Below is our draft response to Birmingham’s social inclusion process consultation paper (consultation closes 5th November). Comments welcome.
This focuses mainly on economic development aspects – we’re not attempting to cover some of the more specific issues relating to some excluded groups but hope plenty of others with the relevant expertise will be responding along those lines.
Social Inclusion Process consultation – draft response October 2012
In general – excellent. We think this paper has been successful in the difficult task of drawing together the thinking from the diverse discussions around the SIP and turning it into more concrete, actionable recommendations. It gets away from the counter-productive focus solely on ‘social mobility’. It is ambitious, but it needs to be.
This paper shows the quality of output we get when the goal is social inclusion rather than growth or our ‘global city’ status. However Localise WM suspects that this focus will achieve more on against economic indicators than many more mainstream and globally focused economic approaches can.
How can you help turn these ideas into action?
Localise WM has a ten year track record in localisation approaches and in the processes and principles that assist in decentralising decision-making. We are developing a strong working knowledge of Community Economic Development (CED) approaches (the sort of process described at commitment 1.2) including being able to signpost to a number of good practice examples in other countries. We are currently working on a briefing for councillors on how a CED approach might work in Birmingham districts, at the request of Cabinet member John Cotton.
We also have expertise in how local and social enterprise can be involved in delivery of green deal in order to improve social inclusion aspects through training, job creation and local adaptability.
We therefore have good background and experience to be able to help develop economic recommendations around ‘locale’ economies and inclusive growth strategy and around fuel poverty at 3.3.
Do the recommendations cover the right things?
Mainly yes. We particularly value:
– the focus on community economic development, and on distinctive ‘locale’ strategies for different areas; and the emphasis on small business and entrepreneurship
– Tackling fuel poverty
– Empowerment and neighbourhoods recommendations (commitment 6)
– The asset-based approach, co-production and public procurement elements at p41
Is there anything significant we have missed?
A number of suggestions below would add to the quality of what is already there:
1) Sense-making: This is good, but could better develop more coherence and the meeting of multiple objectives with each activity if it began with a statement that all the commitments should be delivered with a common approach and agenda across these seven and others, ie. to:
– maximise local economic returns and local jobs
– maximise reach to diverse sections of the population and particularly those vulnerable to exclusion
– value and protect local distinctiveness so that the needs of different parts of the population are taken into consideration.
– consider widespread wellbeing as an ultimate objective.
This type of approach would for example ensure that when looking at service delivery, or solving fuel poverty, this is done in a way that maximises local returns, and when dealing with small businesses this is done in a way that maximises inclusion – and so on.
Alternatively this multi-objective approach outline could fit into the ‘fresh approach’ section on p41.
2) Income equality is mentioned (p21) as crucial to wellbeing in the Inclusive Economy section, and a bigger issue than simply wage levels. But this is not addressed by any recommendation.
Measures to address income equality should be incorporated into commitment 1.1 and under CSR at 1.8. Suggestions include:
– seek the LEP’s assistance in promoting a living wage economy and in rejecting the outdated idea of promoting Birmingham as a low wage economy. Mention the living wage also under CSR at 1.8.
– Inclusive economic strategy at 1.1 to include encouragement of co-ops and mutuals. Strategic encouragement of co-ops and mutuals have provenly strengthened economies in other
countries in the recent past as well as addressing income equality.
– Under CSR at 1.8 should be: larger business to publish their pay differentials and to adopt best practice for remuneration panels, such as employee representation; encouraging flexible working practices to enable those vulnerable to economic exclusion to participate in the economy.
3) The Community Economic Development approach:
While this consultation focuses mainly on the commitments, there is a crucial element of the evidence base that is missing from the section on inclusive economic growth: namely that the Localise WM (BCT-funded) review of evidence found not only that small businesses have a high local multiplier but that economies with a high proportion of small local businesses appear to deliver better than centralised on: job creation, particularly in disadvantaged and peripheral areas, accessibility of employment opportunities for people who are vulnerable to economic exclusion; on resilience, stability and economic returns to an area, quality of life, security (for employees), civic welfare, civic participation, and local economic power. I think these are useful and persuasive context for the commitments that are proposed, and would therefore assist in people understanding why they are important as we progress them together.
Some additions could strengthen commitment 1.2 to reflect best practice in community economic development across the world:
a) the development boards should include input from community organisations and social enterprise. This has been found to be helpful in keeping a board’s focus on its social goals as well as bringing local knowledge; it also can create productive dialogue between local businesses and their customers and facilitate a network approach to development (see below). It is vital that the focus on local development is fully cross-sectoral.
b) in identifying functioning economic geographies and how they could be supported, we should ensure there is a focus on supply chains and business networks rather than on individual business.
c) this relates to point 1 above on sense-making but the goals of 1.1 and 1.2 should be explicitly set out as including social inclusion, addressing disadvantage, increasing wellbeing and valuing local distinctiveness. We stress this because a focus on small business or locally distinctive economies, although excellent, does not guarantee that these will address social inclusion – does not act as a proxy for it – so needs to remain an explicit goal of the strategy. This is backed up by good practice in CED across the world.
There could be a useful link with the district devolution agenda here.
3) Tackling fuel poverty should be linked to economic strategy and a commitment made to ensuring that local enterprise, social enterprise and community organisations are involved in delivery of energysaving schemes. This section should also refer to the need for an affordable warmth partnership and strategy. Tackling fuel poverty needs to be linked to wider financial inclusion activity rather than offered as a standalone ‘energy’ activity. This is not about reducing its high priority but about how it is received and understood.
4) Commitment 4 on connectivity: Whilst enabling the potentially excluded to get around the city is important, another aspect of connecting people and places is to understand the value of locally accessible facilities (leisure, exercise, shopping) and therefore ensure planning and other policies protect such facilities on the local and small scale rather than centralising into larger facilities with wider catchment areas. In an era when fuel prices will inevitably continue rising, this has at least an equal impact on inclusion as improving transport connectivity. This could be added at 4.3.
5) Housing: throughout the paper, housing is identified as very important to social inclusion; affordability and quality are key. But this is not reflected in the recommendations. Housing is best delivered on a co-produced basis both in terms of quality of place, wellbeing and affordability. It should feature with this in mind in the commitments somewhere. Community Land Trust housing and mutual home ownership solutions would meet multiple objectives, as would self-help housing schemes (see below).
Do you or your organisation have any examples of best practice related to any of the commitments and recommendations?
Yes although most of these have already been fed into the process earlier in the process.
Community economic development good practice
RESO: Features as a case study in Social economy? Solidarity economy? Exploring the implications of conceptual nuance for acting in a volatile world: Mike Lewis & Dan Swinney – a Balta publication. Also RESO’s website http://www.resomtl.com/en/home.aspx
Community Economic Development (CED) is an alternative to conventional economic development. Its central tenet is that problems facing communities—unemployment, poverty, job loss, environmental degradation and loss of community control—need to be addressed in a holistic and participatory way. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Community_economic_development
Plugging the Leaks http://www.pluggingtheleaks.org/
Processes for identifying how money – regeneration money and local spend – leaves a deprived area and how those leaks can be plugged by means of identifying new enterprises and services needed. It is an adaptable, open-source, community-led process that can be employed through neighbourhood forums and can be used in conjunction with the neighbourhood planning process as well as at wider geographical scales. US Plugging the Leaks calculators – used by US Chambers of Commerce http://www.livingeconomies.org/leakage_calculators
Economic Gardening: http://www.economicgardening.ca/ Instigated in Colorado following the loss of inward investors to emphasis the ‘home grown’ economy, it bases its activities on three pillars:
provision of information and market research; infrastructure for transport, quality of life and higher education in order to create a favourable environment for entrepreneurs; and connections between local businesses and academic institutions, thinktanks and other businesses.
Consortium approach used in Italy which permits local SMEs and social enterprises to overcome minimum turnover requirements etc in order to bid for major contracts while retaining local identities and maximising local benefits http://www.buildup.eu/blog/23848
Buy for Good scheme initiated by Birmingham City Council: a non-profit organisation which awards contracts that “have a positive impact on the local economy by creating jobs and training opportunities in target communities, minimising environmental impacts… creating funding streams that are re-
Enterprise & social enterprise – Bizzfizz http://www.bizfizz.org.uk/ another nef programme operating enterprise training using similar thinking to build local economies and social capital.
‘ELSIE’ in Leeds is a low-cost enterprise training model http://s.coop/puu0
LWM Mainstreaming Community Economic Development project – Barrow Cadbury funded research project investigating how CED and localisation approaches can contribute to social and economic inclusion, income equality and diversity and local distinctiveness and how beneficial approaches can be mainstreamed.