Financial Innovation Today: Towards Economic Resilience (FITTER)
Years of global financial turmoil have thrown open major questions around mainstream banking, lending and the international money markets. One response has been the emergence of “democratic finance” models such as crowdfunding, peer-to-peer lending and community debenture schemes. Some suggest that these can be inclusive instruments of social change, delivering the power of money back to the public and their local communities. But do these schemes work? If so, how and for whom? And how does the vision driving the entrepreneurs and activists making them happen match up with what is already known about local economic resilience and community development?
The FITTER project report was launched at Leeds Town Hall on Thursday 22nd September.
The authors also wrote an article for New Start magazine summarising key points for local economic development practitioners, which can be downloaded from the New Start website.
The FITTER project will provide the UK’s first sociologically-informed analysis of alternative finance, with specific regard to economic resilience. The aim is to generate knowledge, and use this to facilitate an evidence-based and principled debate across the academic, business, civil society and public sectors. One longer term outcome could be a local economic resilience code of practice for alternative finance, and our research will aim to contribute suggestions as to what such a code might include.
The research process will involve interview with those in the alternative finance sector, to gain an understanding of the motives of alternative finance companies, especially their social, economic and ethical positions. We are interested in how they see the relationship between their activities and their social impact.
We will compare this with wider evidence on the alternative finance movement, in order to assess how far democratic finance models are successful in achieving their social, economic and ethical aims. We will synthesise this evidence with our existing work on community resilience in order to test the viability and desirability of these models for building local economic resilience.
The final research stage will be to draw out insights and examples of good practice from this synthesis, to evaluate the current impact of democratic finance models – and their potential for the future.
We will then disseminate our findings to a wide range of audiences. We will provide
- an Intelligence Report in the Friends Provident Foundation series;
- a stakeholder event to be held in Leeds on 22nd September 2016;
- and academic papers in relevant journals.
Mark’s primary research focus is in the sociology of money, markets and morality with a particular focus upon the social consequences of consumerism, financialisation and marketisation in heavily-indebted neoliberal societies. He is interested in the capture and translation of the social world by economic interests, specifically how human freedom is reduced to market choice and how extreme levels of indebtedness are reconciled with the challenge of creating fairer, more resilient, and more sustainable societies around the world. As a result, Mark is engaged directly with the alternative finance movement in the UK, both in terms of developing innovative forms of lending and borrowing (P2P Finance, crowdfunding, community shares) to disrupt conventional economic behaviours, and in terms of evaluating the social impact of different models for funding large scale renewable energy developments.
Tim is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Bauman Institute, University of Leeds. He is currently working with Mark Davis on the “Financial Innovation Today: Towards Economic Resilience” (FITTER) project, funded by the Friends Provident Foundation. The project explores the potential for new forms of technology-enabled “democratic finance” to contribute to local economic resilience, using qualitative interviews and case studies in combination with qualitative and quantitative data and literature. It builds on Tim’s doctoral research on power, community and Scottish community land ownership, and his broader interests in collective action, democratic power and resources. Tim has previously worked at the University of the Highlands and Islands, the Overseas Development Institute and Leeds Beckett University, with clients including Mackay Country community development initiative, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the Scottish Government, DFID, UNICEF and the World Bank.