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Growing local economies: strategies for sustainable growth

On May 14, 2024, we hosted a webinar on the theme of "Growing Local Economies: Strategies for Sustainable Growth."

This session brought together key voices in the field to explore how we can drive economic development at the local level, emphasising the role of social value in fostering community wealth. Here’s a recap of the enlightening discussions and reflections shared during the webinar.

Setting the stage: introduction by Ivan Annibal

Ivan Annibal, co-founder of the Social Value Engine, kicked off the webinar by highlighting the importance of local economies in the broader context of social value. He emphasised that local economic growth is crucial for creating sustainable communities and introduced the agenda and speakers for the session.

The core agenda: Nigel Wilcock’s presentation

Nigel Wilcock, Executive Director of the Institute of Economic Development (IED), was the first to present. He introduced the IED’s “Grow Local Grow National” manifesto, which advocates for greater decentralisation and devolution of power in economic development. Key points from his presentation included:

  • Statutory power for economic development: Arguing that councils should have statutory responsibilities over economic development to ensure consistent and focused efforts.
  • Five-year economic strategy: Each local authority should develop an accountable five-year economic strategy tailored to local needs.
  • Single settlement funding: Similar to the trailblazer deals for the West Midlands and Greater Manchester, Nigel advocated for a single settlement of funding to ensure stability and clarity in financial resources for local authorities.
  • Net Zero and place-based approaches: Emphasising the need for a net-zero focus in economic strategies and the benefits of place-based initiatives.

Local perspectives: Claire Watts and Robin Fry

Claire Watts, Director of Economic Development and Communications at East Riding of Yorkshire Council, shared insights from her council’s journey with social value. She highlighted their approach of integrating social value into economic development projects and community programmes, rather than viewing it solely through the lens of procurement. Claire’s reflections underscored the importance of having a statutory framework to support local economic growth and the need for better local funding mechanisms.

Robin Fry, Inclusive Economy Advisor from the North East Combined Authority, discussed the importance of collaboration in driving inclusive economic growth. He outlined the significant powers and opportunities that come with devolution, such as those granted to the newly formed North East Combined Authority. Robin emphasised the need for a focus on human capital, reducing inequalities, and the importance of strong community relationships in fostering local prosperity.

Private sector involvement: Lucinda Yeadon

Lucinda Yeadon, Social Impact Manager for CEG, provided a unique perspective from the private sector. She discussed CEG’s commitment to sustainable investment and the importance of long-term social impact. Lucinda highlighted the role of the private sector in supporting local economic development through initiatives such as skills programmes, community engagement, and supporting local supply chains. Her reflections emphasised the need for tailored, place-based approaches that understand and address local challenges.

Panel reflections and Q&A

Ending the webinar with a reflective session, the panelists discussed the interplay between statutory obligations and incentivising local authorities to pursue economic growth. Key takeaways included:

  • The need for devolution: Greater devolution is essential to empower local authorities with the tools and resources needed for effective economic development.
  • Collaboration and partnerships: Successful economic development requires collaboration between local authorities, the private sector, and communities.
  • Practical application of economic theories: Economic development strategies should be grounded in practical, real-world applications that resonate with and involve local communities.

Conclusion

The webinar concluded with a consensus on the importance of a holistic, integrated approach to local economic development. By combining statutory frameworks with flexible, place-based strategies and fostering strong partnerships across sectors, we can create sustainable growth that benefits all members of the community.

We hope this session has inspired further thought and action on how we can collectively drive local economic growth. For those interested in exploring these themes further, we encourage you to read the IED’s manifesto and engage with the Social Value Engine to measure and enhance the social impact of your economic development initiatives.

Thank you to all our speakers and attendees for making this a rich and engaging discussion. We look forward to continuing this important conversation in future sessions.

Social Value Engine
Company number 14441082


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