About us

The Heseltine Institute for Public Policy and Practice is an interdisciplinary research centre focusing on a crucial contemporary challenge: the development of successful, sustainable and inclusive places in an unstable global world. The Institute provides a forum to connect citizens, practitioners, policy-makers and researchers and brings together academic expertise from across the University of Liverpool to examine, debate and discuss critical questions facing societies across the globe, such as:

  • What will make our neighbourhoods, cities and city regions economically sustainable, politically inclusive, environmentally healthy and socially just?
  • How can work be reimagined and reconfigured for a more social economy?

The Heseltine Institute brings together researchers across four core thematic areas: health and wellbeing; urban governance; civic participation and digital technology; and the social economy and social innovation.

Led by a cross-sector advisory board, our team brings together leading researchers from across the social sciences with our diverse network of Visiting Fellows to work with policy-makers and practitioners locally, nationally and internationally to co-produce cutting-edge research and applied policy analysis with real social impact. 

With a particular focus on the Liverpool City Region and the UK’s ‘North-South divide’, the Institute seeks to offer thought leadership to shape the ongoing devolution process; to advise political, commercial, third sector and cultural partners about what works (and what doesn’t); and to excite the public imagination about ways of being in the twenty-first century.

Our Executive Director’s publication ‘The State of Liverpool City Region: making the most of devolution’ underlined some of the challenges posed by inter- and intra-regional inequalities and, importantly, highlighted opportunities opened up by devolution and a newly-elected City Region Mayor. Charting such new territory requires ground-breaking ideas, approaches and policy innovation to ensure that emerging devolved governance arrangements work to stimulate and reimagine our economy, our places, public services and democracy for the benefit of people, and planet, over profit.

In this brave new world, the Heseltine Institute is working across a number of policy areas to harness and develop local talent and resources. We look to combine these with national and international good practice; to bring forward innovative policy and practice that can support a just, prosperous and healthy City Region for all. We bring together researchers working on, amongst others: health and wellbeing, urban governance, digital technologies, the social economy, and civic engagement. Our current portfolio of work coalesces around three domains:

Social innovation and the Social Economy

The City Region has a rich history of non-profit, democratic and associational economic activity, from philanthropic trusts in the nineteenth century to cooperatives in the twentieth and community interest companies and community land trusts in the twenty-first century, and today supports a vibrant and growing social economy. The formation of the Liverpool City Region Social Economy Panel is a joint initiative between the Heseltine Institute and practitioners. The aim of the Panel is to address the policy deficit in this field, specifically for the city region. The Heseltine Institute is funding primary research on the scale and scope of the city region social economy and early indications suggest an asset base for the sector of some £4 billion and over 40,000 people employed. This sector is already an important part of the city region and with targeted intervention, could become a strategic strength, supporting social inclusion and cohesion, stimulating enterprising communities and working with both public and private sector to ensure a strong institutional base for policy innovation. The work on the social economy also covers research and policy work in areas such as social housing, community assets, entrepreneurship, food poverty and social finance. Our strong links with international social economy cities through the Global Social Economy Forum offers great collaborative potential for the city region.

Health and Well-Being

The work of the Institute’s health and wellbeing theme concentrates on the advancement of resilient, prosocial places and community wellbeing. Working closely with Universities across the North and with high profile civic organisations, such as the New Economics Foundation, the Institute co-hosts the Community Wellbeing evidence programme of the UK’s What Works Centre for Wellbeing. This puts the Liverpool City Region at the forefront of knowledge about how communities and neighbourhoods can provide better lived experience for their residents. With recent data analysis from this programme demonstrating Liverpool and Merseyside’s highly unequal profiles of wellbeing, it is important that the city region uses the emerging evidence about what works to make our future places better for us all. Our complimentary Prosocial Place Programme works to understand how and why certain city areas are associated with lower wellbeing and higher levels of mental distress. In partnership with City region place-making SMEs and social enterprises, we aim to persuade regeneration initiatives to place the health and wellbeing of citizens at the core of decision-making and governance processes. In preparation for potential devolution of health to LCR, The Institute has begun an analysis of the LCR health governance landscape, incorporating a package of activities culminating a report due in summer 2017.

Civic imagination and technology

We are collaborating with Engage Liverpool, LUISS University Rome, Fordham Law School, New York to develop a local ‘Office for Civic Imagination’. Building upon pioneering development work in Amsterdam, New York and Bologna we aim to create an environment where active citizens, social, economic, institutional and legal innovators can explore and advance innovations in public policy. We are also collaborating with the Liverpool City Mayoral lead on Smart Cities, Merseytravel, the LEP, Liverpool CCG and Hartree (SFTC) with the aim of developing a simulated (super) computer-driven decision making model for City region policy-makers. This will provide a holistic view of the City Region’s policy domain allowing policy-makers to assess virtually the impact of decisions taken in one policy domain across others. This model will be calibrated by geo-location data taken from a mobile App co-produced with residents. The data from this App will be banked in a co-op databank with the aim to monetise it for the benefit of residents.


The Institute’s ambitions are:

  1. To be an authoritative voice on place-based public policy and practice, through its own research and consultancy and through the curation of events and activities which bring wide-ranging expertise and public opinion to bear on key issues facing policy-makers and practitioners across the Liverpool City Region and worldwide;
  2. To raise the profile and visibility of the University and its work, acting as the key gateway for policy-makers and practitioners in the Liverpool City Region to meet with academics and co-produce cutting-edge research with lasting social impact.
  3. To support the engagement of researchers and students from across the University in key civic projects, helping them to maximise the benefit to be drawn from opportunities to influence policy and practice.

Find out more about the work carried out in 2016 by the Heseltine Institute.