ESRC-WRDTP Scholarship – Applications Now Open!

We are delighted to announce that we have been awarded an ESRC-WRDTP Collaborative Award for a research project entitled:

Evaluating the Social Value of Innovative Finance – A Case Study of Community Municipal Bonds“.

Recent collaborative research by Dr Mark Davis and Abundance Investment tested the technical, financial and legal feasibility of investment-based crowdfunding as a new model of finance for the public sector (Davis and Cartwright, 2019).


This research led to the co-creation with local authorities of Community Municipal Bonds (CMBs) as a new model of finance designed to enhance the fundraising power of local authorities to meet the urgent societal and environmental challenges we face: from decarbonising the economy and building better social housing through to enhancing the provision of health and social care.

Based on ONS and HMRC data, for example, citizens within Leeds are estimated to hold a staggering £15 billion of cash and investments in poorly-performing and opaque products offered by mainstream banks. Redirecting just a small and appropriate portion of this money back into the local community via CMBs to finance projects that benefit the local community could transform local economies and generate high levels of social and/or environmental value.

But will it work in this way, for whom and in which circumstances?

With several CMBs being launched by local authorities across the UK during 2020, we need to evaluate their impact in order to see if and how they contribute to realising better social and environmental outcomes.

Exploring the experiences of multiple stakeholders in this process, including who chooses to invest and why, will be key to assessing the ways in which social value is created or not via this new model of public sector finance.

The Project

Beginning in October 2020 and open to UK/EU applicants, the project begins in year one by establishing a baseline understanding of motivations with unprecedented access to a unique anonymised dataset of 6000 investors via the Abundance platform, known to facilitate investment in socially and environmentally responsible projects.

Alongside desk research – economic sociology, social studies of finance, social and public policy, ecological economics – analysis and coding of this anonymised data will test theories and conceptualisations of investor motivations and social value in existing literature.

In year two, the project applies qualitative research methods (e.g. interviews, focus groups, ethnographic techniques) to evaluate the impact of CMBs as they are introduced in at least three communities. Exploring who invests and why, and assessing the ways in which social value is created or not via CMBs, will make a valuable contribution to social science research addressing the crucial challenge of ensuring the sustainable delivery of local public services in times of austerity.

The final year will involve completion of the thesis writing process and working with the supervisors – Dr Mark Davis and Dr Katy Wright – to build / enhance a publications record in high-impact journals.

Work Placements

As an ESRC-WRDTP Collaborative Award, the successful candidate will benefit from broader professional development opportunities via two non-paid work placements provided by Abundance (up to 4 weeks in year one; up to 6 weeks in year two). Abundance will cover the travel, subsistence and accommodation expenses associated with the non-paid placements so they incur no additional costs to the candidate.

How to Apply

Full details about the project and how to apply for this fantastic opportunity to study for a PhD in a way that embeds an impact pathway from the start can be found by clicking here.

The Application deadline is: Friday 13 March 2020. Interviews will be held in late-March.

For further queries about how to apply, please contact the Graduate School Office:
e:; t: +44 (0)113 343 38056

For further information about the project, please contact Dr Mark Davis – e: