So what is PUrSI all about?

We want to understand the process of social innovation in European cities, and particularly how social innovation affects and is affected by urban politics and governance at a time when economic austerity has dominated European policy-making.

  • Innovation – The development of new products, processes, ideas and organisational forms. Everything from the wheel to the smartphone and from settled agriculture to the welfare state began as an innovation.
  • Social innovation – Innovation with a social purpose, and not for purely commercial or private economic ends. Voluntary blood donation, community gardens, credit unions, housing co-ops, and self-organised patient support groups are all examples of social innovations.
  • Urban Social Innovation – Social innovation that derives from urban conditions and/or seeks to improve urban life
  • Politics of Urban Social Innovation – Who gains from urban social innovation? Who (if anyone) loses? How does social innovation affect power relations between different social groups in cities? How does social innovation influence wider political change?
  • Governance of Urban Social Innovation – How is urban social innovation organised and supported? How is it regulated? Which institutions are involved in promoting or inhibiting it?
  • Austerity (narrow definition) – A policy of restricting public expenditure in order to reduce government financial deficits.
  • Austerity (broader definition) – Cultures and practices of frugality and thrift which may affect businesses, civic associations, households, and personal behaviour, as well as government expenditure.

To investigate the politics and governance of urban social innovation in austerity, PUrSI researchers are studying three aspects of social innovation: generating resources through alternative finance, harnessing energy through grassroots mobilisation, and meeting needs through community provision. We are looking at these aspects in three European cities with contrasting experiences of austerity: Athens (Greece), Berlin (Germany), and Newcastle upon Tyne (UK).