Darren is a Senior Research Fellow and Deputy Director of the Institute for Connected Communities (ICC) based at the University of East London (UEL) and holds a UCL Policy Fellowship with Capabilities in Academic Policy Engagement (CAPE). CAPE is a knowledge exchange and research project that explores how to support effective and sustained engagement between academics and policy professionals across the higher education sector. His expertise includes participatory research with children, young people and vulnerable adults to help interpret, inform and influence policy and practice in public care. During his time at UEL he also worked as a Senior Consultant at the Institute of Public Care, Oxford Brookes University supporting Local Authority Directors to tackle the social care challenges facing children, young people and families.
Darren is a social scientist with over 25 years' experience in applied research to promote health, wellbeing and citizenship to help reduce social inequalities. In recognition of his work, Darren received the UEL VC&P Global Engagement Award and the UEL PVC for Impact and Innovation Award for Local-Global Engagement in 2021. Darren leads several COVID-19 studies investigating interventions that target the wider social determinants of health in children, young people and vulnerable adults. His research spans the entire life course, with a specific focus on service improvement and transformation. He has served as a Researcher-in-Residence in public and third sector organisations in order to co-produced and test new social models of health and social care among underserved communities. Examples include the Tower Hamlets Communities Driving Change programme, which examines how to embed community development approaches in local authorities, and the Connect Hackney Ageing Better programme which is testing a suite of community activities to reduce loneliness and social isolation amongst older people, and finally, Youth Safeguarding Network programme ran in Rwanda, Zambia, South Africa and Sierra Leone, which examines how best to unlock community assets to address the mental health and social needs of disabled and disadvantaged youth. Darren has led research, consultancy, and training on patient and public involvement in health and social care transformation, including research which has shaped the national roll-out of the NIHR sponsored Young Commissioner model.
Darren is also recognised as a world leading expert in young people's involvement in research leading to policy developments and his work features in the Guardian, Observer, Financial Times, BBC radio and Euro News and more. He is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and teaches at undergraduate and postgraduate level in Evidence Based Public Health and Co-production in Community Health. Darren's research is interdisciplinary and inter-professional, and he works with a wide range of research methods from participatory action research through to implementation science. His research has led to direct impact on policy, practice and the public through, for example, EU guidance in the use of social media to help reduce the risk of youth suicide in Europe, and integration into NICE guidelines of findings from a young commissioner’s model into a tool kit published by NHS England ('How to develop youth forums in the NHS'). He is on the editorial board on the journal of Youth Voices and has published extensively and has secured funding from national and international bodies such as NIHR, ESRC, Erasmus Plus, and British Academy as well as local health trusts and charities.