Guest blog by Bruce Katz, City Growth Commissioner.
As the United States suffers through the final weeks of a particularly bitter midterm election, something remarkable is happening in the United Kingdom. All three major parties in Britain have concluded that devolving power away from central government and toward metropolitan areas will improve economic growth and government performance. Tory, Lib-Dem, and Labour alike find themselves competing over who can articulate a more complete vision of devolution. It’s enough to make you believe in representative democracy again.
The Royal Society of the Arts’ City Growth Commission has released a well-timed report that explains the need for devolution in the U.K. and creates a blueprint for how to get it done. “The drumbeat of devolution has grown ever louder,” writes Jim O’Neill, chairman of the commission. “Over recent months, the importance of cities in driving growth and prosperity has been increasingly recognized, rising up the political agenda to the highest levels.” Read more
One of the perennial objections to greater devolution of power away from the central state and down to cities and regions is the claim that it will damage equality. A classic of the genre was recently penned by The Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee who wrote:
The logic of localism risks leading in the end to less national identity and less fair distribution of wealth. Good politics will revive if strong ideas hold the imagination, keeping enough people together with common goals.
This is a version of what I described in a recent post as “big equality”. This is the notion, which gained a firm grip in the twentieth century, that the best route to equality was for a powerful state to equalise incomes by redistributing the proceeds of the wealth and assets owned by the better off. It is fundamentally a remedial and conservative approach to achieving a more equal society. It takes as a given that current inequalities of wealth and economic power are very difficult or impossible to change and so the only route is to take some money from the well-off and hand it on to the less well-off. Read more
Tomorrow the City Growth Commission launches its final report, Unleashing Metro Growth. There we bring together the themes and ideas that have developed throughout the course of our 12-month independent. Our aim was to consider how we raise the trend rate of UK growth, generating prosperity for all by harnessing the power of our city-regions.
Our research has taken us far and wide, engaging with government, business, academia and civil society organisations across the UK. We covered a range of ideas, including skills and enterprise, infrastructure and connectivity and fiscal devolution. Seen primarily through our economic lens, the Commission’s work has touched on intricacies of local and central government relationships and politics, constitutional reform and Whitehall structural and culture change. Read more
The final report of the City Growth Commission puts a figure on failure: £79billion. That is the missed economic opportunity of the UK’s most significant metros failing to grow at the same rate as the UK average. It is also worth considering the wealth generation that the UK has foregone over decades. This output gap is the price of political and governing failure.
The City Growth Commission is a highly significant contribution to a battery of heavy-duty reports over the past few years on the benefits that could be secured through the greater devolution of power, resources and responsibility. Michael Heseltine’s ‘No Stone Unturned‘, Labour’s policy review (most notably the Local Government Innovation Taskforce and the Adonis Growth Review) and now this final City Growth Commission report present a concrete analysis of the need to change. Better economic outcomes, better public services and a healthier democracy are promised. The intellectual argument has been won. The argument now moves on to the ‘how’. Read more
One month from today, and for the first time, the RSA will be participating in the Children’s Commissioner’s nationwide Takeover Day. 60 students from our five Family of Academies, all based in the West Midlands, will be descending on the RSA to partake in a packed programme of activities and get stuck into some real decision-making. The aim of Takeover Day is to provide children and young people with experience of the world of work, while also giving them the opportunity to have a voice in the various organisations taking part – RSA Academies are very excited to be able to facilitate the active involvement of our academy students with the RSA in this way. Read more
This is a guest blog from Pete Burden, following the event The role of men in supporting women into leadership, organised by RSA Brighton and Hove.
I recently attended an RSA and University of Brighton event on the question ‘What is the role of men in supporting women into leadership?‘ This was a follow-up to a larger event a few months back entitled ‘How women lead‘. That was a great session, with a lot of energy. Creating a follow-up must have seemed a very logical next step.
