Director of Places and Communities, Nat Defriend, shares three concrete ways Teresa May can deliver on her 2016 vision for an inclusive economy.
On the steps of Downing Street in 2016, Theresa May set out a vision highlighting the burning injustices and inequalities in UK society which motivated her as a politician and which she wanted to use her premiership to tackle.
Fast forward to her conference speech in Manchester 2017 and her welcome attempt to reassert this domestic agenda in the face of Brexit. However, the fact that she needed to do so demonstrates how in the intervening period words and actions have not connected.
We want to return to what she said in 2016 to offer her three concrete ideas for what she should do to deliver on this critical agenda.
1) The Prime Minister talked in 2016 about combatting the entrenched advantages of the privileged few.
She was right to do so. We know from our work in communities across the UK that remote, elitist and top-down decision making alienates people from their local economy and institutions leading to a pervasive sense that they perpetuate inequalities.
We know what exclusive economies feel like to those who are excluded and how negative social perceptions of places prevent people from acting and participating in change.
Over the past 4 years, our UK-wide research into inequality in UK communities has demonstrated that institutions, businesses and civic authorities urgently need new tools to engage with local communities radically differently. These tools need to recognise local people as genuine partners in change, prioritise bottom-up ideas and support local collaborations that can make change stick.
To do so will be to walk the walk of an inclusive economy built on partnership and collaboration rather than upon citizens as beneficiaries and consumers of products and services.
The good news is that these tools exist already. Our Amplify model has been implementing them in communities across the UK for over four years (read about our Amplify work in Northern Ireland, Leeds, Sheffield and Wales). But to be impactful, we need to see their adoption by a much broader set of partners and a genuine commitment to changing institutional and commercial practice.
2) May talked in 2016 about housing for young people.
Again, she was right. In our society, home ownership is irrevocably associated with success. But rampant house prices mean this particular part of the British dream is out of reach for many. Unfortunately, social housing is not the alternative it should be due to the parlous state of the sector. As a consequence, many have been pushed into a loosely regulated private-rented sector which in its worst manifestations epitomises the most exclusive parts of the exclusive economy.
The Prime Minister’s commitment to build more social housing is entirely welcome, but we feel more could be done to transform the private rented sector.
Reimagining Rent is a partnership between the Young Foundation and The Nationwide Foundation aimed at identifying, developing and scaling innovations in the private-rented sector which can mitigate and disrupt this most exclusive part of our economy.
We think government should back Reimagining Rent and other initiatives like it, using the power of central government to spark creativity and innovation in key areas which perpetuate the exclusive economy. Once again, the tools exist. All that’s missing is the political will.
3) She talked about the role for central government in tackling entrenched advantage.
In doing so she was silent about alternative social and economic structures that might have a role to play in delivering an inclusive economy.
Co-operative models offer a genuine alternative to the economic status quo. Our ground-breaking study of the Mondragon Corporation showed that it is possible to be both socially minded and commercially competitive and that fair distribution of wealth within businesses and societies equates to increased participation and commitment.
The Mondragon example also demonstrates that sustainable positive change is possible at scale. Rather than just relying on the ‘solo entrepreneur’, inclusive practices can bring people together to create sustainable change based on strong, shared values embedded in organisational culture, socio-economic activity and investment practice.
Central government must play a key role in shaping and applying learning from these models. The Cabinet Office’s Inclusive Economy Unit is well placed to do so and, alongside this APPG, is helping to forge a new consensus on inclusive growth.
At The Young Foundation we believe that community-led and collaborative models of growth are the cornerstone of the inclusive economy. The tools and learning exist. Let’s work together to make it a reality.
This blog was first published on the APPG on Inclusive Growth website: https://www.inclusivegrowth.co.uk/community-led-collaborative-models-growth-cornerstone-inclusive-economy/