UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose


Shifting Narratives Conference

27 June 2022–30 June 2022, 9:00 am–5:30 pm

Shifting Narratives Conference

Register now to attend the four-day online conference on shifting narratives around public services, spending and production (PSSP). Confirmed speakers include: Mariana Mazzucato, June Sekera, Abby Innes and Isabel Ortiz among others.

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to







UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose and University of Greenwich’s Public Services International Research Unit (UoG-PSIRU)

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The economic and political role of public services, public spending and public production of goods and services has been a central issue for economic and social policy at national and international level for many decades.  There are continuing disputes over the scope of public service systems, and the scale of government spending on these services. The theories and analyses used by economists and political scientists form a significant set of narratives in this contest. Some critique the fiscal burden of taxation on commercial activity, and the disruption of labour markets by public employment, while favouring the use of public spending and services as opportunities for private finance through PPPs or long-term outsourced contracts.  Others frame analyses around the key role of PSSP in driving innovation and delivering new public missions, its economic role in providing physical and service infrastructure, the role of public sector capacity in direct provision of goods and services and enabling public policy development shielded from corruption, and its historical role in delivering socio-economic, racial and gender equality, and enabling democratic control, transparency and accountability. 

This conference grows out of a report on ‘Narrative change and Public Services, Spending and Provision’ carried out by a team led by PSIRU. Social movements and unions have recently summarised the social and economic case for PSSP in a ‘global manifesto’: 'The future is public' , and other reports on issues related to public services are published by the global partners in this conference – Public Services International (PSI) and Transnational Institute (TNI). This conference is supported in part through a grant from the Open Society Foundations (OSF).

Conference objectives

  • bring together academics, unions and social movements in a 2-way sharing of research and information on issues, trends and campaigns around public services, globally
  • to encourage critical academic research on PSSP issues and narratives of concern to SMs/unions
  • to encourage collaboration between academics/young scholars and social movements and unions

Conference structure:

  • Day 1 will be a plenary session with a number of invited presentations on the political economy and narratives of PSSP, by leading academics and speakers from unions and social movements.
  • Day 2 will have thematic workshops, including one on narratives of public spending   and workshops on a range of issues eg public finance, economic planning, trade and public services, participatory budgeting.  Each workshop will last 1.5 hours, with 1 hr for papers and contributions from academics, young scholars, unions and social movements, with 30 minutes of discussion.
  • Day 3 will consist of parallel workshops on public service trends, narratives and issues in global regions: Africa, Americas, Asia, Europe. These workshops will follow a similar format of 1.5 hours, including papers and contributions from academics, young scholars, trade unions and social movements, followed by discussions.
  • Day 4 will be a final forward-looking plenary session with an invited panel of speakers including academics, union and SM speakers, discussing future academic agendas and the prospects and strategies in relation to PSSP, and the potential for collaboration.

Download the 2022 Conference Report


This conference is supported by: