When you see a police officer do you feel safer, or less safe?
This is the half-serious test that the anthropologist and activist Prof. David Graeber uses as a metric of whether somebody has a middleclass ‘mind-set’ or not. It is also a distinction that threatened to expose some social divisions in Brixton, where I live, yesterday.
Channel 4 News report by Jordan Jarrett-Bryan, 6.2.2014
‘Brixton Unite’ was, depending on which side of this social divide one situates oneself, a community-outreach day coordinated by a coalition of Lambeth Council, the police, and Job Centre plus to ‘reduce the harm caused by gangs’ to the community, or a huge display of force by the Metropolitan Police and British Transport Police to intimidate, harass and inconvenience as many residents as possible.
As I got off the Tube at Brixton station on my way home from work, a man was shouting a warning to everybody as they approached the escalators, ‘Loads of police upstairs! Watch out! Undercover police, filth everywhere!’
Commuters chuckled dismissively over their smartphones, shaking their heads at this noisy man who was making a scene with his paranoid ranting. One man tutted and made eye-contact with me, a white man in office clothes and – so he seemed to think – a natural ally with whom to share his amusement. But my personal experience of the police has not always been pleasant, and as I reached the top of the escalator and saw scores of officers in hi-vis jackets, a man being searched by the ticket machines, black-clad plain clothes police scanning the crowds, and sirens screeching up and down the road outside, I felt uncomfortable at seeing a place that looked under siege.
Outside the station a small group of activists waved placards protesting the heavy police presence, and tried to direct people’s attention to the front page of the Evening Standard, which coincidentally carried new allegations of police misconduct in the Stephen Lawrence case. There were raised voices and mini-clashes as accusations of disrupting or supporting police activity were traded. Elsewhere in Brixton people made their displeasure at seeing such numbers of active police officers known in various ways, as detailed in reports by Channel 4 and Vice online.
For some, Brixton Unite was conceived to intimidate and unsettle people, the latest stage in what they view as a deliberate ‘gentrification’ of Brixton amid a context of rocketing private property rates, evictions, the proposed sale of a community college and an influx of symbolically high-end business such as Champagne & Fromage and Foxtons estate agents. The perspective of those commuters I saw who seemed unconcerned by the police presence – the ‘If you’ve got nothing to hide you’ve got nothing to worry about’ mentality – doesn’t wash with everybody, as the political commentator Stephen Bush (who is black) illustrates vividly:
“When I think of the police, I think of being stopped-and-searched, aged 15, on the Embankment in broad daylight with everyone looking at me, an experience as humiliating as if I had been stripped naked right there on the Strand. That’s the part of me that gets nervous when I see police officers at Highbury and Islington Station of an evening, or quickens my pace around the Palace of Westminster.”
If we take Lambeth Council at their word and accept that Brixton Unite was a well-intentioned attempt to engage with the community and reassure residents that problems with gang violence are being tackled, then the episode demonstrates some of the difficulties faced by public services when they attempt to engage with their communities proactively. Communities, perhaps especially urban communities, are not made up of people who think and experience the same things, as my colleague Jonathan Schifferes blogged yesterday. Some people are reassured by the sight of police officers proactively keeping the peace; others see an invasion of authorities attempting to ruin their day. In a place like Brixton where there is an ongoing debate about gentrification and, for some, a perceived divide between working class long-term residents and well-heeled newcomers attracted by the city transport links and trendy market, then tensions can arise such as those I observed at Brixton underground station yesterday.
‘Relational’ public services that productively engage with communities are difficult to achieve – as recent work by the IPPR has discussed and the RSA’s public services and communities action and research strand continues to explore. Yesterday’s events in Brixton demonstrated this further; the same actions by public services can alienate some and reassure others. It is a conundrum that the authorities in Lambeth will have to work out, but on yesterday’s showing it seems unlikely that the mass appearance of ‘bobbies on the beat’ is really the thing that will see Brixton unite.
Filed under: Enterprise, Social Economy, Uncategorized
This week the RSA launched a new report exploring the potential for Post Offices to transform themselves into Community Enterprise Hubs. You can view the report here. And you can view the Twitter coverage here.
The Post Office is an organisation like no other. Local branches contribute enormously to the life and soul of their communities, are an essential vehicle for delivering public services, and provide the vital infrastructure that our businesses need to prosper. Yet we have only scratched the surface when it comes to realising their potential.
In the RSA’s new report, Making the Connection, we argue that Post Offices could do more to support local residents and businesses. They have a presence in nearly every community, are widely trusted and have a resilience and continuity that few other organisations can match. Close to 93 per cent of people live within a mile of their nearest branch, and it is estimated that a third of residents and a half of SMEs visit one at least once a week – the kind of footfall that other organisations would give their right arm for.
A number of Subpostmasters up and down the country are already capitalising on these opportunities and showing what can be achieved with limited resources. Win Morgan from Llangadog Post Office in South West Wales provides packaging and technical support for home-based businesses, while Tanya Vasileva (pictured) from Belzise Park Post Office in London provides shelf space for local businesses to sell their wares. Danielle Barnes from Port Clarence Post Office in Stockton has gone as far as to host a health centre, crèche, training rooms and café next to her branch.
Yet these are the exception rather than the rule. Most Subpostmasters are some way away from running the type of Community Enterprise Hubs called for in our report. This is a loss not only to the community but also to the bottom line of Subpostmasters. By doing more to support local residents and businesses Post Offices could tap into valuable new revenue streams and drive up all important footfall. Indeed, it is important not to lose sight of the fact that Post Offices are first and foremost commercial businesses, and as such need to stand on their own two feet.
Tomorrow’s world also presents more opportunities for Post Offices than many would currently believe. The growth of microbusinesses, self-employment and homeworking presents Subpostmasters with an opportunity to make themselves indispensable hubs for local business communities. Likewise, their ability to understand community dynamics is an attractive trait for potential public service partners seeking to support an ageing society, implement demand management (see another report we published this week) and create bottom-up responses to social problems. Whether it is in smoothing the transition to Universal Credit or improving access to affordable finance, there is nearly always something the Post Office could bring to the table.
With this in mind, the RSA has set out several new proposals designed to encourage and enable more Subpostmasters to make the transition to a Community Enterprise Hub. This includes nurturing a more entrepreneurial culture across the network, rewriting the underlying narrative of the Post Office, and attracting new talent into the cohort of Subpostmasters. In practical terms, this might mean creating a new Subpostmasters Apprenticeship Scheme to bring in fresh faces; or fast-tracking the serial Subpostmasters who want to run multiple branches. The RSA has also suggested inviting social entrepreneurs to become the next generation of Subpostmasters.
In 2014, the RSA and Post Office Ltd will work together to realise some of these proposals.
Hard fiscal reality means that managing surging demand for public services is the name of the game. This requires whole systems thinking and radical innovation by public bodies
The famous jaws of doom graph – which shows demand surging whilst revenue plummets – is now etched in the minds of many in local government. ‘It’s the demand stupid’, is its main message. The central issue for public service reform over the next few years will be how to manage this.
Or, to put it another way, how to change the behaviour of both citizens and services so that we can support an ageing society, improve public health, mitigate the effects of climate change and reduce carbon emissions. And do all this when there will be no new money for public services.
To be sure, doing things more efficiently will be part of the answer. But it won’t come close to responding to the triple whammy of declining revenue, rising demand and greater expectations. The New Public Management solutions of the last two decades have run their course. The status quo will result in service retrenchment and residualisation.
A different approach is needed if we are to avert this grim prospect. The report which we published this week with the LGA, ESRC, Collaborate and iMPOWER (‘Managing Demand: Building Future Public Services’) begins to outline what this could look like.
The good news is that our report draws heavily on some very innovative new practice emerging from councils across the country. Seeking to understand the dynamics of citizen behaviour and the role of family and social networks lies at the heart of this.
