Dawn Hart


dawn.hart@dartington.org.uk | LONDON

Dawn has been as associate of the Social Research Unit for over ten years. She specialises in enabling individuals, organisations and partnerships to be the best they can be. Her skills include: training, coaching,co production/community engagement, organisational development, social research and policy analysis. Participation and bringing meaningful voice to decision making are themes which runs right through her work.

Previously Dawn held a range of posts across public services including direct delivery around substance misuse and criminal justice, management, policy development and innovation projects. Much of her background is in the fields of public service and social justice. As well as her freelance work,she also has also recently held an interim post as community engagement manager at the Greater London Authority.


Dorothy Flatman


dorothy.flatman@dartington.org.uk | LONDON

Dorothy has over thirty years’ experience working in child health.  She trained as a paediatric nurse and worked as a staff nurse and ward sister in intensive care, and as a nurse tutor at Great Ormond Street hospital.  She has significant experience of child health in a variety of settings including working overseas as a delegate for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and a Country Director in Pakistan for VSO.

Dorothy has a Masters’ in Public Health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Health (2001).  She has more than twenty years’ experience designing, implementing and monitoring child health projects overseas and in the UK.  She has been involved in co-designing and delivering high quality research programmes which have been proven to reduce newborn mortality.

She was the first Director of Women and Children First which pioneered and continues to promote community mobilisation and participatory learning for pregnant women and their communities in low resource settings.  This approach has now been adopted by the WHO (WHO recommendation on community mobilisation through facilitated participatory and action learning cycles with women’s groups for maternal and newborn health 2014).

Dorothy is passionate about the delivery of high quality health services and care for children and their families. 


Frances Flaxington

Senior Associate

frances.flaxington@dartington.org.uk | LONDON

Frances has worked across sectors, focusing on children’s social care and the criminal justice system, with an emphasis on innovation. She is currently a Senior Associate for the Innovation Unit and Mutual Ventures coaching innovation projects that are supporting vulnerable young people and helping Councils to adopt and adapt new approaches. She is also a member of the National Crime Agency’s Independent Reference Group and supports the Prison Reform Trust’s work in Wales to help reduce the number of women in the justice system.


Janet Grauberg

Senior Associate


Janet is an organisational strategy & learning consultant with wide-ranging expertise in children and young people’s services across the statutory and voluntary sector.

Her current work focuses on spreading innovation and good practice between organisations, working both with voluntary organisations and local authorities across social care and mental health. Current clients include the Local Government Association and a major philanthropic funder, as well as smaller voluntary organisations undertaking strategic reviews.

She was formerly Director of Strategy at Barnardo’s and St Christopher’s Fellowship, has held senior roles at the Department for Education and the Department of Health, and has been an elected councillor and Cabinet Member in a London Local Authority.

She holds an MSc in Management Consultancy & Organisational Change from Birkbeck, University of London and a degree in Geography from the University of Cambridge and is a trained Action Learning facilitator.




vicky.baker@dartington.org.uk | MANCHESTER

Vicky’s research interests are in the fields of family violence and gender-based violence and harm, and in the application of systems thinking to improve public systems and services. Vicky has worked across a variety of public systems, including children’s social care and mental health, facilitating reform through the use of systems thinking, system dynamic modelling and strategy development. Vicky has worked with the Lab and its previous incarnation, the Dartington Social Research Unit, since 2012, initially as a researcher, then associate, and more recently, as a System Design Specialist.  

Vicky holds a Masters in Psychology of Education from the Institute of Education, UCL, and is currently undertaking research into adolescent-to-parent abuse for a PhD in Social Work at the University of Central Lancashire’s Connect Centre for International Research on Violence and Harm. 


Leila Baker

Senior Associate


Leila has supported organisations in the public and voluntary sectors for 25 years; this includes supervision, commissioning and delivery of research, evaluation and consultancy. Recent published work includes leading the UK inquiry commissioned by Local Trust with funding from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, The Future for Communities: Perspectives on Power, as well as the landmark study on small charities, The Value of Small commissioned by Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales.

Leila has extensive expertise in brokering partnerships between research and practice and has written/presented and taught on this subject. These include the practitioner-led evidence review Volunteering and early childhood outcomes commissioned by the Big Lottery Fund; and learning partnerships with Big Local, a national community development programme (2012 – 2015); with BBC Children in Need and the Premier League (2015 to date); and Commonweal Housing (2015 – 2018). Leila’s practice is underpinned by action research principles, for example People, Places and Health Agencies for Local Trust, and adheres to high quality and ethical industry standards.


Moira Underdown



Moira has an extensive background in health care as a psychiatric nurse, as well as operations management and leadership experience in the third sector, government and private sector here and in New Zealand.  She is currently taking time out from her position in New Zealand with the newly established Ministry for Vulnerable Children Oranga Tamariki to look at systems and service design here in the UK. Back in New Zealand she leads a team who work across sectors, communities and government to design and procure services for both adults and children.

