Posts Tagged 'Europe'

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.

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Feature Image from Bristol City Council.

 

What now for Brexit?

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Danny Dorling, Dimitris Ballas and Benjamin Hennig

Danny Dorling, Dimitris Ballas and Benjamin Hennig – authors of The human atlas of Europe – look at the reasons behind Labour’s success and ask… what now for Brexit?

 

“On June 8th 2017 young people all across the UK turned out to vote for a new conception of politics and a more inclusive, nourishing vision of society (as New Internationalist journalist Chris Brazier put it).

The rise of Labour in the polls in the month before the election was three times greater than any rise ever seen for that party in a month before. The swing in the vote to Labour was greater than that measured at any general election other than the 1945 landslide election. To be fair to Jeremy Corbyn it was actually even greater than that, as that 1945 swing took ten years (from 1935) to occur. In contrast, Labour’s swing in 2017 emerged within just two years of the last election (held in 2015).

Despite the enormous success in the polls and the voting booths it was not enough for Labour to win. The party had started so far behind in 2015 that a completely unprecedented swing would have been needed for outright victory. Labour’s four week surge in the polls would have had to have been not just three times greater than it had ever been before, but five, six or seven times – depending on exactly where that swing had been geographically concentrated. An outright Labour victory in June 2017 was nigh-on impossible in the circumstances, not least of a split Labour party.

But what Labour achieved was enough to put the Conservatives into the demotion zone of now being a minority government.

 

“..greater solidarity is gaining in popularity over division.”

 

Continue reading ‘What now for Brexit?’

A General Election to challenge – or intensify – neoliberalism?

Bryn Jones and Michael O’Donnell, authors of Alternatives to neoliberalism, argue that a ‘hard Brexit’ under a Tory government would strengthen, not challenge, the neoliberal agenda.

Mike O’Donnell

Bryn Jones

Public sector retrenchment, deregulated markets and corporate takeovers of public and civil society spheres are contested topics in this election. Yet the protagonists do not directly acknowledge that these arise from the disruptive effects of the generation-long, neoliberal system.

Neoliberalism still underlies the current social unrest and political crisis; but its ideological hegemony is under threat. Trump, neo-nationalist populism across Europe and Brexit, all express popular angst caused by neoliberal processes: de-industrialisation, public sector austerity, worsened living standards, insecure and/or poorly paid employment.

“Trump, neo-nationalist populism across Europe and Brexit, all express popular angst caused by neoliberal processes.”

Continue reading ‘A General Election to challenge – or intensify – neoliberalism?’

#EUfightback: staying hopeful and determined for a continent united in diversity

In the wake of the triggering of Article 50, Dimitris Ballas, Danny Dorling and Benjamin Hennig, co-authors of The human atlas of Europe, find hope in the diversity that unites the European Union. 

Dimitris Ballas

Danny Dorling

Benjamin Hennig

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The result of last year’s referendum on the EU membership of the United Kingdom was massively and decisively influenced by false promises and lies, including the pledge of £350m per week for the NHS, the promise that Britain would remain in the single market and the misleading claims that immigration was to blame for the pressure on social services rather than the underfunding of public services.

In fact, migrants contribute disproportionately more to the provision of health, social and educational services than they use those services.

Continue reading ‘#EUfightback: staying hopeful and determined for a continent united in diversity’

Once upon a time there was a country called Europe

Authors Dimitris Ballas, Danny Dorling and Benjamin Hennig, whose forthcoming book The Social Atlas of Europe publishes on Wednesday 25 June, share their views on Europe.

Dimitris Ballas Danny Dorling Benjamin Hennig 2

‘We cannot aim at anything less than the Union of Europe as a whole, and we look forward with confidence to the day when that Union will be achieved’

It may sound inconceivable today that a statement such as the above could be made by a British Prime Minister and even more so by the leader of the Conservative Party. Yet, this is an extract from a speech delivered by Winston Churchill at the Congress of Europe in The Hague on 7 May 1948. It is just an example of numerous similar statements and activities supporting European integration and union. These were part of wider efforts and actions by the people of a continent shattered by war towards a common purpose and future, which have been imaginatively ‘narrated’ by a member of Europe’s next generation in an award-winning video ‘We are Europe’ – see below. These efforts have been steadily leading towards a Europe United in Diversity and to the formation of a European identity underpinned by common values and ideals such as the establishment of democratic institutions, the respect of human rights and the protection of minorities, as well as solidarity and social cohesion.

However, Europe has now reached a critical crossroads after several years of a severe economic crisis and austerity measures that have disproportionately and brutally hit the most disadvantaged. There has also been an apparent revival of old nationalisms and divisions coupled with the rise of extremist far right and populist parties.

The performance of such parties in last month’s European parliament elections has highlighted the need for reform and change. But there are very different perspectives taken with regards to what the response to the rise of Eurosceptic parties should be. On the one hand, there are Eurosceptic calls for a stop or even a reversal of the plans for further integration and political union. In contrast, there are also strong voices of support for changes that are “needed to keep the European dream alive”, shifting the focus from austerity towards supporting “investment on jobs and on growth” and for a new radical manifesto for Europe calling for “less Europe on issues where member countries do very well on their own, and more Europe when union is essential”.

European identity

"One's destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things" Goodreads 2013

The Social Atlas of Europe, Map 13 – “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things” Goodreads 2013

As three European geographers whose first languages are Greek, English and German respectively, we hope that our book The Social Atlas of Europe can be used to enhance the perception of European identity and solidarity. The Atlas, which includes all countries that have shown a clear and strong commitment to a common European future, not only shows how different are the separate countries, regions and great cities of this continent, but also how often they are so similar. There are a huge number of ways in which people living in different parts of Europe have so much in common. Often the real differences are not found across national borders but between villages and cities or between rich and poor quarters of a town. And the rich quarters of Europe are all more similar to each other than to the poorer areas that are nearer to them. Looking at the maps in this atlas you can begin to believe that you are looking at the geography of a single large group of people. You can see what happens to all the people of Europe collectively and have a better grasp of their collective hopes, fears and lives.