There is an ‘emerging science’ of demand management methodologies – ranging from ‘nudge’ through building insight based on ‘values modes’ analysis of service users and applying behavioural insight in areas like recycling and littering. And we document different examples of this in the report. We argue that the game changer will not come from individual approaches alone, however imaginative they are – but from combining these in whole system, whole place reform.
We examine what’s been learnt so far from some of the whole place budget pilots like Greater Manchester, Cheshire west and Essex. In different ways they are all grappling with the same issues. This includes how to get beyond services to understand the needs of people in the places where they live and the way these then translate into demand.
And it also involves exploring how to reconfigure service systems so that they better support families and the wider networks of which they are part, and are organised around communities rather than vertical silos of traditional delivery organisations. Core to this approach is the belief that demand management has a key role to play in helping places to become more socially and economically productive.
Underpinning demand management is the hard fiscal reality of the need to achieve more for less. The financial case for demand management is based on a combination of early evidence of specific savings with predictive modelling about the potential scalability of these.
EY modelling for the LGA, based on the four community budget pilots, predicts a potential 5 year net benefit of between £9.4bn to £20.6bn. Meanwhile, Greater Manchester has carried out some very interesting analysis of all public spend across the combined authority to conclude that 35% of expenditure is reactive – thereby establishing that part of expenditure which could potentially be reduced by more effective demand management.
But more work is needed on the investment case for demand management and early intervention. Longer term settlements and single pot funding will be necessary, but not sufficient. The local government finance community will need to become much more engaged in helping to develop new financial models for enabling a switch to prevention.
Demand management sounds technical and managerial, but ultimately it’s about people, what they need and want from public services and what they should do for themselves in and with their communities. As our report concludes, this is the proper stuff of politics. A demand management approach will place a greater emphasis on the role of local politicians in leading a conversation with citizens about the terms of a new social contract, based on reciprocity as much as on entitlement.
Ben Lucas is chair of public services at the RSA. The new report is available on its website.
This article was originally published by Public Finance.
Henry Kippin and Anna Randle
New community leadership will be needed to fill a forecast £14.4bn shortfall in services by 2020
Demand management may be a technical term but it is fast becoming the new starting point for a swath of local authorities and public service providers wondering how to fill their looming funding gap.
Making this happen means bringing the politics back in to what has hitherto been a technocratic agenda. Local politicians need to lead demand management by changing the way they work and moving to a new mode of community leadership that is more connected, collaborative and closer to the lives of citizens.
Public services have an uneasy relationship with demand. In the private sector, demand for goods and services is seen as a near-unequivocal good, offering the potential of sustainability, new markets and growth.
For public services, demand is more complex. Officials talk about managing demand “down” – finding ways to reduce the burden on already stretched services.
Policy and economics are key drivers in the public sector and their impact can feel stark at a local level. Local authorities must, for instance, cope with rising demand for child safeguarding, homelessness, adoption or adult care services as much because of welfare reform policy or global economic fragility as the conditions at a local level.
Demand for public services also arises as a result of actions by the state itself. Misaligned or badly designed services can create what is called “failure demand”. The award-winning Gov.uk website was created with this partly in mind, noting a high number of phone calls to government call centres from users who couldn’t navigate previous government websites properly. The design thinking that flipped this logic to put the citizen’s experience at the centre of the service is at the heart of new demand management thinking.
In a new report published this week a consortium of organisations, including the RSA, Collaborate, the Local Government Association, the ESRC and Impower, argue that by taking this to its logical conclusion will bring about a tangible shift in the way public services are designed and delivered.
We argue that there will be a £14.4bn gap between demand and supply by 2020 and that traditional efficiency or supply-side reform techniques can take us only so far. We need fundamentally to rethink the relationships between citizens, the state and public services.
In places as diverse as Calderdale, East Riding, Oldham, Wiltshire, Cheshire and Sunderland, we are seeing the emergence of a range of reforms that prioritise local demand. Some councils are using “nudge” techniques and “values mode” analysis to transform the way they communicate with residents. Others – such as Southampton – have made tangible gains in areas such as recycling and waste management. Excitingly, some are reshaping demand by building collaborative commissioning models that engage the voluntary and business sectors, which are co-designed with citizens.
What is common to all of these examples is a hopeful sense of momentum – from the “emerging science” that can help understanding of demand today, through to ways of using this insight to reshape whole systems and rethink the very role and purpose of public agencies.
This is a journey that requires trust between services, sectors and the public, which is problematic at the best of times. But, as polling by Ipsos Mori for the LGA indicates, there appears to be more chance of building this at a local level than with central government. Around 60% of those surveyed in 2013 said they “trust their local council”: a level of public endorsement that will need to be backed up with tangible engagement in the future design and delivery of public services.
It is only by working together at a local level that politicians, practitioners and communities will be able to forge the strong relationships that can help public services get beyond delivery and place demand management at their core.
Dr Henry Kippin is director of Collaborate, and co-author with Anna Randle of Managing Demand: building future public services.
This article was originally published by The Guardian.
The RSA’s Social Mirror project was featured on BBC points west yesterday. Footage will be available online until 7pm tonight, and our slot starts around the 18 minute and 50 sec mark.
Social Mirror is a way of operationalising network analysis and wellbeing science to make tangible differences to peoples’ lives. In the Social Mirror: Community Prescriptions project, people waiting to see GPs in Knowle West, Bristol, are asked to complete a short questionnaire via an app on a tablet computer and are then given a ‘social prescription’. This directs them to community activities or groups such as coffee mornings, sports classes or local history clubs – instead of being prescribed drugs or other health interventions. It’s essentially a bit like an automatic magazine quiz: you answer questions and, if you need it, Social Mirror can issue you with local ‘community prescriptions’ based on your interest: from a walking group to a photography class.
In the BBC Points West video I explain why Social Mirror is important, and why our human and community-based approach to health and social care demand management is so necessary and timely.
“We know that social isolation can be as bad for you as smoking, with effects ranging from depression to cardiovascular disease. It’s often very small changes that make big differences in our lives; and Social Mirror is that first step from being alone or feeling that you are not doing great things in your life, to feeling part of your community”
From small acorns, great oaks. What has been described by Radio 4’s Giles Fraser as a ‘small local project’ is one participants have claimed has made their ‘life is worth living’. One participant who was given a prescription for a walking group has never looked back. He says:
“It has changed my life. I would recommend it to anyone. I wasn’t doing anything; I’d been a recluse and for three days a week I wouldn’t go out of the flat and the weight was piling on. I’ve now lost a stone and I can talk to people quite freely which I couldn’t before.”
The benefits are also being felt by local activities. Mary Hall runs a lip-reading group at Knowle West Health Park for those with hearing loss. She has had referrals from Social Mirror and says her group really benefits those who attend. She explains:
“They come and meet other people like themselves and compare notes to their heart’s content – it’s much less isolating for them. I reckon I keep people out of doctors’ surgeries because of depression. They come once a week and we are like a family here.”
As I have said elsewhere, my hope is that one day Social Mirror and other community approaches that change social relations to transform economic and community potential will be available for all. For now, fingers crossed!
As a keen student of health informatics and how data can power better outcomes and accountability, it came as no surprise to me to find Care.data on the front pages of the broadsheets in recent months and weeks. Care.data is designed to capture and link data so it can be used by the NHS to analyse and improve outcomes. In the hands of the public, comparative data can support choice, transparency and accountability. Data enables innovation, efficiency and saves lives. Some headline!
But it is a minefield of Data Protection, Information Governance and privacy. Once exposed, a person’s most intimate concerns – their health – can’t be taken back. Patient confidentiality is paramount and any “Information Revolution” within the NHS must guard this principle to the end. Widespread concerns mean my former colleague from HM Cabinet Office, Tim Kelsey (now NHS England Director for Patients and Information) has extended the public awareness campaign for another six months.
Advocates of data should feel down, but not out. The truth is that we can’t run a £120bn health and social care system without use of more and better data. Winter pressures on A&E units showed that services are under severe strain from rising demand and tightening budgets. Without in-depth knowledge of which treatments are working, which services are underperforming, where systems are failing to join up or where patients feel their expectations have not been met, our world class health service will grind to a crushing halt. This is not about savings, it’s about survival.
Health is at the forefront of our public services in the degree to which data is already used to inform effective and efficient delivery. Whether collected by professionals, offered up by patients, open and freely available to the public, or closely protected, the potential of data within healthcare is huge.
The same principles apply to other public services and places. The City Growth Commission is interested in how cities can be empowered to create sustainable, inclusive economic growth. Much of the evidence we have received so far has focussed on fiscal devolution and linking public service reform with economic development at the city-level. Comprising up to 40% of cities’ expenditure, health and social care will be a crucial component of this and some (e.g. Bristol) are already starting to broaden their approach.
But what about education or infrastructure investment? How can cities securely link school destinations data with FE course completion and earnings data to tailor its skills offer? How can cities anticipate demand and install sufficient infrastructure capacity – whether utilities, energy, or housing? Data has the potential for cities for fine tune themselves as whole ‘systems of systems’.
Many cities, such as Birmingham, Manchester and Sheffield, are already looking to use Open Data released by government and public sector agencies, and not without challenge of accessing the data they need, whether public sector or from contracted suppliers. We’re at the start of this journey, with many complex issues to resolve along the way. As the Care.data example shows, maintaining personal privacy is vital for cities and services to maintain trust. But the prize for navigating the landscape is considerable; data is a critical enabler of better outcomes, productivity, and growth.
After nearly four years of silence on the issue that divided the Blair and Brown governments, Ed Miliband has set out the direction he wants to take Labour on public service reform.
It is a radical one. His Hugo Young lecture marked a departure from both Labour’s statist point of view and its more recent embrace of ‘new public management’. We have already heard about his Theodore Roosevelt inspired anti-trust approach to markets – breaking up large concentrations of uncompetitive market power in banks, energy companies and elsewhere in the economy. Now Miliband has signalled that he wants to take the same approach to breaking up concentrations of power in state institutions.
The language of power to the people is strong and the policy nuggets are good. But this is clearly still a work in progress. Jon Cruddas’ speech went much further in fleshing this out. He was very clear that a future Labour government will not have the money to spend on public services that its predecessors had. And he argued that Labour should drop its institutional conservatism and instead follow the collaborative, small scale, localist and mutualist route mapped out by Michael Young as long ago as 1948; but that is ignored by Labour’s mainstream because it didn’t fit with their Fabian managerialism. Cruddas identified the key features of this power shift as devolution to cities; co-operation as the mode of public service production; and collaboration to achieve whole system change.
Labour should be under no illusion about the size of this task. This is a challenge as big as Clause 4, and in some ways even bigger. With Clause 4 the issue was whether to drop a theoretical commitment to public ownership that the Labour Government had no intention of enacting in practice. Confronting Labour’s institutional statism is different. This is about Labour’s culture and practice, not just its constitution. Centralisation, mass universalism and deliverology have been hard wired into Labour practice for decades.
If Labour is to build on the promising start that Miliband and Cruddas have made, then further substantial work will be needed in three related areas: the reform narrative; the theory of change that will need to underpin this; and the policy mechanisms that can enable people power.
The narrative for reform needs to be more compelling in two respects. First, Labour needs to be crystal clear about the fiscal and demand pressures facing public services. Politicians cannot promise to spend more or deliver new solutions – instead they have to be open and honest with voters about the need for a new social settlement, in which citizens and the state will have to share responsibility for generating the social productivity that can tackle loneliness, provide better social care and improve public health and wellbeing. But as importantly, this narrative needs to be rooted in modern times. This is not about harking back to a sepia tinted Britain of social solidarity and sacrifice. It is a recognition that the new social, economic and technological forces driving change in society all pull in the opposite direction to centralisation and mass standardisation. A new global picture is taking shape in which urbanisation, city led growth and local innovation are the dominant characteristics. Horizontal organisations, small firms and social networks are increasingly what define our work and social relationships. And vertical, bureaucratic organisations are struggling to keep pace with this.
