EDI and the geographies of economic practice
Dr Shaun French, Associate Professor in Economic Geography, Faculty of Social Sciences
Dr French’s research examines the differential access that people and communities have to financial services and the profound impacts this has on people’s lives. He is particularly concerned with the role that debt plays in deepening inequality in deprived neighbourhoods and is currently completing an audit of indebtedness in Nottingham. Nottingham has one of the UK’s highest household debt and, in the most deprived neighbourhoods, debt is rising even amongst those who are in employment. Dr French works closely with Advice Nottingham, a consortium of 6 agencies which provide free, confidential, impartial advice on a range of issues including benefits, debt, employment and housing. Since 2015, he has been working with organisations across the city to look at this issue, a collaboration which has led to the creation of the Nottingham Financial Resilience Partnership, a multi-agency partnership specifically set up to address the problems of financial exclusion, vulnerability and over-indebtedness in Nottingham.
Dr French is also motivated by a strong belief that universities have a responsibility to use their research and resources to benefit their local community. He is of the view that it is important that UoN, as one of the biggest employers in the city, engages in EDI related civic engagement. For example, if UoN staff were to set up accounts with the local credit union, their pay packages would increase the latter’s asset base, fund the local financial ecology and support the local community. He avers that while UoN benefits from its location it could do a lot more in terms of levelling the city, and that it would require someone senior at UoN to push for the economic inclusiveness agenda in Nottingham. Dr French reiterated a point made by almost every person consulted for this report, UoN attracts a lot of students from privileged backgrounds from the South East of England and not enough local students from Nottingham. Setting up a UoN office, not in the city centre, but in one of the deprived areas of Nottingham could send out a strong message about its EDI commitment to the city.
Dr French’s work takes the form of interventions that promote inclusive local economic growth, a key Government priority.