Localising Prosperity – a short film

We are delighted to launch our new Localising Prosperity video – a seven-minute film exploring better ways to do economics.

Through four projects that exemplify aspects of the Localising Prosperity approach our film shows how we can create an economy which is lively and diverse, meets local needs with local resources, & in which more people have a stake.

Our thanks to all the contributors involved in making this film (see more below). Please share it widely!

Thanks also to our film-maker, Susan Jones of Redhead Business Films and to our funder the Barrow Cadbury Trust.

In such a short film we’ve not had space to fully describe the featured projects and who is behind each of them, so here’s a quick round-up and some useful links:

The New Hospital: anchoring prosperity in the community

This is about ensuring “anchor institutions’ like Sandwell & Birmingham’s new hospital (leaving aside current concerns about Carillion!*) has the maximum positive impact on local people, by ensuring that retail options, procurement and related services are locally sourced and employ locally wherever possible. The organisations working on this – Sandwell Council, Citizen Home, Localise West Midlands and Smethwick CAN amongst others – are proposing that one of the hospital’s retail units is taken by a social enterprise shop  that could not only sell locally produced goods but act as a “concierge” type service for busy staff and visiting families, to access the services they need from local businesses.

Thanks to Conrad Parke, Martin Hogg, Karen McCarthy for appearances in this one.

*UPDATE: although the Carillion failure means a new developer will need to be found for the Midland Metropolitan Hospital, the work of the USE-IT! project in Ladywood, Soho and Smethwick will continue, as it relates to those areas rather than the hospital itself.  For anyone directly affected, there is advice here, a general helpline 0800 063 9282 and a helpline for Black Country businesses: 01902 912322.

Inclusive business support ecosystems in Balsall Heath

Citizens UK and the Centre for Research on Ethnic Minority Enterpreneurship have been working together with business people in Lozells, Small Heath and Sparkbrook to achieve better engagement with support agencies, aiming to generate an inclusive business support ecosystem in these areas. Nayer’s jewellery business is one of those involved. Thanks to Moses Dakurivosa and Nayer Khan-Farrukh for contributing here.

Energy Capital – local business innovation for social good

Headed by Matthew Rhodes, Energy Capital is about collaborative sector development, in which energy innovation delivers on the needs of real people and the environment, and policy shifts support it to do so, with locally owned businesses  involved at every level. RentE Cars is on of the local businesses that is ‘driving’ (forgive the pun) and taking advantage of electric car charging innovations. As well as Matthew we are grateful to Rob Jolly and Waqar Bukhari for taking part in this one.

Social care: an opportunity for inclusive economics?

Our final case study is about how social care, rather than being a problem, can be a positive force for inclusive economics that could help the West Midlands Combined Authority achieve its stated aims of sharing prosperity more widely – as a report by NEF for LWM outlines. The “foundational economy” is made up of the things society really needs, social care being one, and deserves a closer economic focus. Built around adaptable, small scale and community enterprises, social care may not provide conventional ‘growth’ but could have a huge impact on local jobs in places where they are needed, providing something we all need and care about. Crossroads Care is an example of a locally accountable and adaptable enterprise delivering care and economic opportunity. Our thanks to Christine Christie, Graham Evans, Carol Glover and her mum, and Joanne Ferguson for their time.

Together these stories show some of the ways that communities can have greater economic power and prosperity.

If you’re interested in our approach try our Localising Prosperity webpages for more information.

Karen Leach



GBS LEP’s spatial framework: democracy, nongrowth sectors and getting localisation out of its little box

I was at the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership consultation event on their spatial framework this morning. A few thoughts:

– During discussion on our table, someone pointed at me and said “and then your community economic development stuff fits into this little box here”. It dawned on me then that the name of our project – Mainstreaming Community Economic Development – is a misleading one for many, because if it involves ‘community’ it must be ‘little’. I explained that our work was about scaling up localisation – so that every regeneration project, every economic development decision, every spatial plan, has thought through how it can maximise its benefit to and ownership by local people, and particularly to its excluded and deprived communities. It doesn’t fit into a little box, it’s just a consideration in all good decisions. As fellow table participant Patrick Willcocks tweeted to us afterwards – “You need to, as you did today, get across that you are not about isolated small local projects”. Hmm – lesson there.

– How does a LEP’s spatial framework fit in with the democratic planning system, I asked? The top table responded that this in no way detracts from local planning authorities’ plans; it should just be a useful tool to inform them. Technically, they are right – but it has to be said that the communication of LEPs and their spatial planning agenda implies a  much greater role – implies that what the LEP comes up with will have significant weight. The high level of attendance indicates their opinion of its weight.

If it is to have significant weight, there needs to be more diversity in its production.  It was a very, very undiverse audience. Both in the types of business and other organisations represented, and in gender and ethnic origin. Even less so than the public sector-led local and regional planning processes I’ve been through. This is almost OK if it’s only an advisory plan, but where will those other economic actors find as influential a way in?

Of course something like Birmingham’s Social Inclusion Process should have as much influence on the local plan as the LEP’s spatial framework does. That’s certainly not something that fits into Heseltine’s version of what localism really means, but you have to hope local politicians can see beyond that.

– There was, though, an encouraging level of awareness of the realities of environmental limits – climate change and biodiversity, and I think a genuine commitment to ensuring “no-one’s left behind” by economic progress. To achieve this, we talked about the need to prioritise not just the ‘growth sectors’ but also sectors and types of activity that create and keep enterprises and jobs where they are most needed, and we talked about maximising the local benefits from all economic development as a major objective.

There’s a lot of potential in the spatial framework agenda – I am far more concerned about the aspirations Westminster has for its new structures than I am about the merit of the individuals round the tables.

Karen Leach

Missing the ownership element of sustainable development – thoughts from the BCSD workshop

I attended the Business Council for Sustainable Development UK reception and sustainable development workshop today.

The Council’s worldwide President, Peter Bakker, talked (excellently) about the need to entirely reform capitalism in order to achieve better social goals and to live within environmental limits. Then there were workshop sessions on how businesses need to engage with and account for ecosystems services, and on localising manufacturing – is it desirable, and how do we help it to happen.  There was lots of discussion in the second workshop about the whether businesses would be prepared to move close to their markets, what this means, and the implications for moving raw materials around and for within-boundary CO2 accounting. But it did strike me – unsurprisingly, given LWM’s current immersion in our Mainstreaming Community Economic Development project, which is essentially about localism and localisation – that in the whole days’ discussion, decentralisation of capital and ownership was not mentioned despite all the open goals for addressing it. (I should, of course, have had my hand up more quickly in the Q&A. In my defence I was listening to interesting people!)

In terms of reforming capitalism, I’d refer not for the first time to my favourite piece capitalism thinking (capitalism and the concentration of ownership) that decentralising wealth, ownership and economic power into more hands is an essential bit of the reform we’re seeking. More practically, our talk of localising manufacturing needs to be putting forward a relationship economy, local ‘buy-in’ and local knowledge. A Portuguese private sector delegate to the conference said “we are not interested in moving because we know where we are, we know the people”. James McKay suggested that sustainability isn’t getting heard because of the challenge of making it locally understood and locally relevant.  If we’re trying to achieve sustainable development, to get businesses that understand it, to build social capital and to reduce the energy implications of trade, I’d be far more interested in getting local businesses to grow and thrive, get to know local resource flows and human beings, feel they belong, care what happens to the area, redistribute their turnover within it, and build their sustainable success on that.

Excuse the rapid reflections – writing the MCED report doesn’t allow me time to refine this, but it seemed worth throwing in a reference to this missing half of the sustainable development agenda.

Karen Leach