Dr Michael Leyshon
Senior Lecturer in Human Geography


Michael Leyshon is a social geographer and his research explores how third sector agencies and small businesses innovate to produce social change. In particular his work seeks to ground place-based person-centred approaches in a variety of locations, practices and performances, by focusing on issues relating to care in the countryside, young people and rurality, and business adaptation to climate change.

Michael worked previously at Gloucester Constabulary as a researcher before moving to the University of Exeter to undertake a PhD in Geography on ‘Youth Identity, Culture and Marginalisation in the Countryside’. He has since worked at the University of Exeter’s Centre for Geography, Environment and Society, at the Penryn Campus in Cornwall. He is the Co-founder and Co-Director of the Social Innovation Group at the University of Exeter, a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society/Institute of British Geographers and an Associate of the Centre for Rural Policy Research, University of Exeter. He has also been a visiting International Scholar at Rutgers, State University of New Jersey, NJ, USA, Miami University, Ohio, USA and Kenyon College, Ohio, USA.

Research specialisms

In the last ten years my work has covered three different but interconnected themes: (1) delivering social innovation especially in social care through looking at how local agencies, charities and organisations can optimise volunteering time and effort to build resilient communities; (2) innovating in care environments for and with young people; and (3) buiness network knowledges and social innovation in repsonse to climate change.

Social Innovation

I am the Co-Director of the Social Innovation Group (Prof Catherine Leyshon, Dr Tim Walker, Dr Laura Colebrooke, Dr Shuks Esmene, Matthew Rogers, Paddy Dowling) which is a multi-disciplinary team of researchers from geography, anthropology, health research, and journalism who work in collaboration with organisations in the third sector, health and social care, restorative justice, the environment sector, local, regional and national government. Our focus is social innovation at all scales, using place-based, person-centred approaches and tools. We produce academic work, evidence and practical tools to support individuals, charities, governments, organisations and agencies – anyone interested in social innovation. Current projects include SMARTline, SMARTtenantsLiving Well to Work and Citizens Journalism News Nework.

We attract funding from a variety of sources, such as the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), European Social Fund (ESF), National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA), NHS, Cornwall Council, amongst others.

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Youth Culture

My research focuses on the leisure lifestyles of rural youth through exploring how children and young people make sense of the world around them. My research can be divided into two main areas, identity/performativity and sustainable lifestyles. My work on identity and performativity challenges contemporary studies that serve to homogenise rural youth and position them as a passive marginal other. By focusing on the way in which rural youth identities are created, contested and recreated my research demonstrates that young people are far from being marginal or powerless and that they lead diverse lifestyles. My current work on innovation and care seeks solutions to contemporary issues faced by young people in rural communities such as finding employment, affordable housing and skills training. 

Business Responses to Climate Change

Although much attention has focussed on the question of how businesses could help society mitigate climate change, little is known about how entrepreneurs communicate knowledge and reach a working consensus. I have two lines of research in this area. (1) Working with Dr Katharina Kaesehage, University of Edinburgh, we explore how entrepreneurs build a ‘commons logic’ and innovate social solution around climate change within their networks. We advise policy makers to actively support the usage of those mechanisms to help networks create more alternative institutions. (2) Working alongside Dr Shuks Esmene and Dr Timothy Taylor, Medical School University of Exeter, we explore how new innovative scientific knowledges on electric vehicles and climate change are communicated to publics to create a networked response to climate adaptation and mitigation.

More Information

See my Google Scholar profile

Or my Research Gate profile

Or my Acdemia Education profilel



BA (Wales),
MPhil (Staffs),
PhD (Exon)


Contact details

Tel+44 (0) 1326 371867
AddressPeter Lanyon Building
University of Exeter
Penryn Campus
Treliever Road
TR10 9FE
Office hours

My Office Hours this week are:

Monday 10am to 11am 

Wednesday 9am to 10am

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