Leeds Social Sciences Institute


Democratic renewal in civil society: Rethinking the local @ School of Geography, University of Leeds
Jun 28 @ 11:00 am – 5:00 pm

How can we democratise local communities?

This seminar explores some imaginative approaches to local communities and ways of organising that are contributing towards the revitalisation and renewal of democracy in civil society. These innovative experiments have been an effort to democratise the local and regional economy that challenge the orthodoxy, and provide potential ways for people and organisations to operate in a fairer way that aim to uphold values like equality, social justice and participation within their local communities.

The event also provides opportunities to learn about these innovative approaches and how they might be used by civil society organisations, local authorities and communities.


Speakers include Councillor Matthew Brown (Preston City Council), Professor Paul Chatterton (University of Leeds), and Dr Mary Hodgson (Young Foundation).

A range of other speakers will take part in the seminar who are attempting to contribute towards this new way of organising the economy more democratically.

In previous ESRC seminars there has been roughly a 50/50 split with academics and practitioners in attendance and we wish to continue this trend so that we can have more interesting and rewarding discussion and debate.

As well as having a range of speakers we will spend time in groups exploring issues, concentrating on present and future alternatives that can contribute towards democratic renewal civil society.


10.30 – Arrival and refreshments

11.00 – Welcome, and context for the seminar – Martyn Griffin, Leeds University

11.10 – Prof. Paul Chatterton

11.40 – Response and Q&A

12.00 – Lilac (or related co-op)

12.30 – Response and Q&A

12.45 – Lunch

13.30 –  Mary Hodgson, Young Lives Foundation (on their work with Mondragon)

14.00 – Response and Q&A

14.20 – Councillor Matthew Brown, Preston Council (on their co-operatives initiative)

14.50 – TBC co-operative from the Preston Council initiative

15.10 – Response and Q&A

15.30 – Tea break

15.45 – Breakout group discussions – ‘Question TBC on how cities can contribute towards the spread of co-operatives and alternative democratic economies?’

16.00 – Report back from groups

16.30 – Summaries and close


To book a free place please click here.

The event is sponsored by the ESRC and includes refreshments.

Speakers biographies

Councillor Matthew Brown (Preston City Council) has helped pioneer Community Wealth Building in Preston and Lancashire using a number of levers to retain and democratise wealth in the local economy. The interest generated in ‘The Preston Model’ has been acknowledged by The Labour Party and Cooperative Party nationally, with Birmingham, Ealing and a number of EU cities beginning to embrace similar strategies. A key feature has been to engage placed based public and quasi-public “anchor institutions” to increase spend on goods and services in the local economy including plans to create new worker led cooperatives. Credit union expansion, community banking, localised pension fund investment, energy democracy and employee ownership also contribute to a long-term strategy for system change at a local level.

Professor Paul Chatterton (University of Leeds) is a writer, researcher and campaigner. He is Professor of Urban Futures in the School of Geography where he co-founded the ‘Cities and Social Justice’ Research Cluster and MA in ‘Activism and Social Change’. He is currently Director of the University’s Sustainable Cities Group. He is co-founder of the public charity ‘Antipode’ dedicated to research and scholarship in radical geography and an associate editor of the journal ‘City’. Paul is also co-founder, first secretary and resident of the pioneering and award winning Leeds based low impact housing co-operative Lilac.

Dr Mary Hodgson (Young Foundation) is a trained anthropologist and experienced mixed methods researcher who has specialised in running innovative and impactful research projects in the academic, public and voluntary charity sectors. She joined The Young Foundation as its Head of Ethnography in Summer 2015, joining to develop its ethnographic focus and expertise. Recent projects include: the use of action-research to understand more about community action and innovative practice in different places across the UK as part of our place-based programmes; the use of organisational ethnography to understand narratives, values and practices with Mondragon, the world’s largest industrial cooperative; as well as employing ethnographic methods to understand community viewpoints and experiences of complexity in cities.


Automation, employment and inequality @ Shine
Jul 6 @ 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm

This participatory workshop will discuss the impact of innovation and automation on employment and inequality on local communities.

The event, which has been organised by the Young Foundation and the Science Policy Research Unit, will consider what impact automation is having on jobs; what this means for young people and geographic inequality; and how this can be addressed.

Further information

For further information and to register, please visit the workshop’s Eventbrite page.


Future of public parks, policy, practice and research conference @ British Academy
Jul 13 all-day

This one-day national conference draws together innovative thinking and learning from policy, practice and research on ways to maximise the value of parks as public assets in the twenty-first century.

It will create opportunities for dialogue, learning and exploration of important questions, issues and challenges that cut across all models of park management whether local authorities, trusts, charities or private sector. These include questions about health and well-being, social and educational use, community involvement and strategies for generating income.

The event will provide a timely opportunity to foster a research-informed, policy and practice-orientated dialogue about urban park futures and offers a platform for advancing public debate in light of the findings and recommendations of the Communities and Local Government Select Committee Inquiry.

It seeks to promote discussion of what parks might become and how their value can be maximised in the context of changing dynamics of urbanisation, conditions of fiscal restraint, inequalities in health and well-being, growing social and cultural diversity of park users, and other future demands on urban green spaces. The conference will be of interest to policy-makers, practitioners, researchers, local authorities, the voluntary sector, think tanks, and government.

This conference has been sponsored by Leeds Social Sciences Institute and idVerde, with support from The Parks Alliance, Groundwork and Historic England.

Further information

For further information and registration details please visit the conference website.

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