Labour will also have to develop a credible theory of change. Merely stating an intention to decentralise power and to invest in the networks and new social institutions that could collaboratively produce public services is not enough. There needs to be an appreciation of the barriers that stand in the way of this, and of how systemic a change this would be. Everything mitigates against change of this type, from the form and culture of Whitehall spending departments, to the Treasury frameworks for revenue, growth and risk. A strategy for change would have to be based on reforming central government, changing Treasury spending frameworks, opening up policy making and pursuing devolution to city regions as an economic and fiscal priority.
At the same time, Labour will need to develop new policy mechanisms to enable its power shift. For example, shifting the focus to prevention will require re-profiling expenditure. The Scottish and Welsh Governments have both taken some steps in this direction. But a future Labour government would have to go further. This is partly about longer term funding settlements, but it is also about creating an investment and business case for demand management. And for city devolution, it may have to look at different models for sharing risk between central government and cities that are more akin to PFI deals than the tame substance of the Coalition’s City deals process.
Miliband’s new public service approach is very welcome. But the real test will be in how much Labour recognises that it will need to work with social networks, local government and civil society organisations to open up government and deliver this power shift to people and places.
RSA, chair of public services
Last week in Greater Manchester, the City Growth Commission welcomed a dozen individuals from academia, businesses and local authorities to publicly share their thoughts on the role of cities in stimulating economic growth. On the heels of the Commission’s first report, Metro Growth: The UK’s Economic Opportunity, the Commission is seeking to identify the main factors limiting cities’ growth and the policy levers needed to maximise growth potential.
Those providing evidence were incredibly forthcoming in their analysis of what was holding cities back, but also optimistic about the ability of cities to overcome these barriers in future. The consensus in the room was that while there may be specific issues with skills, connectivity, and housing for example, problems in these areas continue to persist because ‘one-size-fits-all’ policies are rolled out across the nation to address differing needs locally. Autonomy at a local level is denied because, as Lewis Atter (who leads on Infrastructure Strategy at KPMG) explained, “Central government doesn’t have a view at all on local growth. There is only a cost side, scorecard and resource capture. There is no sense of how interventions contribute incrementally to national growth.” For instance, cities would be better equipped to raise qualification levels and tackle worklessness if they could oversee skills provision, which is a prospect the Commission will be exploring in our next report.
Where efforts have been made to decentralise power, government should still be cautious about claiming success. Eammon Boylan, Chief Executive of Stockport Council, warned that there is danger in seeing combined authorities and elected mayors as a panacea. What may work for one city is not necessarily right for another, a point which also clearly emerged from a retrospective of the past 30 years of attempts to devolve power to the UK. The Institute of Government categorised the success of combined authorities and elected mayors as ‘mixed’, concluding that the limited adoption of such evolutionary or ‘opt-in’ models of reform signals that the shift in power has yet to be embedded.
It’s not that Whitehall is oblivious to calls for decentralisation. When Lord Heseltine proposed devolution of funding from central government to Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) in 2012, heads in government were quick to nod along in harmony, although hands unfortunately didn’t loosen up on the purse strings of the Treasury – fiscal devolution creates anxiety at the centre. Drawing on her experience from local government, Lorna Fitzsimons of The Alliance Project and former MP of Rochdale, explained to the Commission that while central and local government may agree on the outcomes they want to achieve and roles they each play, but the centre often has difficulty letting go. The Treasury in particular needs to feel that the risk of relinquishing control is minimal, which is why phases or pilots should be seriously considered as devolution is pursued.
The feeling in the room was that in spite of previous setbacks, devolution of political power to the local level is inevitable. Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, highlighted the recent lecture given by Ed Miliband, committing to a reimagining of public services which aims to put power back in the hands of people and their local government. Leese felt that Miliband made it clear that politicians had not only been listening to arguments in favour of devolution, but are now ready to respond in a meaningful way. If the next election hinges on who can be the most radical on this front devolution will certainly be back on the table. The most pressing question is how powers should be best distributed at different scales. In making the rhetoric a reality, the economic outlook for cities will improve as cities are allowed new freedoms to pursue their growth agendas.
