Archive for the 'Innovation and sustainable practice' Category

Making ourselves at home in an economy that has enough

authors together

by Katherine Trebeck and Jeremy Williams

As we enter 2019, there is one thing that all the commentators and punters seem to agree on: no one can really predict what will happen as the months unfold.

What form will Brexit take? Will Trump’s trade wars lead to hostility between nations or will he pull off a peace deal with North Korea? What will the gadget be that people flock to? Will 2019 be the year that plastic bags increase to 10p each in the UK and plastic straws become a thing of the past?

“So many of the factors that shape one’s life are determined in realms beyond your control.”

Against these multilayered uncertainties is the uncertainty that the majority of people have been dealing with for some time: so many of the factors that shape one’s life are determined in realms beyond your control. In boardrooms that decide your pay and hours. In algorithms that shape political decisions. In weather that is more extreme due to the pollution and emissions of the richest. In navigating social interactions charged with pressure to look a certain way, own certain things, or even to pose and pout in a certain way.

It is no wonder that more and more people are grasping for something different, whether it is apparently simple solutions offered at the ballot box or stepping outside the mainstream into alternative lifestyles.

This individual searching is mirrored in the economy writ large, which also needs to find a different direction. It needs a new project that recognises that the growth-oriented economy of the 20th century has delivered, but that now, many parts of the world are entering a period where growth is bringing a diminishing suite of benefits and often even increasing harm. The institutions and policies that once rendered growth positive (such as progressive taxation, collective provision of health services and education, or labour market arrangements that balanced power more equally between workers and the owners of capital) are being eroded. This is leaving the benefits of growth to be enjoyed by fewer and fewer people. Pursuit of ever more growth is often driving increasing problems that require yet more resources to fix.

“The pursuit of more poses ever greater risk for people and planet – and yet it, the idea of growth, has a stranglehold on our political and economic systems.”

The pursuit of more poses ever greater risk for people and planet – and yet it, the idea of growth, has a stranglehold on our political and economic systems.

It is time for such economies to recognise that they have arrived.

‘Arrival’ is about adequacy, being able to meet basic needs. It is primarily a material notion, a matter of having the resources to deliver a good life.

It confronts the ostensibly forbidden question of whether development has a destination.

Crucially, however, having enough resources collectively does not necessarily mean everyone individually has enough. Arrival does not imply that everything is resolved and everyone has what they need. Rather, it is the idea that a society collectively has the means for this.

“Failure to share the world’s harvest, both within and between countries, is one of the most enduring frustrations and tragedies of our time.”

Failure to share the world’s harvest, both within and between countries, is one of the most enduring frustrations and tragedies of our time. It is the cause of so many of the challenges and uncertainties that people, politicians, businesses and communities are wrestling with as 2019 unfolds.

Perhaps 2019 will be the year in which people recognise that growth has reached a point where a high standard of living could, theoretically, be universal.

Realising that possibility demands a new project – using resources in a smarter, fairer way, rather than wasting or hoarding them; focusing on the quality and distribution of economic activity and material resources. That is the task of ‘making ourselves at home’.

Once the delusion of growth as both an end in itself and the best of all possible means is discarded, discussion can then turn to what sort of economy we can create, to making better use of what has already been accumulated and, perhaps more than anything, ensuring it is fairly distributed.

Many aspects of this ‘grown up’ economy are already in existence – and indeed flourishing. From pro-social businesses to the ‘remakeries’ that are popping up in high streets. From policy makers creating incentives for the circular economy, to the city mayors using participatory budgeting.

Making ourselves at home is an economy in which there is scope for continuous improvement. Science and technology will advance. Human creativity and imagination are boundless. The economy will remain dynamic.

What changes is the ultimate goal. Making ourselves at home is an ethos of qualitative improvement that is a very different system-wide goal to the sometimes meaningless, sometimes harmful, and sometimes unnecessary, pursuit of more.


the economics of arrival_fcThe economics of arrival by Katherine Trebeck and Jeremy Williams is available on the Policy Press website. Order here for £11.99.

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The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blog post authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Sustainable Open Access and Impact: Celebrating OA Week

Julia Mortimer

Julia Mortimer

We are delighted to be a part of the Open Access Week celebrations and to be able to showcase OA content and initiatives at Bristol University Press and Policy Press. Journals and OA Director, Julia Mortimer, explains why.

Our OA books and recent articles are all brought together to view and access here.

Why OA is important for us

Our vision is to create and disseminate critically acclaimed, evidence-based work that has the potential to make a difference in the world. Over the past two decades we have built a reputation dedicated to that vision.

We have set our sights on publishing great scholarship that addresses the global social challenges and broader social science issues that face the world community today. A commitment to OA is crucial to this vision for the following reasons:

Visibility & impact: OA makes research more widely and easily visible to researchers, practitioners and policy makers if the content is discoverable and efficiently marketed.

Collaboration: OA publication fosters greater dialogue across disciplinary and geographical boundaries.

Social Justice: OA reduces inequalities in access to knowledge due to lack of institutional funding.

As a publisher committed to making an impact in the real world, sustainable open access has obvious benefits for us and our authors in reaching our goals. Authors can make their work accessible, safe in the knowledge that our rigorous quality standards, excellent marketing services and strong reputation will still apply.


What we offer

We offer a range of flexible open access options for both journals and book publishing which continue to evolve, and we are always interested in working with our authors to explore new ideas.

Both Green and Gold options are available for all our journal and book content and we are flexible to allow for funder compliance. See our open access options for books and open access options for journals for more information.

For journals our OA content is available to access on our IngentaConnect platform where it is clearly signposted.

For books we make our OA content available via OAPEN and JSTOR and we are delighted to be a part of the Knowledge Unlatched collections which are funded by libraries.

We offer discounts on our standard APCs to researchers in developing countries and to those in institutions who subscribe to our journal collections.

We are also working with a range of partners to improve OA metadata distribution and discoverability of our OA content, an important issue in current OA debates.

A sustainable model of OA publishing in the social sciences

At Bristol University Press and Policy Press we work hard to make as much content open as possible, whilst ensuring that we can cover the necessary costs involved in a high-quality publishing operation and the all-important marketing, promotion and discoverability activities needed to ensure OA content can be found. This is a crucial balancing act and a question of ensuring publishing OA is sustainable in an uncertain funding environment. Most importantly, it also gives authors a choice and equitable opportunity to publication when OA funds and routes may not be easily accessible, and they need to publish in publications and with publishers of high repute.

The OA agenda has been led by STM disciplines but, in our view, initiatives like Plan S are not easily applicable to the social sciences where funding models are currently much less clear. This is why we are committed to a mixed model of OA/non-OA publishing at this point in time.

OA and free content initiatives

We have experimented with innovative approaches to OA and free content to ensure our content reaches its intended audiences. Much of our journal content is free, either on a permanent basis for sections like Debates and Issues or Voices from the Frontline, or via Most read and Editor’s Choice collections which are free for regular periods during the year.

Many of our Shorts, designed to meet the needs of busy policy makers and practitioners, are OA, they are brief, and free to share to influence policy and practice.

Short open access

For our book Being a scholar in the digital era, chapters were free to access on a monthly basis for the first year and the whole book available OA thereafter. As no OA funding was available, this allowed us to simultaneously cover the publishing costs whilst also making content open.

We provide Executive Summaries for many of our books which are freely available and especially useful for policy makers and practitioners to make use of research findings.

In addition to these and many other impact-focused activities we have just launched a brand-new blog on the Futures of Work to stimulate debate, ideas and interaction.

Bristol University Press and Policy Press are also a main sponsor of the highly successful social research blog Discover Society. Our authors are actively encouraged to share their work through writing blogs, magazine features and newspaper articles, to disseminate their work widely but often more accessibly than straightforward OA can.


Please explore all the OA and freely available content that Bristol University Press has to offer and contact Julia Mortimer (email to discuss OA options for your work.

Can academics help cities innovate?

Robin Hambleton portrait pic

Robin Hambleton

Robin Hambleton, author of Leading the Inclusive City, reports on how Bristol’s innovations in city governance are seen abroad and on how academic analysis can contribute to policy-making.

In the summer the City of Bristol was shortlisted for the International Award of European Capital of Innovation 2018.  The iCapital award goes, in theory at least, to the city within Europe that is considered by international experts to be the most innovative.  The winner of this competition will be announced on 6 November.

The European iCapital award emulates, in many ways, the European Green Capital Award . This international prize, which recognises the important role of local authorities and local stakeholders in improving the environment, has now reached its tenth birthday.  Bristol won this accolade in 2015, and the Bristol iCapital bid sought to build on this achievement.

Are these international awards important?  In an era of rampant, self-serving, city promotion, or ‘city boosterism’ as it is known in the USA, it can be argued that these awards might be in danger of rewarding cities with effective marketing departments, rather than substantive achievements.

Moreover, critics argue that international competition between cities can distort local decision-making. They claim that city leaders pursuing these prizes can lose touch with the need to focus on the effective local delivery of vital public services for local communities.

There is force in these arguments. Much depends on the rigour deployed by the organisations making these awards and on the way individual cities approach the bid process, should they choose to compete.

