Connected Localism

Local government stands at a crossroads. In one direction lies the spectre of reduced influence, minimal service provision and public disengagement; in the other the promise of reinvigorated civic economies, public services genuinely built around the needs of citizens and engaged, resilient communities.

Connected Localism, a new collection of essays published by LGiU today argues for radical public service transformation through networks of local innovation.

We are responding to a growing gap between rising demand and shrinking resources and by long term challenges such as caring for an ageing population; driving local economic renewal; ensuring that young people are equipped with the social, vocational and educational skills to flourish in a fluid economy; mitigating and adapting to the impact of climate change; and responding to developments in communications and technology.

Tackling these long term changes to our society and economy and the challenges they create will demand innovation and inspiration; new ways of thinking about what public services are and what government does. Put crudely, if the last 20 years has been about local government moving from delivering services to commissioning them, the next 20 years will be about moving from commissioning services to ‘curating‘ places and working with communities so that fewer services are required.

There are three reasons why this must inevitably involve a relocalisation of politics .

1.     Localism has a democratic premium. All things being equal we should seek to give people the most influence possible over the places they live in, the public services they use and the lives they lead.

2.     Complex problems are rarely solved by centralised one-size-fits-all solutions. Innovation must be local, responsive to specific contexts and drawing on the creativity and civic capacity of local people.

3.     The really difficult challenges we face cannot be solved by institutions (of state or market), or communities or by citizens working alone but require a collective, collaborative engagement of all parts of the public realm.

But while there are compelling arguments for a local approach, there’s also a risk that local approaches to public service innovation will lead to insularity, fragmentation and endless reinvention of the wheel.

What we need then is a way of thinking about localism that preserves the value of the local while simultaneously tapping into broader networks. That enables different communities to share ideas, exchange resources, aggregate influence and increase their collective intelligence.

We call this connected localism: connected across services, across places and across the public realm.

But what does this look like in reality?

The essays in Connected Localism start to sketch out some answers to this question. Patrick Diamond explores a framework of structural reform that would permanently root power in local communities. Sophia Parker gets to grips with the tough realities of getting innovation to happen and making it stick. Anthony Zacharzewski envisions how a truly participatory local politics would work, while Richard Reeves examines what really empowering communities might entail.

The essays call for local tax raising powers; for diverse provider markets driven by public entrepreneurialism; for new models of participatory governance; different approaches to risk and the integration of informal networks into service provision. They grapple with the challenges of embedding innovation and the tensions between individual and community aspirations.

Connected localism is not proposed as either a political ideology or a public management method, but as a way of thinking and doing that builds on the creativity and civic energy of local people and connects it into a dynamic network of innovation and strategic governance.

Public service transformation involves big politics and technical policy making, but it is also the stuff of everyday lives. If we want to achieve a future fit for sharing we need a far reaching and permanent shift in the way in which we organise public services and their governance, a shift that is rooted in the communities where people live and work.

The full report is available here.

Photo Credit: Cindee Snider Re via Compfight cc

    1. Mustapha Ishola-Jimoh says:

      As a CLP for 20 years now. I would like Leadership to be the one putting more policies or ideas forward rather than catching up with the Conservative/ Liberal. We have a lot of great and talented people within the party that can contribute greatly to the police agenda of the party, if they are taking them seriously enough.
      In my case, I was a Candidate on 2 Occasion on Local Election in Brent North. Me winning is not important for me but my party winning yes.
      My comment is on Housing . If we have a policy that fixed Mortgage for 25-30 years, And people can only borrow not more than 25% of the Value on their Residential property. ( That exclude Commercial property) .
      This will removed the insatibility of interest rate that goes up and down. ( The banks knows what profit they are going to make and borrowers knows that their rate is stable. ( No loser both side). That will also stabilise the market from floutuation. Also removing late payment of Domestic Bills I.e Gas ,Electricity , Telecom,including Mobile and Overdraft from CREDIT SCORING,. Which prevent first time Buyer form getting Mortgage in the first instant. This should not be use access the suitability of Long time Life commitment.
      Creating Opportunities for the Youngs in term of Training , Apprentiship and Job related training.
      Removing CRB on Petting Offences, which can give Young people second chance Opportunity.
      Encourage grass root CLPs and their Councillors/Council Leaders as part of Advisory panel that give Advice to the Leadership.
      Encourage more Ethnicity into the political arena. i.e MPs, House of Lords and Front Bench as role models. That will be great and COOL. ( That will bring more Educated youths to join the party.)
      Finally it will be great for ED (Our Leader to come to Brent and see the work done by Mohamed ( Brent Labour Council Leader), in term of Openess, innovation,new ideas ,saving cost and Discpline etc. Above all our new Town Hall next to the Stadium.
      Looking forward to see him.
      Mustapha Ishola-Jimoh
      CLP Brent North.

    2. Been there – done that! Even since our initial “total approach” of 1972 Budget Speech. And see, for example my website at 1985B – an initiative again finally frustrated by Whitehall. Remember the first centrally sponsored local “area management” 1974 etc., etc (again stymied by Whitehall). ….and so on,….up to and including all the more recent “total” local initiatives (of which there were many). One lesson is that effective “participatory governance” must be within a budgetary whole at whatever level, whether local, regional and/or national. But this does not happen and indeed obviously cannot happen while there is no coherent relationship to the central government’s supply procedure – and indeed while that the UK is still “considered to have among the weakest systems for parliam,entary control and influence over government expenditure in the developed world” (Hansard Society Report, “The Fiscal Maze” 2006. However you seem to be saying that you have finally “squared this circle” through your “connected localism” – so I’ll read your report with interest since, throughout all of Europe, many of the most critical local delivery issues…go all the way up: they take you constantly back to the door of central government itself!

    3. stevenboxall says:

      What evidence has been undertaken to discover how many Local Authorities could be capable of delivering the services and responsibilities they are required to do without financial support from central Government? I suspect the answer is very few, so the subject of local tax raising powers is a red herring, if not actually a dangerous road to go down. Do one wants to mention the local authorities in parts of Europe and the USA which have local tax raising powers and are now in great financial trouble.

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