To read this content please select one of the options below:

Social infrastructure platforms: the case of AskingBristol

Martin Parker (Business School, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK)
James Brown (Business School, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK)
Hannah Jusu-Sheriff (Business School, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK)
John Manley (Business School, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 10 January 2023

Issue publication date: 25 October 2023




The project – AskingBristol – uses university students to connect third sector organizations with particular “asks” to organizations which might be able to respond with “offers”. The authors describe the task of the experiment as being an attempt to embed students and their universities within the cities that they are based in, but are often not really very connected to.


This reflective report on practice describes an initiative aimed at producing a piece of “social infrastructure”. Written by the four people involved, the authors theorize and evaluate what we have done so far and what we hope to do in future.


Over two phases, it has had some success, and we think represents a concrete approach to thinking about how “civic” ideas might gain traction within universities. Using ideas about social networks, boundary objects and infrastructure the authors explore the opportunities and problems of such a project, stressing that it allows co-ordination between a wide variety of people and organizations that do not necessarily share common interests.

Research limitations/implications

This is one “experiment”, in one city, but it demonstrates the possibilities of getting “civic” universities engaged with local third sector organizations.

Practical implications

If it became a piece of social infrastructure, such a project could embed ideas about “civic”, “impact”, “engagement” and so on into the routines of the city and the university.

Social implications

Though Asking Bristol cannot solve the problems of the city, it shows that we can transfer resources, time, skills and space to where they are needed.


The authors do not think anything like this has been attempted before, and hope that sharing it will stimulate some comparisons, and perhaps some dissemination of the idea.



Parker, M., Brown, J., Jusu-Sheriff, H. and Manley, J. (2023), "Social infrastructure platforms: the case of AskingBristol", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 43 No. 11/12, pp. 917-932.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles