I was born in Romania in a Transylvanian mining town and moved to Bucharest for my first degree in economics when I was 18 and then to Oxford for my DPhil when I was 23. When I moved to Oxford I was very fortunate to be supervised by a sociologist, Prof. Keith Grint, who luckily for me, worked in a management school. His passion for philosophy and critical theory quickly rubbed on to me. I left behind my initial economics paradigm and never looked back. The second chance encounter was in 2010 with Sue Moffat, the Director of New Vic Borderlines, the outreach department of the New Vic Theatre. She rekindled my passion for the theatre and the arts.
My current research fuses arts based methodologies with an American Pragmatist strand of philosophy. In collaboration with Sue Moffat, we developed a new methodology of community engagement and knowledge co-production entitled Cultural Animation. The methodology promotes critical reflection, creative engagement, democratic relations and collective action to solve practical problems. We used this methodology on over 15 research projects funded by the AHRC, EPSRC, ESRC, HEFCE and Leverhulme on topics such as volunteering, communities in crisis, community asset mapping, health in the community, food poverty, market place exclusion and disability. It is now used by many colleagues in the UK and abroad. Apart from academic papers, the outcomes of my research consist of documental dramas, interactive installations and exhibitions, and computer games.
In 2015 I founded a new research centre at Keele that welcomed community members as equal partners in the conversation of research. Community Animation and Social Animation Centre-CASIC has over 60 academics and over 40 community members ranging from national umbrella organisations and NGOs to individual members from our community. It is a grassroots research centre that promotes creativity and democratic dialogue across disciplines and with multiple parties in an attempt to build capacity for community centred solutions to local and global issues.