Mary Galvin holds an MA from Yale University and a PhD in political science from the University of California, Berkeley. She has worked as a researcher, development practitioner, and social justice activist in South Africa since 1992. During this period she established and directed two South African non-profit organisations, the Regional Consultative Forum on Rural Development and Umphilo waManzi (‘Water is Life’) as well as coordinating a national multi-stakeholder initiative, The Water Dialogues. Mary also conducted research and completed strategic assessments for a range of national and international organisations such as Oxfam, the Department of Water Affairs, and the European Union. While completing her PhD she worked for the University of KwaZulu Natal and the Human Sciences Research Council. She has been a board member of a land-rights organisation, the Association for Rural Advancement, and an environmental justice organisation, the Institute for Zero Waste in Africa, and has served as the South African-based organiser for the Council of Canadian’s Blue Planet Project.
Throughout this period, Mary conducted extensive research on development in southern Africa, which she presented national and internationally to policy makers and academic audiences. Her research has focused on citizen participation, governance and the role of civil society, local government and traditional authorities, barriers to achieving the human right to water, “innovative” approaches to sanitation, issues of rural development, debates concerning the public-private provision of services, environmental and climate justice, and community-based climate change adaptation.