The Social Life of Money (2011 – 2013)

Some of the greatest economic innovations came from sociologists…

This project is currently our key priority. The Bauman Institute is right now at the forefront of this exciting area of research, providing academic expertise and leadership, established private sector partners and influence inside government. We want to build upon these established credentials to make Leeds the centre of excellence in ‘social life of money’ research.

Research Questions

  • What is ‘democratic finance’ and how can it make a major contribution to global society?
  • How has new technology and social media radically altered our understanding and use of money?
  • What implications does this have for financial innovation?
  • What type of financial world do we want to leave for our children?
  • And why is Leeds the best place to carry out this research?

Research Context

Increasing access to and use of the Internet, Social Media and Smartphones means we are rapidly moving away from a ‘coins and notes’ economy to one that features evermore ‘digital transactions’, and this is changing both our understanding and use of money in everyday life.

Using the unique insights of Zygmunt Bauman, Leeds’ first Professor of Sociology, in 2005 a team of researchers launched the world’s first peer-2-peer money lending platform, www.zopa.com

Based entirely upon trust between lenders and borrowers, as of April 2013 www.zopa.com had lent £300m in the UK and shown that conventional banking institutions and practices are open to significant challenge, as are the orthodox economic principles that drive their understanding of consumer behaviour.

The next stage in this Bauman-inspired economic revolution is ‘democratic finance’, which seeks to harness the new social and technological connectivity of individuals, typically through ‘communities of interest’, community-owned assets, or ‘crowd-funding’.

Through investing in our ‘social life of money’ project, we can make Leeds the centre of excellence in this area of research in order to drive institutional innovation and create a fairer financial world for all.

Why Leeds?

The Bauman Institute is already the global centre of expertise in the sociological ideas of Zygmunt Bauman

We have been consulted by the UK government (i.e. on the issues of the ‘Green Investment’ and ‘Big Society’ Banks), the Council of Europe and the European Commission, and so we have in place established networks of influence amongst key policy-makers and opinion-leaders.

We also enjoy close partnerships with the business community, specifically ‘democratic finance’ companies and the UK Crowdfunding Association (UKCFA).

In other words, the Bauman Institute has the ‘golden triangle’ of research impact: academic expertise and leadership, influence within UK Government networks, and established private sector partners.

What will we do with your investment?

We are looking to build capacity for this project with investment in up to three PhD students.

Whilst learning to become an independent social researcher, across their three years of study the PhD student(s) will:

  • Become an academic expert in the sociology of money, exploring new modes of economic thinking
  • Design and conduct research into the understanding, experience and usage of money in everyday life
  • Identify knowledge and expertise gaps that lock individuals and families into habitual patterns of consumption and investment
  • Contribute to a new understanding of ‘money’ in everyday life
  • Produce a world-class doctorate and communicate findings to government, business and academics

Other universities are slowly catching up, but with your help the innovative work being started at the Bauman Institute will ensure that it is the University of Leeds that becomes the global centre of excellence in this innovative area of social and economic research.