Today marks the launch of the first output of the City Growth Commission, featured on www.citygrowthcommission.com. Building on feedback from our launch event at the RSA in October 2013, the report takes on a striking infographic-led template to deliver the message.
We argue that the UK’s opportunity for strong economic growth – which addresses wider long-term challenges – requires strengthening our urban system. Our scale of analysis starts with looking to the 15 areas with the largest population, which we term ‘metros’. The Commission will consider the potential of UK cities large and small.
In Metro Growth: the UK’s economic opportunity, we argue that a new global picture of growth is taking shape. This is not about a transfer of economic power from North to South, or West to East. It is about the rise of cities.
The UK is home to one of the world’s truly global cities. But too many of our urban areas outside London are failing to achieve their growth potential. We will explore what political powers and governance arrangements are needed to deliver this; and how public service reform can improve fiscally sustainability in all UK cities. The report highlights that public spending Greater Manchester exceeds tax take by £4–5bn – equal to roughly £2,000 per person per year, yet metros have little power to change this: over 90% of all tax is collected by central government.
Led by renowned economist Jim O’Neill, the City Growth Commission will argue that UK cities have the potential to foster higher, more sustainable productivity, growth and living standards. Metro Growth sets the scene for the Commission’s work. It explains why ‘metros’ not only drive most of our economic activity, but shape how nearly all of us live and work. Cities, and their economic success, matter to us all.
The data tells us that we need a sophisticated understanding of the dynamics of population. For example, while both Manchester and Liverpool grew over the last decade, Manchester added 11,000 young people (under 15) while Liverpool lost 9,000 young people.
Focussing on skills, infrastructure and devolution of fiscal and policy-making powers, Metro Growth makes an early exploration into some of the factors currently limiting UK cities’ growth. The report found that:
Skills are consistently identified by businesses as a big barrier to growth. Whilst universities play an important role in developing skills and clustering talented people, graduate retention and attraction strategies are relatively unexplored aspect of economic development.
Although many UK cities are close in distance, weak infrastructure links between regions mean that potential economic relationships are under-developed. Despite the 22,000 commuters that cross the Pennines every day between the largest metros of Yorkshire and the North West, the economic relationships between Manchester and Leeds are less strong than might be expected for cities of their size.
There remain large differences between metros in qualifications. South Sussex Metro (Brighton, Hove, Worthing, Littlehampton and Shoreham – combined population of half a million residents) was found to have 23 residents who are university graduates for every 10 who have no qualifications. By contrast, the Potteries Metro is home to 22 residents with no qualifications for every 10 university graduates.
Metro Growth concludes by looking at the wider conditions in which people are able to contribute economically. The social context matters – for example health and well-being varies greatly between and within metros. Having people will low mental well-being, and poor physical health, limits the opportunities for productive participation in the economy.
As we develop more in-depth research over the next eight months, important areas of investigation remain for the City Growth Commission. Most fundamentally, how can we ensure that the case for metro growth is connected to salient issues for citizens – how to improve living standards – and for government – how to reform public services in light of long-term challenges.
The City Growth Commission runs for 12 months and will seek to influence all political parties in the run up to the next General Election, and make the case for cities to take a new role in our political economy. Following an open call for evidence which ran from October 2013 to January 2014, the Commission will host its first evidence hearing on Tuesday 11 February in Manchester Town Hall.
Filed under: Arts and Society, Design and Society, Social Economy
The first ever unMonastery launched this month in the city of Matera, in Southern Italy. Doing something new is messy. The path is unclear, doubt is a killer, and it’s somehow never easier to quit than when you are on the verge of something real.
2014 could be the year of unMonastery, and my mission, gladly accepted, is to help shape evaluation models and metrics that help us understand what it is and if it is working.
UnMonastery is place-based social innovation that throws a group of people into one place – currently Matera – and sees what happens. It takes issues facing the whole of Europe – youth unemployment, mismatched skills, brain drain to major cities, under-utilised buildings, depleted public resources –and offers up a secular, 21st century version of the monastery. People with skills and projects to offer are housed, fed and work out of a building that would be otherwise left empty.