In the case of European iCapital the EU operates a pretty sturdy evaluation process.  It requires all applicant cities to submit fairly detailed bids. An independent, international jury assesses these bids against specified criteria. Shortlisted cities are then required to send a team of representatives to Brussels to present their proposal to the jury in person, and the team is then cross-examined on the content of their bid.

I should declare an interest.  Ideas set out in my book, Leading the Inclusive City on how to develop place-based leadership, have contributed to the development of the One City Approach to city governance now being implemented in Bristol. These ideas featured quite boldly in the iCapital bid and Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, invited me to join his team presenting the Bristol bid to the jury of evaluators in Brussels last month.  This was a nerve-racking but rewarding experience.

This year Bristol was the only UK city to make it into the group of twelve ‘finalist’ cities. An announcement by the EU last week indicated that Bristol has not made it into the last six cities. This latest news is  disappointing for those who worked on the bid.

However, there are, perhaps, three main reasons why participating in respected, international competitions of this kind is a good idea for cities.

First, the process of preparing and delivering a good submission can, in itself, help civic leaders clarify their thinking, improve their ideas and develop their strategies. Second, raising the visibility of your city in national and international circles is now recognised as an important task for modern city leadership.  This is not just because a good reputation can attract potential investors and talented people, it can also raise local confidence and self-esteem.  Third, some cities actually win these awards, and the funds can be used to enhance the quality of life of those living in the winning cities.

The Bristol iCapital bid places the city in a small group of cities within Europe that are seen, by independent experts, as highly innovative. In my view, to reach the final stage of this international competition reflects well on the city.

But allow me to raise a broader question.  Should academics participate in initiatives of this kind? Some scholars will feel that it is inappropriate to become closely associated with specific policy initiatives. They will argue, and it is an intellectually coherent argument, that academics should observe, analyse and reflect, not act in an explicit way as policy advisers.

A contrary view, and one that enlightens the shift to ‘engaged scholarship’ now visible in many countries is that, while scholars must, of course, retain their independence, scholarship can be improved and advanced by contributing directly to public policy debates and community-based campaigns.


Leading the inclusive city [FC] 4webLeading the inclusive city by Robin Hambleton is available with 20% discount on the Policy Press website. Order here for £20.79.

Find out more about impact, influence and engagement at Policy Press here.

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The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blog post authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Feature Image from Bristol City Council.


The devolution deception

This article was first published by The Planner, the magazine of the RTPI.

England’s core cities welcome the opportunity to take charge of their own affairs. But the government’s proposals for devolution may not be all that they seem, argues Policy Press author Robin Hambleton 

HambletonThe government has attempted to portray the devolution proposals for governance change in cities like Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield as a bold step towards the decentralisation of power in England. But are these so-called ‘devo deals’ all that they seem?

Until November 2014, prime minister Margaret Thatcher stood tall as the unrivalled centraliser of power in British politics. Her Rates Act of 1984 enabled the central state to decide, over the heads of local voters, how much councils would be allowed to tax individuals and businesses. In countries that value the importance of local democracy in society, such a centralising step is regarded as incomprehensible.

However, with a speech on 3 November 2014, Manchester to get directly elected Mayor, chancellor George Osborne set out an ambition to introduce into England an era of centralisation on steroids, one that goes well beyond the Thatcherite command-and-control state of the 1980s.

“So startling is the nature of current central government policy towards local government that I suggest we need a new word to encapsulate it”

Osborne’s Autumn Statement, presented to Parliament on 3 December 2014, confirmed his bid to finish off the idea that locally elected democratic institutions should be accountable to the people who elected them. Rather these elected local authorities are to be told by the central state to decimate local public services in the name of austerity.

So startling is the nature of current central government policy towards local government that I suggest we need a new word to encapsulate it.

To ‘Osbornify’ public policy involves introducing extreme measures to boost the power of the central state while all the time pretending that power is being decentralised. It takes political spin to a new level of deception.

Osborne said, in his November announcement, that his proposals to create a directly elected mayor for the Manchester conurbation, with powers over transport, housing, planning and policing, would “give Mancunians a powerful voice and bring practical improvements for local people”. Not all bad, you might say.

But he went on to state: “I want to talk to other cities who are keen to follow Manchester’s lead – every city is different and no model of local power will be the same’.

Think about it. The Osborne proposals involve Whitehall taking three massive steps to centralise power.

First, who is going to decide which areas of the country are to have these new governance arrangements? Ministers. Second, who will decide the criteria for devolving power to these lucky localities? Ministers. Third, who will be crawling over the detailed proposals individual cities have for urban development and socio-economic innovation? Yep, ministers.

