Accepting PhD Students

    PhD projects

    Poverty, food poverty, hardship, faith-based organisations, geographies of food, geographies of religion, volunteering


    Research activity per year

    Personal profile

    Research Interests

    Poverty; Hardship; Food poverty; Holiday hunger; Volunteering; Christianity; Faith-based social action; Faith-based organisations; Inequality


    Stephanie Denning is a social and cultural geographer, whose research focusses on human security through the angle of poverty, hardship, and faith responses to these - particularly faith-based social action, Christianity, volunteering, and inequality.  To keep up to date with Stephanie's research, follow her on Twitter @SJ_Denning.

    Stephanie is Co-Lead of the Faith and Peaceful Relations Research Theme at the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations.  Her current project funded by the British Academy and Leverhulme Trust 'Hidden hardship: everyday experiences, copying strategies, and barriers to wellbeing in rural Britain' uses a participatory methodology to understand people’s experiences of hidden hardship in the rural North Cotswolds, Gloucestershire. It will investigate people’s hardship journeys, coping strategies and navigation of barriers to improved wellbeing. By gaining understanding of people’s everyday lived experiences of rural hardship, this research will inform public understanding of rural hardship through a travelling exhibition, and inform voluntary sector and governmental responses to rural hardship through tailored resources including a policy report.

    Her current project funded by the Royal Geographical Society 'The rise of Christian social franchises: responding to UK poverty' seeks to understand the rise of Christian social franchises responding to UK poverty over the last two decades. Social franchising is a model that operates like commercial franchising, but in a not-for-profit context for societal benefit. The research’s impact will be to facilitate better understanding in social and cultural geography and the voluntary sector of Christian social franchises’ growth and sustainability in the contexts of austerity and postsecularity.

    From 2018 to 2021 Stephanie worked on the multi-disciplinary ESRC-funded project 'Life on the Breadline - Christianity, Poverty and Politics in the 21st century'.  The project examined Christian responses to UK poverty in the context of austerity.  It combined ethnography with interviews of national church leaders and an online survey with regional church leaders.  For more information, visit

    Stephanie completed her PhD in Human Geography at the University of Bristol in 2018.  Her PhD research examined Christian responses to holiday hunger through establishing a running a project with the national charity 'MakeLunch' to question how people are motivated by their faith to volunteer, and how they persist in volunteering.  Prior to this, Stephanie completed the MSc Human Geography: Society and Space at the University of Bristol.

    PhD Project

    My PhD research at the University of Bristol was within social and cultural geography, exploring faith-based social action. Using participatory methodologies I established and ran a project through the national charity MakeLunch to tackle children’s holiday hunger. Capturing volunteers’ experiences in diaries and interviews I explored how volunteers are motivated to act in a faith context, and to continue volunteering. I under-took this analysis through the philosophies of affective geographies to see how people’s capacities to act are impacted upon by past action. The research concluded that Christian faith can motivate action, but motivations must be continually re-ignited to avoid in-action. The research contributed to the geographies of religion in understanding the role of religion in people’s daily lives and in society, and to an affect theory approach for faith-based research. Finally the research contributed to the voluntary sector for understanding how people persist in volunteering.

    Education/Academic qualification

    Human Geography, Doctorate, Faith, Volunteering and Holiday Hunger: Questioning Action and Persistence through Affect Theory, University of Bristol


    Human Geography, MSc, MSc Human Geography: Society and Space


    Geography, Degree, BSc Geography, University of Birmingham



    • G Geography (General)
    • BR Christianity
    • H Social Sciences (General)


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