Management Seminars: Malu Villela (University of Bristol)
Malu Villela (University of Bristol)
1.01 Howard House
Title: Bristol tales and the search for a common language to an inclusive and sustainable city economy
Bristol has been cited as one of the strongest mid-size city economies in Europe but it is also one of the most unequal cities in the UK, commonly referred to as a ‘tale of two cities’. In this context, it is notable that the city is one of the UK’s first Social Enterprise Cities and according to Social Enterprise UK has “always had a strong sense of ethics, a solid approach to business and a creative approach to economic and civic development”. Austerity and public cuts have been putting pressure on cities to deal with issues of deprivation, inequality and climate change in more collaborative and collective ways. Institutional actors such as local governments and universities are being asked to reinvent themselves in order to better engage with formal and informal networks, businesses and hybrid organisations in the city towards tackling city-related challenges. Hybrid organisations seeking to address social and/or environmental issues while also engaging in income generation often have the ‘social enterprise’ as their ideal type. The definition of a social enterprise, however, is contested and, in the UK, is seen as part of a wider ecosystem of alternative organisations, which includes co-operatives, partnerships, mutuals, community interest companies, community businesses, third sector organisations, among others. The local dynamics of formal and informal networks, as well as the emerging new roles of local institutional actors, are crucial to understanding how alternative organisations can foster a new economy at the local level. This research engages with this context and employs an ecosystemic lens to understand how an inclusive and sustainable collaborative economy can thrive in Bristol. Our research suggests that although there is some overlap in purpose and visions for the city among its key networks, there are also what might be termed as cross-thematic gaps, such as the loose connection between social, economic and environmental goals and the lack of interaction between the groups working with inclusion and sustainability. We argue that this might ultimately defy the achievement of a coordinated approach to tackle the city challenges and goals.