Dr Patricia Turner: Biography

Dr Patricia Turner: Biography

Dr Patricia Turner is an academic, philanthropy practitioner and co-founder of the Turner Kirk Trust.

Patricia’s approach to philanthropic giving builds on her 30-year-long academic career. She is a firm believer that charitable giving should be underpinned by robust academic research, and it is this approach that has guided her work. Throughout her career, Patricia has led initiatives at the intersection of sustainability, economic development and poverty alleviation that seek to set global standards for effective, evidence-based philanthropy in the developing world.

Conservation & biodiversity

Through the Trust, Patricia has founded and supported a number of initiatives focused on wildlife and environmental conservation, which have pioneered collaborative approaches to biodiversity loss, drawing upon inter-governmental dialogue, interdisciplinary academic research, and in-field implementation by NGOs.

In 2019, Patricia founded the Turner Fellowship Programme at the Cambridge Conservation Initiative (CCI). Founded through a £250,000 gift from the Turner Kirk Trust, the Research Fellowship brings world-class practitioners from academia, law, politics and NGOs to the University of Cambridge for a three-month research residency. Patricia supports Research Fellows with the potential to positively impact global public policy discussions around biodiversity.

The Turner Fellowship Programme builds on a similar scheme launched at the University of Oxford in 2013. The Trust established the Turner-Kirk Fellowship Programme within Oxford’s Department of Zoology through a £500,000 gift, which supported a wide spectrum of research projects across Africa and South-East Asia. The Programme supported research not only focused narrowly on understanding and addressing conservation problems, but also on how to effectively explain the importance of biodiversity, engage local communities in conservation projects, and implement long-term solutions.

Early childhood development 

Prior to founding the Trust, Patricia spent two decades in academic research, initially focusing on behavioural sciences and subsequently on social, emotional and cognitive development in early childhood. This research informed her view that philanthropic efforts in the early childhood development (ECD) space are one of the most beneficial and cost-effective investments in human capital.

Since 2015, Patricia has supported a number of initiatives that seek to ensure that the healthy cognitive, social and emotional development of young children becomes the responsibility of every government, organisation, community, family and individual. Working in collaboration with the philanthropy division of a global foundation, these projects have pioneered evidence-led early intervention projects to support the emotional and physical development of young children in the developing world. As part of this work, Patricia donated £250,000 to a global charitable initiative focused on childhood nutrition, as well as a gift of £200,000 to another programme working to eliminate orphanage-based care. In addition, she also provided £280,000 to a scheme providing crucial postnatal care to new mothers and infants in the developing world.

In recognition of her work in philanthropy, she was elected to the Vice-Chancellor’s Inner Circles at both the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford.