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Prince of Wales Fellow in retail organisations engagement activities and community wellbeing supported by ASDA

Communities in the UK have been subject to many influences over the last decade, from policy changes (such as universal credit) to broader austerity measures, demographic trends and immigration. Not all communities are responding well to these changes, with some experiencing vulnerability and a sense of ‘being left behind’. Unequal distribution of employment, health, education and access to services has fostered tensions in parts of the UK and has become a national political concern. Simultaneously, the retail sector has faced increasing commercial pressures due to competition and changing shopping habits, which is changing the face of the ‘high street’ and altering the relationship between retailers and consumers. Addressing these challenges, this project explores the nature of community relationships and social engagement by retail organisations in the UK, with a particular focus on their effectiveness in reducing vulnerability and enhancing wellbeing.


About the project

In the context of austerity and growing inequalities between areas of relative wealth and those of increasing poverty and poor life chances, the need to better understand potential for change, and sustainable change, derived from investments in community-engaged action, is never more pressing.

This study will identify the breadth of activities fostered by retailers aimed at building community wellbeing, with a particular focus on tackling disadvantage and/or building resilience in disadvantaged communities. Through examination of existing practice, it will explore what is working for whom, under what circumstances, and why. This will be accomplished by hypothesis testing through case studies, participatory, co-design of community interventions, and systems-mapping with key stakeholders. Working in partnership with a major UK retailer and members of the public, the study will undertake ‘grassroots’ consultation to find out what resources are available in the local area, what concerns, challenges and priorities people have, and what action they would like to happen as a result.

The study contributes to an improved evidence base to support decisions about engagement and investment in community ‘activities’ and promotes a systems-thinking approach to solutions which take account of the retail sector as a partner in population health and wellbeing.

Caroline Lee, Prince of Wales Global Sustainability Fellow

Caroline  Lee, Prince of Wales Global Sustainability Fellow

Caroline Lee is the Prince of Wales Fellow in retail organisations engagement activities and community wellbeing supported by ASDA. She is a Senior Research Associate with over 20 years’ experience in project and programme evaluation and research across a variety of policy areas, including public health, mental health, employment, education, and childcare. With experience across the range of research methodologies, she favours qualitative approaches, and is interested in participatory methods.

Caroline has recently been conducting a review of on community-based initiatives in support of mental health of older adults at times of psychosocial stress; and contributing to a participatory review of community involvement in place-based decision-making. Caroline is also co-leading a realist informed case study in this region for a national project on local authorities approaches to improving public health and reducing inequalities in the context of austerity.

Other recent projects include: developing age-friendly rural communities: the contribution of local participatory planning processes; reviewing the potential of time credit systems for improving public health; supporting local commissioners in developing evaluation frameworks for a healthy communities fund; increasing attention to ethnicity and migration within public health; engaging communities in thinking about dementia risk; investigating peer support approaches to social care for older prisoners; and evaluating a creative participatory approach to research with young people attending Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.

Office Phone: +44 (0) 1223 731028


Research interests

Her research interests include addressing inequalities through preventative, sustainable, system-based and context-sensitive approaches to population health.


Before joining the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Public Health in 2011, Caroline held research positions at the University of Oxford, IPSOS MORI and ECORYS consultancies.


  • MA Social Policy, University of York. 1995. (Thesis: “The ‘Seamless’ care of older people returning from hospital into the community: reality or rhetoric?”)
  • BA (Hons) European Studies, with French and Spanish (Class 2.1) University of Hull, UK. 1994

Other affiliations

Caroline also contributes to the NIHR School for Public Health Research programmes of work on ‘public mental health’ and ‘places and communities’, through her position at Cambridge Institute of Public Health (CIPH).

Funding and awards

Cambridge Humanities Research Grants Scheme 2016: CHILL: Connected for Cognitive Health in Later Life. A Community Based Participatory Research project in Chatteris, UK (Co-PI with Dr Lafortune)


Selected Publications


  • Lee C, McGrath M, Remes O, Lafortune L. A systematic Scoping Review of the effect of community-based interventions on psychosocial stressors and mental health in older adults. (In progress) Target journal: BMC Public Health.
  • Lee C, Buckner S, Mattocks C, Oliver E, Barnes A, Lafortune L. Neighbourhood Planning, Rural Ageing and Public Health Policy. (In progress) Target journal: Planning Policy and Practice.
  • Salway S; Holman D, Lee C, McGowan V, Ben-Shlomo Y, Saxena S, Nazroo J.Transforming the health system for the UK’s multiethnic population. BMJ (Accepted for publication, January 2020)

"The Prince of Wales Global Sustainability Fellowship provides the opportunity to robustly research, and understand the potential impact of retail organisations in supporting community wellbeing, and addressing enduring inequalities between areas of the country."

Caroline Lee

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"Universities contribute to society through the creation of new knowledge and the development of new skills. It is our aspiration to do this in ways that are relevant and purposeful.

The Prince of Wales Global Sustainability Fellowship Programme, hosted by the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, will help us to do just that by allowing academics to engage productively with business, government and financial institutions for society's benefit – both in the UK and globally."

Professor Stephen Toope, Vice-Chancellor, University of Cambridge


Theo Hacking

Jake Reynolds

Contact for further inquiries about the Fellowship Programme or the application process.