Tag Archives: economic

Knowing Your Place – part two

5 May

Knowing Your Place was originally written to support a proposed event in 2018. In that brief note I reflected on the new meaning of the phrase. Once it was just a parental demand for subservience and ‘not speaking out of turn’.   Now it’s a Place-Maker’s celebration of Open Data and a vastly greater understanding of the local economy and community needs.

In Part two my attention turns to the wealth of fresh economic thinking. I say ‘fresh’ but it’s evident that ideas currently regarded as radical or outside of mainstream conventions have been around for decades. The puzzle is to understand why these commonsense ideas have struggled to be accepted.

This resistance to fresh thinking is not uniquely British. Deeply embedded but demonstrably errant economic dogma is a global concern. That in large part reflects an intellectual legacy underpinning the formative education of folk who now govern or influence policy. The re-education process will take a fair few generations to resolve.

In the UK, however, we have a particularly virulent strand of dodgy economic dogma that thrives largely because we have a very very centralised economy. In other countries with a more federal approach there is greater scope for economic diversity and experimentation amongst regions or municipalities. But before that thought distracts you, let’s review a few of these ‘fresh’ thinkers.

Throughout the profession there are economists who understand that things are not quite right. Not surprisingly these thinkers often try to differentiate their ideas. Those alarmed by widening inequalities – for example Stephanie Flanders – would prefer Inclusive Growth.   Similarly we’ve had mechanistic approaches, Economic Sciences, Positive Economics, Humanistic, Social, Monetary and umpteen other variants. All these attest to the diversity of thought and their advocates’ desire to avoid (or downplay) addictions to never-ending growth, over-simplistic price/demand graphs, supposedly free & efficient markets or fully informed rational actors.

Others come to the field with environmental and sustainability perspectives. The Circular Economy notion – regenerative to minimise waste of natural resources – has given rise to ‘systems thinking’ as expressed in Ken Webster’s ‘A Wealth of Flows’. This exposes the complexities of our interconnected world and takes on board the feedback loops that old-school economists might too easily dismiss as irrelevant externalities – leastways until they show up during investigation of ‘unforeseen consequences’.

Yet others take exception to simplistic political notions that government is bad and only private enterprise is to be valued. Leader of that rebel pack is, without doubt, Mariana Mazzucato and her work on The Entrepreneurial State where she lays bare the vital contributions of state-led investments subsequently exploited by the private sector with insufficient returns to the public purse.

And then we come to Kate Raworth’s ‘Doughnut Economics’.   Kate’s economic map is not of the sugar-coated variety with jam in the middle. This doughnut looks to lift folk from social deprivations (visualised in the central hole) whilst curbing the tendencies to reach beyond the outer edge of the ring where collectively we might threaten the ecology. Far from ‘deregulation’, Kate speaks of ‘re-regulation’ to better align policy with purpose and operate within the ring. Here’s an attempt to marry ‘redistributive’ and ‘regenerative’ policies – tackling both inequalities and wasted resources.

Kate’s work is hailed as ‘fresh’ but it takes years to be recognised as an ‘overnight star’.   Her ideas have been articulated for nearly two decades. Much of her research highlights the way that in recent times mainstream economists have been highly selective in their references to early thinkers such as Adam Smith. Understanding those dogmatic distortions is helpful but what is new is the power of visualisation. The ring doughnut provides a handy graphic that helps frame policy debates but is not pretending to be a pseudo-science.

The common theme amongst all these works is that they are directed towards the State – national governments and the establishment. They come across as grand top-down ideas; yet more supermodels. Not surprisingly it is painful to bang heads on brick walls that are reinforced by decades of dogma and where radical change seems unimaginably complex without some miraculously orchestrated global enlightenment.   The exception to that general top-down prescription is, perhaps, amongst advocates of the Circular Economy where some demonstrable progress has been made by careful evangelisation amongst a few global enterprises.

