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Inclusive growth has gained a firm foothold within the policy lexicon over recent years. Yet, despite much valuable discussion on what it is and why it is important, there remains a lack of clarity as to how it can be distinguished from more ‘typical’ economic growth strategies. Further, there remain gaps in understanding surrounding the practical steps that can be taken to foster inclusive growth. What levers do councils and combined authorities have at their disposal? How can authorities work with employers and public institutions? Which regulatory mechanisms and incentives need to be in place?

A new conversation on economic growth is certainly welcome. Over a decade on from the Financial Crash of 2008 and subsequent recession here in the UK, massive inequality persists, both between and within regions. That the UK economy has the highest levels of regional disparity among OECD nations demonstrates the structural imbalances that inclusive growth seeks to address, to ensure that the benefits of economic growth are shared across every section of society – both across and within regions and places.

How inclusive growth can be developed in practice is the core question underpinning a new NLGN research project we are undertaking in partnership with Barrow Cadbury Trust. We will draw on current practice from the front line of strategy implementation and service delivery. Through a series of peer learning workshops, we will share current experience, including key challenges that organisations pioneering inclusive growth interventions have experienced, and also generate new ideas. These conversations will help to inform practitioners’ approaches. The research will also explore how communities can be placed at the heart of inclusive growth strategy and delivery, following NLGN’s vision for the future of public services as set out in our Community Paradigm report.

Our goal at the end of this process is to have brought some practical clarity to the debate around inclusive growth and to have established concrete steps through which practitioners can develop their own frameworks for action. A final report will be published in January of 2020.

Charlotte Morgan and Trinley Walker

This blog was originally posted on the New Local Government Network (NLGN) website

If you would like to find out more about the project or get involved, please contact Charlotte Morgan or Trinley Walker: [email protected] – [email protected]

Localise West Midlands (LWM)has just become part of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA).  The blog post below by LWM’s Co-ordinator Karen Leach, explains how significant this is for LWM and describes the role they hope to play in co-ordinating civil society organisations into the inclusive growth agenda. It was originally posted on the LWM website.

We’re really pleased to be part of the WMCA’s new Inclusive Growth Unit.  It’s an opportunity to go beyond a focus on ‘problem people’ to the systemic reasons why we fail to share prosperity and how this can be addressed regionally.

We will be co-ordinating the input of civil society organisations into the inclusive growth agenda as well as having more general input into the Unit from our 20 years experience of exploring beneficial economics in the region. As part of our Barrow Cadbury funded work we’ve already held a workshop in February for organisations who have some level of ‘frontline’ role in economic justice and shared some initial conclusions with our WMCA contacts.

It will be a challenge for the WMCA and its partners, including ourselves, to co-ordinate the plethora of work strands – and overlaps with the social enterprise task force – into something that has the power to impact on the ‘business as usual’ growth-led approach that we have seen in every strategic economic plan since they were invented. But from what we have seen there is a genuine appetite to see change in how we value and deliver economics – so we are confident this is worth engaging with. The appointment of Claire Spencer as inclusive growth lead is definitely worth celebrating, and many of her new colleagues seem to share her willingness to push the boundaries.

We’re told that the Unit will cover not only public service reform agenda but cross-cuts the whole WMCA remit: it would be excellent to end the silo-ing of anything relating to ‘people’ away from the macho realm of ‘growth’.

From a specifically Localising Prosperity perspective, we’re also hoping to ensure that this agenda focuses on not only jobs but diversifying and democratising economic ownership, and building local economies around its assets and local ‘anchor’ institutions – the story of Preston remains an inspiration on this and the Centre for Local Economic Strategies have worked with anchor institutions in Birmingham on a similar approach. Our recent work with New Economics Foundation on the economic potential of social care in the WM economy highlighted how what’s described as the ‘foundational economy’ (the one that provides what human beings actually need, often based in the places where they actually live) provides a useful driver for inclusive economics.

Of course all this must be underpinned by the right set of values and measures: social care co-operatives hit all the right numbers if you value the goods, services, livelihoods, redistribution and economic power that it brings; less so if you are motivated by GVA (Gross Value Added). So this is the starting point for the work we’re planning.

We’re looking forward to an interesting few months.