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Where are we heading with this?

28 Apr

There’s a moment on any epic journey – a brief moment, maybe of self-doubt – when you pause (mid-sentence, perhaps) to wonder exactly where you’re headed.

This week’s pause, this check, comes just as we approach the midpoint of the KYP series – four done, five to go.  Time, then, to check the plan, time to summon energy, time to pull together and push on.  Time, maybe, for a small course correction?

KYP – ‘Knowing Your Place’ – was always an unlikely blog series but from the outset it had great structural underpinning.  Most of the episodes had been well rehearsed – albeit with different headlines – and needed only an injection of current relevance for a new audience.

With just one exception the planned topics were neatly summarised three years previously in the concluding chapter of Brain Gain – a book that captured more than a decade of learning through the Intelligent Community Forum.

The single exception is a key indicator that has since crept far more clearly onto the community agenda – largely, it should be said, through the work of the Rockefeller Foundation and their 100 Resilient Cities network.  It might once have been argued that Resilience was but a subset of a longer-standing ICF Key Indicator – Sustainability.  However, headline tones get burdened by baggage – a peaceful green is not on the same wavelength as urgently-flashing red and blue lights of public safety.

When the Intelligent Community Forum gathers in London next June, their 2018 root theme, Humanising Data, will no doubt be coloured by recently raised awareness of data privacy issues and the impacts/consequences of ‘artificial intelligence/ignorance’ – but in our KYP series the blog-prep for Sir Nigel Shadbolt’s input is still two weeks away.

For readers remaining mystified, links to the series so far are listed below.  At the outset, the central question, the question that is bringing so many brilliant speakers and community leaders together next June, was deceptively simple: Why do some places thrive whilst others decline?

I’ve checked the waypoints.  We seem to be on course, but the next five weeks is a long journey.  Still to come in this series are thoughts on local Advocacy (Who do we think are?), Open Data (AI in city infrastructures), Innovation Capacity (Pacemakers for Place-makers), Sustainability Engagement and finally Resilience.  Fortunately, ICF is inherently collaborative and, with inputs from summit speakers, the driving can be shared.

By the end of May, homework complete, all delegates – whether from the UK or the other side of world – will be fully prepped and prompted to probe the great gathering of expert speakers and community leaders at the ICF Global Forum.

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Notes:

Brain Gain, Bell, Jung and Zacharilla, Intelligent Community Forum, ISBN: 1499228023

Knowing Your Place – that place you call home.

The series so far:

Local Fabrics?

Connected With Success?

Where Have All Our Flowers Gone?

Altogether Now?

Part 5 – ‘Who Do We Think We Are?’ is scheduled for publication on 2ndMay.

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Connected With Success – the final cut

14 Apr

Part 2 of our series posted on the Medium Platform reflected on the theme of Connectivity.

As we approached the deadline for publication of Connected With Success the editing pace quickened. An earlier draft drew great suggestions from the Steering Group for the 2018 Intelligent Community Forum’s Global Summit in June.

Fiber optics

First up our friends in the Northwest shouted for inclusion of the Health and Education impacts of future-proofed networks – particularly for remote rural areas.  Then we had late confirmation from Sweden that VXFiber’s Mikael Sandberg would also be speaking at the Summit.

But the FINAL final cut was hugely informed by Bruce Katz – co-author of The New Localism.  Bruce gave an inspiring address this last week in the Centre for Cities ‘City Horizons’ programme – so the final cut gave voice to a wider view of networking.

Those of us with a background in telecoms are well at ease with the physical (holes, poles and cables) but pay less attention to the connectivity of ideas – the creative fusion when local leaders us their ‘convening power’ to bring talented minds from all quarters to focus on specific local issues.

Regular readers may recall that we reviewed Bruce’s work last October in ‘The NEW New Localism’ but now, six-months on, the willingness of folk to hear and understand his messages about the innovative power of communities is far more firmly established.

And so, in the nick of time, the final cut for Part 2 of this 9-part series balanced technical takeaways with the creative intellectual impacts.  In large part that is why the ICF Summit is so very useful –  the components are fascinating but it is in their networking that they become hugely valuable.

Next week we are writing about how communities build and maintain a Knowledge Workforce – Part 3 – ‘Where Have All our Flowers Gone?‘ will appear on April 19th – assuming we survive the edit process!