Best suited to areas suffering brain drain and a lack of home-grown opportunities, the ‘unMonasterians’ are tasked with working with people from the local area to develop locally specific projects that respond to local needs and assets. For me the key question will be measuring whether the project is one that both preserves the sanity of its protagonists, and can be mapped to really engage with and become embedded in its local area. Without the wellbeing of those working in it, it becomes a workhouse, without local embeddedness it becomes a fun working holiday for some super-skilled Europeans.
The Matera unMonastery is situated in the ‘Sassi’ of Matera, a ridiculously picturesque setting in the labyrinthine ancient part of the city, where, since the troglodyte era, houses have been built into the local ‘tufo’,a calcarenitic rock that comes from marine sediments. Whilst fantastic, this setting will actually prove to be one of the first challenges for the unMonastery: Matera, the people, is not Matera, the beautiful and touristy Sassi.
The Matera unMonasterians were selected through an international open call in which people were encouraged to apply for residencies in Matera with projects that responded to local needs and interests, as had been set out following a series of co-production workshops. The final team comprises of projects that take us from building functional solar-panel trackers with local young people, to setting up water-filtering systems for urban farming. The skill-set of the unMonasterians spans coders, graphic designers, illustrators, engineers, social scientists, artists. Over the next four months their projects will focus both on Matera, and on unMonastery as a venture in its own right. UnMonastery favours total, brutal, transparency: you will able to follow its progress, with everything from project plan updates to budgets available online. If at all curious, you can meet the team and ask many questions today (!) from 10am UK-time, by following the hasthtag #unmon on twitter.
Progress so far?
Due to the iterative nature of building unMonastery, it was always hard to know what it would end up being. Born as an idea in the first EdgeRyders conference in Strasbourg, it only became real when Matera – currently a candidate for European City of Culture 2019 – stepped up as a host and funder. First Materans shaped unMonstery in their understanding of what Matera’s assets, resources and needs were; then the unMonastery applicants shaped unMonasery through the projects they proposed. And now, Matera and unMonasterians – sometimes the same thing – will shape each other.
So, how will we know if it is working?
Without the wellbeing of those working in it, #unMonastery becomes a workhouse; without local embeddedness it becomes a fun working holiday for some super-skilled Europeans
The job of the unMonasterians is now to work hard and be nice to each other – not too light a request when living and working in the same space as up to ten people for up to four months.
Using metrics developed in the RSA’s Connected Communities work, I am helping them develop ways of measuring how things are going, inside and out.
1. How are you? Social change is messy, and burn-out is often the cost. The unMonasterians will be asked to measure their levels of wellbeing, and make sure they have routines that allow for some version of the five ways to wellbeing and proper sleep.
2. Do you feel part of a community? RSA Connected Communities work has really highlighted the importance of feeling part of a community, of feeling accepted where you are.
3. Do you feel supported? It is important to know that you can go to others when you need, and our social connections are often the first thing to suffer when we move around. Even for those who live in Matera full-time, their new focus could disrupt those social connections that currently help them feel well.
4. How are you and your project linking in to the local area? This is the big mama of the questions. Even if our unMonasterians are happy, bright eyed and bushy tailed, without real local engagement unMonastery is a spring-break, not a new way of working. Using social network analysis, and possibly linking to unMonasterian Lucia‘s walking ethnographies, we will be tracking who the unMonasterians are working with, how this changes, and if this goes beyond the existing contacts of our contacts. Everywhere is a bubble: a key question will be whether we can burst ours.
2014 could be the year of the unMonastery, and unMonastery could be the start of something really excellant. Please do follow unMonastery on twitter, keep up to date with what they are doing here, and join them for an online twitterstorm at 10am today!
— Edgeryders (@edgeryders) February 8, 2014
Gaia Marcus is a Senior Researcher on the RSA Connected Communities project.
You can find her on twitter: @la_gaia
The fabulous poster images are all by Anthony Burrill.