Professor Jane Wills
Director of the Environment and Sustainability Institute and Professor of Geography
Environment and Sustainability Institute
Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, Penryn, Cornwall, TR10 9FE, UK
Office hours: Please email to book a time to meet: via Amrita Sharma (A.Sharma4@exeter.ac.uk) or direct to Jane (email@example.com)
Please email to book a time to meet: via Amrita Sharma (A.Sharma4@exeter.ac.uk) or direct to Jane (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Jane Wills is Director of the Environment and Sustainability Institute (ESI) and Professor of Geography at the Centre for Geography and Environmental Science (CGES) at the University of Exeter in Cornwall, UK.
I have long-standing interests in the politics and philosophy of research practice and knowledge production and recently published The Power of Pragmatism: Knowledge production and social inquiry (Manchester University Press, 2020, Edited with Robert W. Lake). There is a short blog written to promote the book here: https://manchesteruniversitypress.co.uk/articles/relinquishing-the-quest-for-certainty-in-the-social-sciences-or-learning-from-the-coronavirus-crisis/
Other books include Locating Localism: Statecraft, citizenship and democracy (Policy Press, 2016), Global Cities at Work: New migrant divisions of labour (Pluto Press, 2010), Threads of Labour: Garment industry supply chains from the workers’ perspective (Blackwell, 2005), Place, Space and the New Labour Internationalisms (Blackwell, 2001), Geographies of Economies (Arnold, 1997) and Union Retreat and the Regions (Routledge, 1996).
My taught modules for CGES have included The Geography of Cornwall (first year); the Isles of Scilly Fieldtrip (second year); Geographies of Democracy (third year); Democracy, Sustainability and Citizenship (Masters).
Broad research specialisms
Historically, my research interests have focused on the changing geopolitical economy of work and regional economic development, new forms of urban political alliances including community organizing and living wage campaigns, and the politics and practice of localism in the UK.
Since moving to the University of Exeter, I have shifted to focus on public engagement in sustainability policy and practice. I have PhD students working on the future of farming policy in relation to the environment (Jen Clements); regional economic policy for peripheral regions of the UK (Nick Woolgrove); island life histories (Rosie Layfield); the politics of renewable energy infrastructure (Zoe Chateau); and community-oriented development practices for sustainable forest farming in Peru (Lena Prouchet).
Current research is focused on the way in which natural capital can be integrated into regional policy, the development of the visitor economy in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, as well as being considered alongside socio-economic factors by using the 'doughnut economics' approach (see the research link for more information).
In early 2020, I led a UKRI-funded project on public engagement in nature-based solutions to climate change and biodiversity loss. Working with partners in Cornwall Council and the voluntary sector, we organised co-production workshops with residents in Helston, Launceston and Newquay to explore their uses of local green spaces, documenting their ideas for improvements. A full report and short film about the 'Growing community through nature' project can be found on this website: http://www.exeter.ac.uk/esi/research/communitiesthroughnature/
The arrival of Covid-19 has had dramatic and far-reaching consequences for the economy and community in Cornwall. As a trustee of Cornwall's Voluntary Sector Forum, I worked with Nigel Sainsbury to survey community and voluntary sector organisations in Cornwall, asking respondents about the impact of lock-down on services, funding and their plans for the future. A full report and press release can be found here: http://www.cornwallvsf.org/less-than-a-quarter-of-cornwalls-voluntary-sector-operating-as-usual-amid-covid-19-crisis/
For more information about previous research into the living wage campaign, including papers and data, please visit the website located at my old employer, Queen Mary, University of London: www.geog.qmul.ac.uk/livingwage/
In pre-COVID times, I was the administrator for the Penryn campus choir - Kana Tremough! We hope to restart when it proves possible to sing again, and all staff are welcome, sign up here.
BA(Hons) Geography Cambridge 1986
PhD Open University 1995
Jane Wills joined the University of Exeter in October 2017, moving from Queen Mary, University of London. Prior to that she worked at the University of Southampton, University of Cambridge and in local government.
Research group links
My current research interests include the geography of political institutions, with particular attention paid to local structures and the ways in which people can engage in decision-making. This is part of my wider interests in devolution and localism, community organizing, civic innovation and sustainability.
From early 2021 I have three projects ongoing, all funded by the Strategic Priorities Fund.
Sustaining the visitor economy and environment in Cornwall and the IOS (SVEE-CIOS)
Developed in partnership with colleagues in the Business School (Steffen Boehm, Joanne Connell) and Tevi (an EU-funded business support project), and with the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), Cornwall Council’s Environmental Growth Team and Cornwall Wildlife Trust, as well as the Islands Partnership, the IOS Wildlife Trust, and the Council of the IOS, this project wants to find the synergy between the visitor economy and the environment. The aim is to look at existing best practice in nature based tourism, to explore what is already going on in relation to nature-oriented tourism in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, to identify areas for innovation and test these out with local businesses and potential visitors. Post-pandemic tourist recovery in CIOS could exemplify regenerative forms of development, feeding into the local industrial strategy, identifying policy supports for the visitor economy after Covid-19.
Britain’s Leading Edge is a new collaboration of 11 Local Authorities in predominantly rural and peripheral areas. Led by Cornwall Council, the group aims to provide a fresh voice to reframe the debate around the ‘regional problem’ and shape a national policy landscape that harnesses the unique strengths of all peripheral areas, particular those related to natural capital. This is about 'levelling out' to the periphery, recognising the strengths and contributions being made by these areas to the national economy and its ecosystems. This SPF-funded project involved organising a conference in December 2020 and a report is being written for wider circulation. The aim is to develop new ideas for policy and practice. This work is led by Nick Woolgrove, PhD student.
The doughnut we want is a project led by Rachel Turner in the ESI. It follows on from work done by Rachel and colleagues on the 'State of the doughnut in Cornwall', applying 'doughnut economics' to track the sustainable development challenges and their integration in planning and decision-making (completed in 2020 https://www.exeter.ac.uk/esi/research/projects/impact-towardsasustainablecornwall/). This work helped to underpin Cornwall Council's plan, Gyllyn Warbath (Together we can). The next phase of this work aims to 'downscale' the doughnut approach to look at social and spatial inequalities across the region and to conduct further qualitative research in particular places to identify local priorities and synergies with Cornwall’s wider vision.
Recent projects include Growing communities through nature, funded by UKRI as part of the Enhancing Partnerships for Place-Based Public Engagement programme, involved working with the Making Space for Nature team at Cornwall Council and Helston's Climate Action Group. A report can be found, along with a short film, here: http://www.exeter.ac.uk/esi/research/communitiesthroughnature/
In 2019, I published a report entitled: A new geography of local government: The changing role of town and parish councils in Cornwall . As a Commissioner for Locality's Commission on the Future of Localism, I researched the changing role of town and parish councils in Cornwall. The combined impact of support for devolution along with financial pressures caused by budget cuts has prompted Cornwall Council to transfer important assets to the ownership and management of local councils. I have explored these changes and their impact and you can access the report here - associated publications are listed later on: https://researchpubs.exeter.ac.uk/viewobject.html?cid=1&id=755576
The crisis caused by Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on the economy and community and a research survey and report documenting the experiences of the voluntary sector, written for Cornwall's Voluntary Sector Forum, is available here: http://www.cornwallvsf.org/