“What does it mean to be European today?”

In The Social Atlas of Europe we offer a new human geography and human cartography perspective and contribution to debates about the above issues by bringing together a great many maps and facts about Europe and its people. Our approach is underpinned by the view that Europe is something much more than just a world region and a collection of nation states and by the idea that we are hopefully moving more towards the belief that so many of us are a “European people” instead of a “Europe of nations”. We argue that the EU needs to be thought of as an entity that is more than just a union of member states, more than just a common market or just a potential monetary or fiscal union. What does it mean to be European today? To what extent do the citizens of EU member states feel that they are citizens of something larger than their own country?

One way of moving towards a “European people” instead of a “nation-state” mentality and of bolstering European identity further is to think of Europe and its economy, culture, history and human and physical geography in terms of a single large land mass. This is already happening to some extent, especially in the minds of the rapidly increasing numbers of Europeans who live in a member state other than their country of birth perceiving Europe and its people in a more fluid way. An example of this is the story of a 7-year old boy from Valencia in another award-winning video.

In The Social Atlas of Europe we highlight the notion of Europe in these terms by looking at its physical and population geography whilst simultaneously utilising the latest available demographic, social, and economic data on a wide range of topics. Using state-of-the-art geographical information systems and new cartography techniques we reveal beautiful versions of Europe shaped by its social values, culture, education, employment, environmental footprints, health and well-being, and social inequalities and cohesion. The Social Atlas visualises and maps Europe in a way that makes it more likely for Europeans to make more sense of their local area’s physical and human geography and also to think of Europe as one place: the place they belong to or their “home” (which is perhaps the way in which the next generation of Europeans will think when asked ‘where do you come from?’).

Overall, The SoThe social atlas of Europecial Atlas of Europe offers a fresh perspective and a new way of thinking about Europe as a continent of cities rather than states, a continent of people rather than power and one of hope rather than decline, reminding its people how much they have in common and highlighting that there is now, more than ever, a need to carry on working together rather than pulling apart.

Click here if you’d like to purchase your copy of The Social Atlas of Europe and receive a 20% discount on the list price – £19.99 (RRP £24.99)

A response to the European and UK local elections by Alison Shaw, Director of Policy Press

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When I set up Policy Press it was because I was passionate about social issues.  I felt strongly that we needed to fight for a fairer society, one that looked after all its citizens regardless of their wealth and background; race, ethnicity or faith; gender, age or (dis)abilities; regardless of whether they lived in England or Ethiopia.

Our authors are the experts on how to achieve that goal, from understanding the challenges at a theoretical level through to how to implement policy and practice on the ground, and until today, I have been delighted to let them do the talking.  But following the recent results in the UK local and European elections I am moved to join the conversation and speak out.

This weekend we have seen again the rise of the extreme right in politics, both in the UK and across Europe.  This move appears to be a response to a range of factors – a belief that the European Union is inefficient and has too much control over nation state policies; a fear that immigration is a threat to jobs, security and culture; and an understandable anxiety for many as the global recession continues to take its toll.

It may be that the European Union as an institution is in need of reform, but we have to remember why we have a Union.  Initially a post-World War II settlement, it was a means for ensuring cooperation to avoid future conflict.  More recently it has been more about power and global influence in response to the rise of the emerging economies of China, India and Brazil – but the initial  collaborative intent must not be forgotten.

My fear is that, if we remain silent, then things we take for granted like the belief in equality and fairness will be lost and things we don’t think possible, will happen.  Our authors’ thoughtful writing has helped me to contemplate many of these issues and the three books below stand out for me.

ImageThe UK Government’s response to the global recession was an ‘Austerity’ drive, cutting back spending dramatically, especially to the welfare budget. This has hit those already in challenging circumstances in a devastating way.  Mary O’Hara, a journalist and Fulbright Scholar spent a year travelling the UK interviewing those facing hardship and those supporting them.  Her eloquent, insightful book Austerity Bites, published today, provides first hand testimony of what it is like to be struggling –  not to have enough to feed your family despite working your hardest in low paid, insecure jobs.

When we feel our security is challenged, one response is to fight back.  When we feel threatened we can look around for those that are different to blame.  Perhaps this points to why we are facing an increasing tide of anti-immigration rhetoric.  The headlines in some of the UK tabloid papers have been shocking: “We must stop the migrant invasion” Daily Express, “4,000 foreign murderers and rapists we can’t throw out” Daily Mail or “How Romanian criminals terrorise our streets” Daily Express.

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Malcolm Dean, previously Social Affairs Editor for the Guardian, looked at how the media influences and manipulates public opinion and the effect this has on politics and policy in his highly praised book Democracy under Attack.  It provides perhaps one possible answer to how and why we have seen the French National Front, the Dutch Freedom Party and the UK Independence Party (UKiP) gaining such traction in the recent elections.

Image Dimitris Ballas, of Sheffield University and Danny Dorling and Ben Hennig of Oxford University have created the first European Social Atlas and it  analyses social and political Europe in detail.  This beautifully produced book shows in clear graphic form that Europe is a blend of cultures, languages, traditions, landscapes and ideologies that are often not bound by state or regional borders.  The social atlas of Europe is “an insightful look at today’s Europe” (Robert Reich, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy, University of California at Berkeley) and will be published on 25 June. It shows Europe and the Europeans in an entirely new light and highlights why we should be, working together, not pulling apart.


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