Stephen Leyden works as a Research Officer for Consumer Affairs Victoria in Australia, a government agency more accustomed to focusing on business and legal concerns rather than on sociological issues.
Dr Stephen Leyden
My work involves conducting and managing social research and evaluation projects. The work ranges from qualitative exploratory studies about social policy issues to quantitative performance management evaluations.
I try to introduce a sociological understanding into the work that we do. I do this by directing staff to research papers that provide a social perspective about the areas and topics that are of interest to the organisation as well as searching for base line information about the programs we run.
I also get the opportunity to write literature reviews about consumer issues. There have been a number of times where I have written about the economic, psychological and sociological influences of human behaviour in our arena. Many people have said to me that they found the papers interesting and enlightening and were somewhat surprised by the content. This is not surprising given that these staff members come from an economic or accounting background.
The challenges lie in trying to overcome long held assumptions that have driven past strategies and action (that are not based on evidence and are often misguided) and in highlighting the importance of the context we are working in so that people are in a better position to make connections between the organisation’s goals and objectives, and its everyday work, rather than viewing work as isolated projects.
Some of the benefits and rewards of working in my field include: having the opportunity to use and improve my research skills; adding to the organisation’s knowledge by demonstrating the social/historical factors that influence behaviour in our arena; and producing work that helps the organisation achieve its goals and objectives.
Article copyright: © Stephen Leyden 2010. Published by Sociology At Work. All rights reserved.
Top photo credit: The Consumerist (2007) ‘Sale Window’, Flickr. Last accessed 23 June 2010: http://www.flickr.com/photos/consumerist/418216128/