All the panelists seemed to agree that there is a problem: there are not enough women in leadership positions – in both public and private sectors. And as Simon Fanshawe, OBE, pointed out ‘complex problems require difference and diversity’. Many of our most significant problems today, from the social to the environmental to the economic are complex problems, problems that require different ways of thinking and acting.
Leeds-based fellow Rob Greenland updates us on the progress of Leeds Empties, which the RSA recently supported with a £5,000 Catalyst grant.
You probably have an idea as to what an empty home looks like. Boarded-up, semi-derelict, with an overgrown front garden. And it’ll probably not be the only empty home on the street.
The reality, at least in Leeds, is very different. Perhaps 10% of our 5000 long-term empty homes look like this. The rest are empty – but in appearance are no different to any other house on the street.
That’s not to say they’re not a problem. They’ll be costing the owners money – and, whilst there’s a chronic housing shortage, it’s a wasted resource.
More often than not the owner would like to bring their home back into use, but they don’t know where to start. That’s where our Empty Homes Doctor service comes in. Read more
Coaching. Psychotherapy. Meditation. Spirituality. Self-improvement. Self-love. What do these seemingly different social movements have in common?
There are over 10 different forms of coaching, each with countless associated techniques and exercises. There are over 500 different forms of psychotherapy, most with similar degrees of efficacy. There are over 20 forms of meditation and paths to the spiritual. Available self-improvement and self-love techniques are too numerous to list here. The supply of these services in the market has skyrocketed, which is a likely indicator that high demand from us, consumers, is also present. But what is driving the high demand for these services? What are we collectively seeking as a society, as individuals? What do we long for or hunger for? I may be able to provide a tentative answer to this question only because the longing is also present in me. And, at this level of depth, you and I are not so different.
The answer to the question, I believe, is self-awareness. We long to know ourselves more deeply. But why? Well, there is reason to believe that we are beginning to recognize our deep need for it.
In our very first report, Metro Growth: The UK’s economic opportunity, the City Growth Commission presented an evidenced case arguing that economic growth is driven by cities. We’ve since set out to identify the ways in which cities in the UK can fully exploit their economic potential, whether it’s through investing in the progression of the low-skilled and low paid, or evolving our infrastructure for example. If there is a key takeaway here it’s that city-regions (metros) should have greater autonomy to do what’s right for them locally. More powers should be devolved to metros with a proven track record of good governance – and these should include new freedoms and flexibilities over immigration policy.
I’m not going to bury you in numbers or shout about all of the ways in which immigrants in the UK contribute to economic growth; these arguments are often drowned out, but are legitimate and should be taken as given. Also, while the numbers are important, the Commission considered more than just the math and the money when thinking about where we stand on immigration.
‘Designers were considering sustainability before sustainability really existed.’ It wasn’t what I expected to hear from an internationally renowned designer, but then it seems to be the job of designers to defy expectations.
This particular designer, Terence Woodgate, rose from humble beginnings in North London to become one of the RSA’s Royal Designers for Industry (RDI), the highest accolade for a designer in the UK and acclaimed for his exquisite furniture and lighting. After failing his 11+ and with dyslexia misdiagnosed as lack of aptitude, he was steered towards woodwork and found a niche in technical drawings – and maths. An apprenticeship at Gordon’s gin plant in Clerkenwell found him designing machines to stamp wax crests onto bottles, and was followed by work in the petrochemicals industry and travel in Europe and Asia. It wasn’t until his 30’s that Woodgate trained as a furniture designer.
One of Woodgate’s heroes is the iconic designer Charles Eames, who famously said: ‘I have never been forced to accept compromises but I have willingly accepted constraints’. Woodgate takes this a step further, declaring: ‘You have to be passionate about every constraint’. For him, this includes the material constraints that must be taken into account when designing for reusability or recyclability, and he maintains that it is the job of the designer to know about the whole life cycles of a product’s components. More than anyone, it is the designers of ‘cheap stuff’ who should be thinking about the lifespan of a product: ‘Because those are the first things that are going to be thrown away!’
‘You have to be passionate about every constraint’