This is classic divide and rule tactics. Cities around England understand this well enough. However, at this point in time, they have few options. The solidarity of local government is a casualty as localities vie for the bespoke attention of central government.

In preparing a new book, Leading the Inclusive City: Place-based innovation for a bounded planet, I have been fortunate to work with a number of innovative cities in other parts of the world. I present 17 stories of bold civic leadership, drawn from 14 countries, to show how powerful elected local authorities are advancing social justice, promoting care for the environment, boosting local economies and strengthening community empowerment.

In many of these places, civic leaders are creating more inclusive cities by promoting civic pride, social innovation and place-based creativity. English local authorities can do the same, but not if Osborne is allowed to suffocate local democracy.

Robin Hambleton is professor of city leadership, Centre for Sustainable Planning and Environments at the University of the West of England, Bristol. We are grateful to The Planner, the magazine of the RTPI, for allowing us to re-produce this article. An abridged version will appear in the February edition of the magazine.

Robin Hambleton’s book, Leading the inclusive city: Place-based innovation for a bounded planet is available to buy at 20% discount from the Policy Press website.

Planning for a better future: Too late for utopia?

Policy Press authors Kate Henderson and Hugh Ellis, whose book Rebuilding Britain: Planning for a better future publishes today, ask if the challenges and demands facing the future of our planet mean it is now too late to be utopian in our planning strategy and decisions in the UK?

Hugh Ellis_cropKate Henderson_crop2Britain has many outstanding assets. It remains an economic world power, particularly in the knowledge economy, and is one of the most culturally rich and diverse places on Earth. Britain also faces a growing set of challenges. It is an increasingly divided nation in which social mobility and poverty remain engrained and where access to the basics, a decent job and a house can seem like a pipe dream.

The unequal nature of Britain goes beyond simplistic arguments about a North–South divide. We are a starkly divided nation in terms of long-term regional performance, despite rhetoric about rebalancing the economy from successive governments. Cuts to public investment have had different impacts on different parts of England, with many Northern economies disproportionately affected.

Alongside these growing divisions, the nation faces huge pressures on housing as our population grows. In England alone the population has risen by 3.5 million people in the past decade and the nation’s population is ageing. This raises huge questions about where our children are going to live.

environmental challenges

The nation also faces major environmental challenges; from summer hosepipe bans – a regular reminder of the shortage of water in parts of the country, particularly in the South East – to the very real threat of climate change. We now have a growing understanding of the nation’s vulnerability to extreme weather events, increased temperatures and sea level rise and how these changes will affect some of our key cities and our best agricultural land.

The international failure to secure meaningful reductions in carbon emissions means that we now have to confront our readiness to deal with dangerous climate change. Many places are planning for the wrong future, over the wrong time scale and with insufficient resources and urgency in relation to flood defence.

Some of our key coastal cities, like Hull and Portsmouth, will face a bleak future without strong action now. Inevitably, the global impact of climate change and resource depletion will have major implications on how we live as we try to grapple with food and energy security. Redistributing our population to avoid flood risk areas or water shortages is an increasingly pressing problem and requires policy makers to think about Britain as a whole.

There is also an urgent imperative, with potentially a major benefit in terms of our economic development, to make clear decisions about the future of our national energy, transport and infrastructure priorities, so that both business and the public sector can plan with certainty for future investment.

“We have lost public trust in planning and our collective ability to change places for the better”

There has been a longstanding failure by all governments in recent decades to address public legitimacy and consent in the way that we organise the nation. We have lost public trust in planning and our collective ability to change places and the way we live for the better. All of these challenges are clearly not just moral questions, they are about creating places with humanity and importantly, they are about being practical – understanding resource constraints, reducing poverty, building beautiful homes in inclusive communities and providing essential services for all. Ultimately this requires us to tackle the real issue of public consent.

It is clear that our society is confronted by fundamental change. The climate crisis on its own requires that we reconstruct Britain. The choice is clear: we can drift into this new world unprepared, ill-equipped and repeating and reinforcing the trends of inequality which blight human relations, or we can face the future with practical realism and efficiency and with determination to shape a new society defined by fairness and opportunity.

That choice is in our hands, but time is running out fast. Our generation must make choices that will define the future of the next five generations. It is a heavy responsibility, a test not just of us, but of our whole democracy. How should we meet the future? With optimism and excitement, for there is no human enterprise as worthwhile as the pursuit of utopia.

Rebuilding Britain [FC]Copies of Rebuilding Britain: Planning for a better future can be purchased at the 20% discount price of £11.99 (rrp £14.99) from the Policy Press website – click here for more details.



The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blogpost authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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