 

Programme (also evolving!)

Knowing Your Place – Local Fabrics

5 Apr

Local Fabrics [part 1 of a nine-part weekly series]

Why do some places thrive whilst others decline?

How can we shape the future of our communities — the places we call home, the places where we work, the places where we relax?

This nine-part guide to knowing (really understanding) the fabric of communities will explore those questions.

Questions of local prosperity and wellbeing are now far more prominent for many reasons — not least because so much more is known about the huge diversity of local economies and the very different needs and priorities of people who spend time in them. Awareness of these complex local fabrics — each one woven differently — prompts questions over the adequacies and limitations of centrally-driven top down policies.

The flood of new local insights stems from better data and deeper analysis. The realisation (or rather acceptance) that national pictures do not adequately describe the UK economy is a challenge for Whitehall. Tabloids may decry post-code lotteries. Funding formulae handed down from Whitehall are bitterly contested. Local leaders campaign for greater empowerment — some even arguing for ‘city sovereignty’. And, in the Brexit context, questions of national, regional and local identity and belonging are under the spotlight.

International relationships and high policy arenas may seem way out of reach and, for many people, it’s the stuff closest to hand that is important in any quest to ‘take back control’. In this series, therefore, the focus is entirely on local communities and what can make them healthier — prosperous, engaged and sustainable — in a world where the free flow of data demands careful application.

Great cities may be keen to adorn themselves with ‘smart’ technology to further hone their inner workings. Old mechanistic approaches to economies are, however, being supplanted by thematic models — exemplified by Kate Raworth’s ‘Doughnut Economics’ and Marianna Mazzucato’s ‘Entrepreneurial State’. These describe, safe places for policy makers to intervene on socioeconomic issues without straying beyond ecological boundaries. The new economics are also delightfully cross-sector with themes cutting across the old silos that fuel so much of central policy and ‘industry’ regulation.

Conventional economic analysis and management is rooted in vertical sector silos, geospatial metrics and demographics. The more-qualitative themes that create local fabrics and bind communities together are the cross-cutting place-making threads shown in figure 1.

Each of the horizontal threads will be explored in the next eight weekly episodes of this place-based series.

Because all places are different these themes will have variable relevance for the community that you know best — the place that you call home. But the activities and priorities that create these threads are all indicators of community cohesion and future prosperity.

The UK economy is only the aggregate of local placed-based activities. Any sense of national cohesion depends on the strength and design of these local fabrics.

These indicators are not new — they are distilled from years of observation. They are at the root of ‘intelligent communities’ and derive from the long-term observations of a global think-tank that gathers annually to celebrate forward-thinking communities.

The episodes will be published weekly throughout April and May 2018 with the full set complete before the Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) next gathers in London to ask again ‘Why do some places thrive whilst others decline?

Knowing Your Place – that place we call home

4 Apr

From tomorrow (April 5th) and for the following eight weeks we’ll be publishing a series of reflections on aspects of Intelligent Communities.

These will also appear on the Medium platform (Groupe Intellex) and on LinkedIn.

Full announcement sets the context for the series in the run-up to the Intelligent Community Forum’s Global Summit in London (June 4-6)

One Week Underground in Valencia

18 Feb

Living in a cave – one of many on the edge of Valencia that have been homes for hundreds of years – was not the obvious choice for a visitor to an ultra-high-tech conference.

Then again, something about that enlightened conference was like writing for the samizdat – underground press – digging for stories that must be exposed. And some of those stories, believe me, were about digging.

Gaps in comprehension are a challenge. Even as collective intelligence is facilitated by better digital connectivity the scope for collective ignorance blossoms and curiosity is constrained. The shifting sands of ‘Need to Know’ obscures perception and folks let go of things they’ve not fully grasped.

The cave was, surprisingly, warm and comfortable. Living there was eased by assistance from the owners who lived in the cave next door. It was sufficient. It was a timely reminder that conventional comforts can be recalibrated – and, anyway, the Wi-Fi worked brilliantly!

But I was not in Valencia for historical perspectives. I came to write about business futures. I came to make some small contribution to wider understanding for folks back home blissfully unaware of stuff happening beyond their parish. Stuff that really must be understood – even if it runs counter to their limited experience or unquestioned dogma.