So perhaps an alternative approach to implementing these ideas is to take a leaf out of Ellen MacArthur’s Circular Economy Foundation. They have identified large enterprises (like Phillips or B&Q) as business communities where ideas can be worked out. Why not then start by applying the ideas, not at central state (national) level, but in cities and communities where local needs are diverse and the appetite for fresh thinking is strong? Do not imagine that there is some perfect model – a panacea – but understand that these works provide great scope for stimulating local leaders, communities and citizens to envision a brighter future with all manner of local enhancements to wellbeing – be they economic, social or environmental – in this era of rapid digitalisation.

Which thought brings me back to ‘Knowing Your Place’. Only by understanding the real needs – the locally diverse requirements that fall outside of standard economic models – are we able to address the ‘real’ economy and leave behind the rough average approximations of theoretical economists in high (and often distant) places.

There’s a time (which is now) and a place (near you) for every purpose. Let’s not delay and let’s not direct our efforts towards the centre when all about us can be transformed. These are ideas that need to find their place.

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References:

Inclusive Growth Commission – RSA Report:

https://www.thersa.org/discover/publications-and-articles/reports/final-report-of-the-inclusive-growth-commission

Ken Webster, ‘A Wealth of Flows‘: ISBN 9 78099 27784

Mariana Mazzucato, ‘The Entrepreneurial State‘: ISBN 9 780857 282521

Kate Raworth, ‘Doughnut Economics‘: ISBN 9 781847 941374

 

Unleashing Municipal Enterprise: stimulating economic growth in the digital era

4 Nov

helix websizeA new Groupe Intellex paper urges greater empowerment of UK municipalities to take a stronger role in developing their local digital infrastructures as a foundation for future economic growth and community development.

The graphic selected for the front of this paper shows the double helix representation of DNA – the stuff of life.

The shot was taken from the chapel of the research institute of the hospital of San Raffaele in Milan.

The message is that digitalisation is now deeply embedded in the DNA of modern economies.  The Digital Economy is a term that is now almost redundant; what part of economic activity is not in some way facilitated or enabled by digital networks and technologies?

The paper draws together several threads – calls for devolution, new insights into the efficacy of public investment and demands for smarter attention to local needs – and contrasts the centralised state supervision of the UK with progressive communities across the world.

The topic will be discussed at NextGen 14 Fast Track to the Future conference in Derby (November 11th & 12th).

Unleashing Municipal Enterprise  (3MB PDF download).

Video interview from NextGenTV

Unintended Consequences – and U-turn challenges

18 Nov

Thinking back to the summer of 2012, Michael Heseltine and his team made many good decisions. With an ear for political consensus he crafted a way to get things done – and made 89 recommendations.

It may now be increasingly beyond doubt that those right decisions were made for some of the wrong reasons – but does it really matter that some stones remained unturned?

Full story here.

Digital Challenge Awards 2013 – record entry shows sources of economic growth

6 Aug

The UK’s Next Generation Digital Challenge is an annual awards programme that culminates in an award ceremony in October – this year at Wembley during the NextGen conference.

The entries this year are interesting for at least three reasons.  Firstly the Open Nomination phase resulted in more than three times previous entry levels.  Secondly analysis of the entries showed that there were now sufficient entries to justify support for three new categories – in Open Data, Digital Skills and Digital Innovation – in addition to the traditional categories for digital network developments.  Thirdly the entries show an increasing awareness of the value for local communities and the economy of long-term investment in digital infrastructure.

With this higher level of entries, up to six nominations in each category have now been selected  to go forward as Finalists for assessment by an independent judging panel and all of those short-listed will be invited to make brief presentations at NextGen13.

Full story including the short-listed Finalists here

The Digital Economy: there’s no going back

28 May

In our strongest editorial to date on the so-called Digital Economy  we assert that, in the same way that people say ‘the real economy’ without explaining what an un-real economy might be, there is no non-digital economy of any great substance.

Across every sector of the economy the qualifier ‘digital’ is redundant.  The digital infrastructure is as important to sustainable green policies for energy and transport as it is for Finance, Health and Manufacturing.   Fixing the ‘digital deficit’ is the first step towards economic recovery.

We suggest that to track the nation’s digital maturity we need to measure four things:  Fitness for Purpose, Balance, Hassle and Disruption.

Full story here.

See also previous editorial: Finding Nemode