A legacy making a difference

New collection from the Richard Benjamin Trust.

Inventive and important research projects aimed at making a difference to society, and funded by the Richard Benjamin Trust, will be celebrated in a new book to mark the closing of the organisation. We spoke to one of the grantees, Dr Karen Niven, who went on to become a trustee and an editor of the book.

Richard Benjamin was born in Germany in 1921 and after the deaths of his parents in a Nazi concentration camp, and living in a Swiss refugee camp, he was left with a desire to help vulnerable people. After an uncle left him a considerable amount of money he chose to bequeath this to projects that would have important social impacts. Between 2010 and 2015 The Richard Benjamin Trust funded 50 innovative and impactful research projects in social and organisational psychology.

The Trust is now drawing to a close, and in keeping with Benjamin’s drive to make a difference, more than half of the projects have been summarised in a book that will be freely available to all. Karen Niven (Alliance Manchester Business School, University of Manchester), now a Senior Lecturer in Organisational Psychology, was helped by the Trust in the early stages of her career, with funding to research the effects of different types of hold music on aggression towards call centre employees.

Soon after completing the project Niven and the other Trust grantees were contacted to apply to become a trustee by Chair of the Trust Suzan Lewis and trustee Carolyn Kagan. They wanted to invite a researcher who had benefited from the Trust to bring an early-career perspective into the organisation’s work. Niven told us: ‘I loved the whole idea of the Trust, it’s all about making a difference and it sits so well with what I wanted to do. I was keen to be involved and was fortunate enough to be accepted and I’ve been a trustee ever since.’

Niven said her work since then has involved evaluating, and helping to fund, scores of worthy and novel research ideas. She said: ‘Richard Benjamin really believed that through psychology we could make a positive difference to society and that’s something I believe, along with the other trustees and grantees. While we could have just brought the Trust to a close, we realised a better way to celebrate our work, and make a further difference, would be to summarise some of the projects we’ve funded in a book called Making a Difference with Psychology.’

The book, which will be out this summer, also features forewords from Professor Jamie Hacker Hughes and Ralph Benjamin, Richard Benjamin’s brother. It features 28 summaries of research, including how to promote acceptance of vulnerable groups, such as LGBTQ+ people and refugees, how to tackle the early signs of compulsive internet use, and how zero-hours contracts can affect workers’ health. Niven added: ‘In keeping with the ethos of the Trust we’re creating an e-book and PDF version which will be available to freely download from www.richardbenjamintrust.co.uk.’ 

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