Social and Solidarity Economy and Urban Regeneration
As poverty, exclusion and segregation become a more significant feature of the urban age, this programme of research explores the potential of the Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) as an alternative site of community mobilisation and inclusive development. The SSE is, like the private economy, an assemblage of firms (social enterprises and cooperatives); social entrepreneurs; intermediaries (business support, research, capacity building); social finance; and advocacy networks operating at a national and global level. The value of the research is that it addresses these elements, their limitations and how they work together to create a distinctive approach to urban regeneration and community-based planning. For example, Murtagh (PI) was commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation to lead a review of Community Asset Transfer in Northern Ireland, which showed the social, economic and environmental impact of schemes, but also stressed the need for a stronger regulatory environment (asset transfer legislation, capital investment and skills) to sustain and scale these outcomes.
Brendan Murtagh and Andrew Grounds were PI and CI respectively on Social Economics and Ethical Development (Social Investment Fund; 2015-19), which delivered the North Belfast Ethical Investment (NBEI) programme to support asset-based local economic development. This is a partnership between the university and the social enterprise LEDCOM to use a range of research methods (market analysis, global best practice, social value measures and impact evaluation) to scale the social economy in the inner-city. The research informed a three-stage investment programme with small, medium and large grants, together with technical support to develop particular sectors. This prioritised, for example, community heritage including a significant support for a tourism initiative by the Belfast Charitable Society. Using research to help create viable community businesses with a strong social impact is being taken forward by Murtagh (PI) and Linda Fox-Rogers (CI) via a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with ACDL (Innovate UK, 2019-21). The project aims to commercialise services; develop procurement capacity; strengthen social value measurement; and create an open-source toolkit with technical resources to help social enterprises access the competitive tender market.
Impact of Research
The research had direct effects on investment decisions of charities, donors and government agencies. The US Donor, The Atlantic Philanthropies used the research to develop the Social Economy Ageing Programme, which led to an investment of £2,24m that created capital investment of £500,000 in Charity Bank; an Investment-readiness programme for NGOs; Intermediary Labour Market for Older People; a social enterprise Handy-Van project for older people living at home; Time Bank volunteering for older people; and a social enterprise start-up programme. The research team at QUB partnered with the leading social enterprise LEDCOM in a three-year action research project to develop the social economy in the inner-city. The project helped to scope and develop key sectors such as heritage based tourism, textiles and property development; support individual businesses to exploit specific market opportunities; provide technical assistance to help ‘translate’ research for organisational planning, campaigning and networking; transfer best practice from other countries; build an advocacy evidence base (for policy support, legislation and finance); and develop and apply local economy multiplier methods to better evaluate community businesses. The KTP with Ashton Trust has now diversified their income stream away from grants towards commercial contracts, especially via procurement tenders. The KTP was given a ‘Grade A - Outstanding’ assessment and has been nominated by the university for the Times Higher Education Award for Community Contribution; and the KTP Award for Social Impact 2021.
Major grants and funding
Murtagh (PI) Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) A Review of Community Asset Transfer (CAT, 2011-12).
Murtagh (PI) Housing Executive and Asset Transfer and Social Housing: Building on Delivery (NIHE, 2011-12, Murtagh PI).
Murtagh (PI) Alternative Economics and Social Inclusion (The Executive Office of the First and Deputy First Ministers for NI), TEO, 2011-14).
Murtagh (PI) The Age Sector in NI (Atlantic Philanthropies, 2004-09).
Murtagh (PI) Sustaining Models of Practice (Atlantic Philanthropies, 2014-18, Murtagh PI).
Murtagh (CI) Healthy Urban Living and Ageing in Place (HULAP), which was a joint project between Belfast and Curitiba, Brazil (ESRC-Newton Fund, 2016-19).
Murtagh (PI) Social Economics and Ethical Development (Social Investment Fund; 2015-19).
Murtagh (PI) Fox-Rogers (CI) Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with Ashton Trust on diversifying social enterprises (Innovate UK, 2019-21).
Murtagh (CI) Post-Conflict Transition and Urban Crises, led by the University of Uppsala (Swedish Research Council, 2020-24).
Murtagh (CI) Developing system-oriented interventions to reduce car dependency for improved population health in Belfast, (Hunter, R., [PI] Barry, J., Garcia, L., Kee, F., Longo, A., McKeown, G.).
Recent papers published by the Research group:
Murtagh, B. (2019) Social Economics and the Solidarity City, London, Routledge. ISBN 9781138122215.
Murtagh, B. (2015) Community asset transfer in Northern Ireland, Policy and Politics, 43(2), 221–237. https://doi.org/10.1332/030557312X655837
Murtagh, B. and McFerran, K. (2015) Adaptive utilitarianism, social enterprises and urban regeneration, Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, 33(6), 1585-1599. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0263774X15614151
Murtagh, B. and Boland, P. (2019) Community asset transfer and strategies of local accumulation, Social and Cultural Geography, 20(1), 4-23.
Murtagh, B. (2017) Ageing and the social economy, Social Enterprise Journal, 13(3), 216-233. https://doi.org/10.1108/SEJ-02-2017-0009
Murtagh, B., Grounds, A., Boland, P. and Fox-Rogers, L. (2020) Social economics, poverty and violence after peace, Third World Thematics: A TWQ Journal, 4(2-3), 220-238. https://doi.org/10.1080/23802014.2019.1674184
LEAD PROJECT INVESTIGATOR Brendan Murtagh is Professor of Urban Planning at Queen's University Belfast. He has researched and written widely on urban regeneration, conflict and community participation. His recent books include, The Politics of Territory, Segregation, Violence and the City, Understanding The Social Economy and the Third Sector and Social Economics and the Solidarity City.
Sustainable Development Goals
The social economy approach to SDG 11 captures the idea of transitions and how the environment, economy and social future of vulnerable places can be managed in more just and inclusive ways. The role of the social economy in poverty reduction (SDG 1) and urban regeneration is taken forward by an Innovate UK funded KTP (Knowledge Transfer Partnership) to strengthen the sector as a driver of economic inclusion and labour market integration. This is based on an ongoing research project on inner-city regeneration and ethical development, supported by the Social Investment Fund. Linked with SDG 16 on peace and security we recently received funding from the Swedish Research Council, which looks at the economics of violence in post-war cities.