Heseltine Seminar Series: social innovation
Matthew Thompson talks about a different kind of innovation in the Liverpool City Region and what that means for the local economy and social empowerment.
‘Innovation’ has become perhaps the buzzword in local economic development policy. Associated with a very narrow set of neoliberal ideas around market competitiveness, conventional notions of innovation may promise high productivity and technological progress but don’t fundamentally change the rules of the game. Drawing on anthropologist David Graeber’s recent work on bureaucracy, rules, games and play, this seminar discusses the role of play in the development of more socially transformative innovation – reimagined as collective playful experimentation, geared towards social empowerment. This is illustrated through a case study of Liverpool, contrasting conventional market-led policies with more experimental, creative, democratic, and potentially effective social innovation, including the Turner Prize-winning Granby Four Streets Community Land Trust. Can lessons learned from such playful experiments be incorporated into urban regeneration policy – or, as Graeber seems to imply, is the very notion of play resistant to regulatory replication?
Matthew Thompson is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Heseltine Institute, researching the scale and scope of the social economy in the Liverpool City Region. He completed his PhD on Liverpool’s history of collective housing alternatives at the University of Manchester in 2015, and since worked in the Liverpool City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), where he contributed to the formulation of local economic development policy.