Parochial is a way of describing the silos of specialists. In business and government, as well as in local communities, tribal tendencies need cross-cutting threads to knit together our social and economic fabrics. That need to knock heads together was exposed in my story of the contrast between two technology camps. How is it that experts in telecommunications find it a challenge to talk to each other?

In another way of describing what folks at home are missing, ‘No Valentine from Valencia’ shared what to some in government has long been best left unsaid. But wider comprehension of the real impact of that disregard has still not dawned back home. Where progress is hobbled by lack of vision, only direct experience will lift sights.

The good news for the UK might have been better headlined ‘Digging for Victory’. It wasn’t but, in the heart of the story, the determination to do the job once and to do it properly went a long way to explaining the unexpected accolade.

Three days at an ultra high-tech conference. Four days living in a whitewashed cave. Three stories shining lights on gaps in comprehension. These experiences, and many more, I carry forward to the next great adventure – the influx of folk from around the world to London next June to lift the sights of local leaders from ‘smart cities’ to ‘Intelligent Communities. You may not know it but really, you should hear about this.

Productivity’s New President

2 Feb

Institute for Management Services appoints new president to take fresh approach to UK’s productivity transformation

IMS – the very British Institute for Management Services – seems to have been around forever.   And the terribly British problem with productivity continues to puzzle, despite decades of effort, a long train of government ministers and grand policy initiatives.

The IMS appointment of a presidential successor to Dr. Beeching, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, Monty Finniston and more-recently a couple of Lords, might seem unlikely to make much difference.  Except for one small thing – the least noticed and least understood strand of the UK government’s new Industrial Policy : Place-Making.   Embedded in the latest policy iteration is acknowledgement that local economies are very diverse.  Different places have different needs and priorities.  They are not served well by ‘one size fits all’ policies based on national averages. Bristol is very different to Bolton.

With the legitimization of ‘Place-Making’ – entirely new channels are opened to the incoming productivity president.  Recharged city leaderships are massively motivated energy sources rooted within local economies. Their ‘city sovereignty’ perspectives reflect a new determination to properly manage the shocks and stresses of fast-growing communities.

The energy of new city leaders is undeniable. They wear coats of many party colours. Who better to convene new programmes that could ramp up inward investment, attract talent, grow their local knowledge workforce and get to grips with the chronic mediocrity of digital infrastructure.  In contrast, Whitehall has just celebrated the ‘achievement’ of 95% UK availability of connectivity that is not super, not fast and not broad – and wonder why more people don’t buy it?

Leastways, that’s the story so far. The UK’s productivity wake-up call  could herald a new policy balance – more grass roots than top-down – but much will now depend on finding space in local leaders’ overcrowded place-making agendas and the resources to fuel their empowerment.

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With the benefit of hindsight

14 Jan

My first blog of 2018 ‘Unintended Consequences and Digital Dilemmas’ reflected on the recently aired ‘backlash’ against addictive smart phones and other concerns around popular platforms.

There is always an undercurrent of discontent and discomfort around disruptions engendered by new technologies and it’s far too easy to blame lack of foresight on those who have pioneered new online systems and digital devices. This time around, however, there’s an interesting reaction from within the tech community itself.

There’s a growing realization that this innovative industry needs to be far more than ‘clever clogs with computers’ obsessed with technological novelty and inventing yet more uncalled for stuff. “Hey Google. Who needs wireless woolly mittens to tell your smartphone you have cold hands?”

 It’s not just the digital industry that’s learning to focus on real needs. Across all sectors the question ‘And your point is?’ focuses minds on real purpose – ‘what exactly are we really trying to achieve?’ Even (some) economists are learning to strip away layers of substitutes for common sense and question mechanistic devotion to dogma.

In these ‘hindsightful’ hours there’s space to reflect that if there’d been some adherence to basic principles we’d not now need remedial actions. And, more than that, there is scope for those blessed with sharper minds to restate those principles.

My blog on the Medium platform points to an example of some basic principles for inspired local leaders. I also reflect on the relative deafness of macroeconomics – the fluffy blankets of average ignorance cloaking the insights and priorities of hugely diverse local economies and communities that still lack the freedom to seize their destiny.

A toast to 2018: Greater Granularity: delight in diversity.

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