Dr Mark Davis

Dr Mark Davis


I am economic sociologist with significant experience of working in inter-disciplinary spaces on a range of issues relating to social, environmental and economic sustainability.

For the last decade, I have focused especially on evaluating the efficacy of sustainable consumption for addressing both financial and climate crises and have concluded that there is a pressing need to do different things with our money ‘beyond spending’. A social theorist by training, I specialize in engaged, impact-oriented research that has: changed regulation in the UK’s crowdfunding markets to enhance investor protection; co-created with industy and local authorities a new Community Municipal Investment (CMI) structure to fund a pipeline of projects to deliver on local Climate Emergency strategies; and contributed to the effective design of new prosumer business models to secure the active participation of citizens in Europe’s green energy transition.

I have helped to secure significant external research funding with grants from EC Horizon 2020, EC Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions, the UK Government (DCMS/GIEU), Charitable Trusts (Friends Provident Foundation), and conducted indepedent social impact research for industry (Tidal Lagoon Power Ltd). I have published in leading international journals across the social sciences, specifically in sociology and energy research. 

Beyond Leeds, I am a member of the Editorial Board of the journal Sociology, a member of the Advisory Group for the Friends Provident Foundation’s ‘Fair Economy’ grant programme, and external examiner for the MAs in International Development, International Political Economy, and Political Strategy and Communication at the Brussels School of International Studies. I was an Expert Advisor to the Council of Europe (2008-2011), working intermittently in Paris and Strasbourg to co-create the Charter of Shared Social Responsibilities. I have also worked as a consultant to UK think tanks and civil society groups, including CompassFinance Innovation Lab, FinTech North, and New Economics Foundation. I enjoy the public engagement aspect of my work, being a regular panellist at the Leeds Salon, and have communicated my research via regional radio and to the press (RSA, FT Adviser and Discover Society).

My academic leadership roles at Leeds have included founding and directing the Bauman Institute research centre (2010-present), directing the Building Sustainable Societies Transformation Fund project (2013-2016), working on the Steering Group of the Leeds Social Sciences Institute, being Admissions Tutor for the School of Sociology and Social Policy (2015-2018), and designing and leading the flagship MA Social and Political Thought programme (2010-2016).


  • 2018-2021: WP4 Co-Lead - PROSEU research project (Horizon 2020)
  • 2017-2020: PI - Financing for Society research project (UK Govt.)
  • 2010-present: Founding Director of the Bauman Institute

Research interests

My recent and current research examines the case for repurposing money for people and planet in the light of both financial and climate crises. In particular, since our relationship to money and markets is relational and not rational, I am interested in the role that empowered municipalities can play in providing ‘place-based’ citizen-led solutions to these urgent challenges:

  • What we do with our money matters. How and where we decide to spend, borrow, save, and invest makes a material difference to the type of social world that we are creating for ourselves and for future generations. If we want a radically different world to the one that we see around us – if we want the world to be fairer, more equitable, and more sustainable – then we are going to have to do radically different things with our money;
  • My work draws upon the sociology of our late Emeritus Professor Zygmunt Bauman, but extends it in a new direction via insights from economic sociology – specifically the ‘relational’ approach pioneered by Viviana A. Zelizer, and variously expressed in the work of Lisa Adkins, Nina Bandelj, Nigel Dodd, Mariana Mazzucato, Mary Mellor, and Anne Pettifor – in order to challenge orthodox theories of how people understand and use their money in apparently ‘rational’ ways;
  • Municipalities are on the front line of these crises and urgently need new ways to mobilise finance and to engage citizens in a mission-oriented civic response to deliver the projects our communities need;
  • In evaluating the potential suitability of investment-based crowdfunding as a new model of public finance for the public sector, my research co-created a new Community Municipal Investment (CMI) structure that offers local residents the opportunity to move their money out of poorly performing high-street savings and investment products and into a ‘place-based’ community bond, which provides both a stable financial return (annuity) and the transparent funding of social and environmental projects in local communities.

This inter-disciplinary research agenda has been supported by the following grants:

2018-2021 EU Horizon 2020 Research & Innovation Actions (Social Sciences and Humanities Support for the Energy Union)

2018 UK Government Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS)

2017-2018 Horizon 2020 / Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions (Individual Fellowship)

2015-2016 Friends Provident Foundation

2015 Energy Systems Catapult Ltd

2014 Tidal Lagoon Power Ltd

2012 Tidal Lagoon Power Ltd

  • (PI) Social Impacts of Local Energy Developments (SLED): A case study of Tidal Lagoon Swansea Bay (with Dr Katy Wright, 24 months), Value: £97,000.00
<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://essl.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • PhD Sociology and Social Theory
  • MA Sociology
  • BA (Hons) Social Science

Student education

I contribute to different courses across a range of areas relating to my research: consumerism; capitalism, democracy and global finance; economic sociology; modern sociological theory; philosophy of social science; and political economy. I am currently supervising a number of PhD and MA student projects. I have supervised 5 PhD students to successful completion and have examined 5 PhDs in the UK and internationally.

I welcome applications from doctoral students who are motivated to study in any area relevant to my research activities.

Research groups and institutes

  • The Bauman Institute

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>The school welcomes enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>