She has worked collaboratively designing and funding services to respond to the Christchurch earthquakes, and been involved in a partnership with the University of Canterbury NZ and the private sector designing and adapting an NGO Leadership programme. More recently she has provided leadership and governance alongside the Police to the Integrated Safety Response pilot, a unique single point of entry and multi-agency/sector response for families experiencing violence and abuse. Her recent MBA, with a particular interest in social investment has led her to think more about how investment works in both densely populated and rural environments.


Anna Price


a.price@exeter.ac.uk | DEVON

Anna is interested in health service development and early interventions to promote health and wellbeing in children and families.

Anna has just completed her Doctoral Thesis at the University of Exeter Medical School, looking at the impact of information provision and service availability for young people with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) when they are too old to stay in children’s services. As part of her PhD she conducted interviews with young people, their families and health workers to learn more about their experiences, and led a national survey mapping adult ADHD services in the UK. She is passionate about co-creating research with people who use and deliver services. She has worked in research since 2012, and been involved with a range of projects aimed at enhancing young people’s experience of education and health services. These have included evaluations of parenting programmes, randomised controlled trials, and systematic reviews.

She is currently a Research Associate in the Child Health group, situated within the University of Exeter College of Medicine and Health. Her focus is on understanding and mapping health services for young adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).


Sebastian Lawson-Thorp



Sebastian has four years of learning design experience across the corporate sector and public sector in evidence-based health interventions, stakeholder management, training facilitation and innovative learning design.

His current role at NHS Health Scotland involves research, collaborative design with local authorities/third sector and delivery of learning interventions on a variety of health topics; from child poverty, mental health, homelessness, physical activity to addiction for the wider workforce.

Separately, Sebastian also consults for Wayair Foundation. The foundation focuses on building, expanding and developing educational programmes and spaces internationally.

At Dartington Service Design Lab, Sebastian works as an associate researcher supporting ongoing projects. Currently, he is working on the Early Action System Change initiative in Renfrewshire. The first phase of this project looks at mapping the causes of anxiety and depression and coercive control in young people in Renfrewshire.

Sebastian has a keen interest in global and national interventions in Mental Health. He begins an MSc in Global Mental Health at Glasgow University in September 2019.


Sarah Frost


Sarah joined the SRU as an Associate in 2013 and has worked to support ‘A Better Start’ sites through the ‘Better Evidence for a Better Start’ methodology. She also supported projects in the ‘Realising Ambition’ programme with achievement of the SRU ‘Standards of Evidence’ including development of logic models, manuals, fidelity, monitoring and evaluation plans.

Sarah is an evaluation specialist and trainer with over 22 years’ experience working in and with the voluntary and public sectors. Sarah has wide ranging experience in the field of evidence based practice with a commitment to making research accessible and useful in practice. Interests include children and families, health inequalities, social capital and asset based approaches to well-being. Sarah is a Churchill Fellow and has a BSc in Behavioural Science and MSc in Population Health. She works as a freelance evaluation and research consultant, often providing a ‘critical friend’ role, and is passionate about supporting organisations to learn from their practice and demonstrate outcomes achieved.


Nicola Doherty, PhD


nicola.doherty@dartington.org.uk | BIRMINGHAM

Project manager and qualitative research specialist with a wealth of experience managing large national and international research projects centered on improving outcomes for children.

Nicola has contributed to successful grant applications and academic publications on the outcomes of adopted and donor-conceived children, and in 2017 was awarded a PhD in psychology from the University of Warwick. Nicola’s skills and interests include qualitative data analysis, conducting focus groups/interviews, performing literature reviews, and project management.

Previously, Nicola worked as a Senior Project Manager where she was responsible for managing several large research trials throughout Europe and America. Nicola started working for the Dartington Social Research Unit in 2014 on a project designed to prevent young people from entering the criminal justice system.

Currently, Nicola freelances as a Project Manager on a national research trial that aims to explore the intricacies of child development and school readiness.

Nicola is the Chair of a charity that supports children living in a ‘garbage’ village in Cairo and voluntarily raises funds to provide education and play outlets for children living there.


Robert Rae


robert@3rdhorizons.com | GLASGOW

Rob’s current work for the Lab includes designing and implementing a monitoring and evaluation framework as part of the ‘Inclusion as Prevention’ Project within South Lanarkshire. This is a five-year multi-partner project designed to support system change in and around Children’s Services with the local community.

Rob is also Chief Executive of 3rd Horizons Ltd, the Glasgow based futures consultancy set up in 2011. With over twenty years of working in the public sector he has a keen interest in system leadership research, policy and design. In his early career he worked in the Scottish Government, then spent ten years working in the Scottish Parliament, latterly as Director of the Parliament’s think-tank, Scotland’s Futures Forum.

Rob is Chair of the Board of Trustees at Vox Liminis www.voxliminis.co.uk , an arts based organisation working in the Scottish criminal justice system.