Auriol Miller was conferred to the Fellowship of the Academy in autumn 2023. She is Director of the Institute of Welsh Affairs (IWA), Wales’ leading independent think tank. A graduate of Somerville College, Oxford, Auriol holds a Masters in Development Studies from SOAS at the University of London.
Before joining the IWA in late 2016, Auriol ran Cymorth Cymru, the umbrella body for providers of homelessness, housing-related support and social care services in Wales. Prior to then, she worked in international humanitarian response and sustainable development for 20 years, including leading non-governmental organisations in Burundi, DR Congo, Sudan and Russia where her roles involved influencing national governments on policy and practice, with a clear focus on the protection of the rights of vulnerable and excluded people.
Now Director at the IWA, Auriol has focussed on opening up the IWA beyond its traditional reach. The organisation aims to inspire Wales’ ambition: supporting better policy making and better economic and democratic outcomes for the people of Wales. It has shown how Wales could be powered by renewables by 2035, with economic benefits retained in Wales; trained hundreds of people in how devolved policy making works in theory and in practice; and contributed to strengthening democratic engagement and accountability. As part of her role, Auriol has served on advisory groups for a number of public bodies at a UK and Wales level, and is currently a member of the Expert Panel on the Independent Commission on the Constitutional Future of Wales.
Why do the social sciences matter?
The world is changing all around us all the time. Taking the time to notice what is happening, why, and thinking through the implications of public policy choices is essential, particularly if we want to build a more resilient economic future, support people to be democratically engaged and protect our environment. Social science is intrinsic to this: how we capture, analyse, interpret and communicate what we discover through our research helps shape our world.
What inspires you about your work?
At the IWA, I have the great privilege of meeting a wide variety of people who are committed to shaping a better future for Wales’ people: from young co-creators working on participatory ways to engage other young people in our democracy, and long-time community champions steeped in local action to revitalise their high streets, to economists who can deconstruct the numbers and clearly communicate the thread of what is happening, and media specialists devoted to making sure that Wales’ broadcast output reflects a modern Wales. I’m inspired by their dedication to improving our shared future. What the IWA does is hold a politically independent space for these different conversations to take place, to challenge decision makers and to create new possibilities by working together across sectoral boundaries.
What is the most urgent issue social scientists need to tackle today and within the next three years?
In Wales, one of the most urgent issues is how we transition to a green economic future, ensuring that people across the nation have the right skills to contribute to and benefit from the economic opportunities ahead, minimising our carbon emissions, adapting to climate change and protecting our environment.
What does being a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences mean to you?
As a practitioner, I am humbled to be elected to join such a fantastic group of researchers and scholars around the world. I look forward to supporting the work of the Academy as we seek to contribute to a brighter future for us all.