Inclusive Growth in Practice: Event Report and Slides

On October 23rd, we held our first Community of Practice event on Inclusive Growth, which addressed the theme of Inclusive Growth in Action. The event was chaired by Charlie Woods, and attended by practitioners interested in taking forward the inclusive growth agenda in Scotland. The event included presentations by Natalie Hemmings, an economic advisor to the Scottish Government; Julie McLachlan, a Policy Manager at North Ayrshire Council; and Alasdair Morrison, Head of Regeneration at Renfrewshire Council. Below is a summary of the presentations and discussion that formed the event:


Charlie Woods introduced the session by explaining the relevance of inclusive growth to the wider economic development project. He indicated that the costs of unequal growth include the human costs of missed talent and potential, as well as the economic costs of wasted opportunities for development and growth.

He indicated that these challenges need to be addressed not only at the national and regional levels, but also at the local level. He stated that the Inclusive Growth Community of Practice will exist for those trying to make a difference at the practitioner level.

Charlie then introduced the three speakers for the event and handed over to them for their presentations.

Presentation One: The Scottish Government Inclusive Growth Diagnostic and Asset Map

Natalie Hemmings explained that inclusive growth was central to the Scottish Government’s economic strategy in 2015, supported by an increasing body of evidence that boosting competitiveness and tackling inequality can be mutually supportive. She suggested that inclusive growth can be defined by a concern with the pace and pattern of growth. A concern with inclusive growth means looking not only at growth figures overall, but also at which places and which people are benefiting from growth.

She indicated that to support the Government’s focus on inclusive growth, the Scottish Centre for Regional Inclusive Growth (SCRIG) was launched this year, with the aim of driving improvement in inclusive growth outcomes across Scotland’s regions.

Natalie then talked through the inclusive growth diagnostic toolkit, available on the SCRIG resource page. This toolkit provides a 6-stage framework for undertaking inclusive growth diagnostics in Scotland. Its purpose is to aid understanding of the opportunities and constraints to growth and inclusion in a particular place and to prioritise actions for long-term transformational change.

She indicated that alongside this work, Scottish Enterprise has developed an economic asset register which maps assets (e.g. businesses, railways, ports) across Scotland. The intention is to continue to update this with information on Scotland’s assets to enable this to be used as a complementary decision-making tool.

For more detail, you can view Natalie’s slides here.


An audience member asked Natalie if the data behind the asset map is accessible and downloadable. Natalie replied that it is not currently but indicated that this is the intention going forward.

Responding to a question on where the diagnostic tool has been used, Natalie indicated that it has been used in North Ayrshire, but also in Edinburgh, Glasgow and the South of Scotland. She pointed out that the value of the diagnostic when used alongside the asset register is that it helps local authorities to develop an understanding of how to prioritise their policy initiatives.

An audience member asked how the priorities for action generated via the diagnostic tool differ from the priorities of experienced local councillors. Natalie indicated that the priorities generated by the diagnostic are often similar to the priorities that will be identified by experienced councillors, but she suggested that the additional value of going through the diagnostic process is that it provides a sound evidence-base and prioritises areas for action, in additional to the anecdotal knowledge of local councillors.

Responding to a question on whether the use of the diagnostic toolkit has changed policy priorities, Natalie suggested that conversations and behaviours are changing, but it will take a long time to see inclusive growth impact of larger changes. She indicated that there is often still different views on how to deliver certain outcomes.

Presentation Two: Applying the Inclusive Growth Diagnostic in North Ayrshire

Julie McLachlan indicated that North Ayrshire is one of the most deprived regions in Scotland and as such has to work in new ways to achieve inclusive growth. She explained that North Ayrshire undertook an Inclusive Growth Diagnostic Pilot in partnership with Scottish Government, in order to identify which aspects of economic development could be prioritised as a means to addressing this deprivation and enhancing the area’s economic performance. She highlighted that one benefit of the pilot was the sharing of national analytical expertise with local knowledge and analysis.

Julie indicated that as part of the diagnostic process community consultations were undertaken and that the community representatives engaged during this consultation agreed with the issues at the top of the lists of constraints to growth generated by the diagnostic.

She suggested that the list of constraints generated by the diagnostic was not particularly surprising but indicated that it is useful to have them presented in a prioritised format, given the limit on resources. She indicated that North Ayrshire is now attempting to incorporate the findings into existing programs, for example the skills for life program for the long-term unemployed.

She added that North Ayrshire is also looking at incorporating the findings into the Ayrshire Growth Deal and indicated that all outline business cases have a section on how they are contributing to inclusive growth.

For more detail, you can view Julie’s slides here


Responding to a question about how social capital is measured as part of the diagnostic process, Julie and Natalie indicated that North Ayrshire is looking at taking forward social network analysis tools, using social infrastructure as a proxy for social capital.

An audience member suggested that a broader community consultation could be undertaken in order to get better qualitative data than that provided via the diagnostic tool. Julie responded that this is a good suggestion but indicated that North Ayrshire wanted to undertake the diagnostic process – which combines quantitative and qualitative insights – because it is important for them to be able to prioritise where to place their resources. She added that the diagnostic tool provides an evidence-base that is very important.

Responding to a question on how regions are defined, Julie suggested that this is an ongoing challenge. She indicated that for the purposes of running the diagnostic, the focus was placed on the North Ayrshire local authority area as a whole.

Discussing skills, Julie suggested that this is both a demand and a supply-side problem. She indicated that North Ayrshire does not have a large number of skilled people. Speaking about the value of the diagnostic, Julie indicated that the process has gained buy-in from community groups and elected members. She indicated that it provides a solid evidence-base which acts as a useful lobbying tool.

Responding to a question on whether the tool has been used to undertake a sectoral diagnostic, Natalie indicated that it has. She explained that the tourism sector is undertaking a diagnostic at the moment but that the process and approach are slightly different.

Julie indicated that in the council, practitioners often speak anecdotally about what they think the problems are. She suggested that the diagnostic is valuable because it improves understanding about the region and also about the concept of inclusive growth. Referring to health, Julie indicated that practitioners in North Ayrshire have always known this is a big issue for the growth of the region but that the diagnostic reveals how big an issue this actually is.

She spoke of the need to create local opportunities, pointing out that not everyone can work at a wage level that allows them to travel outside their local authority. She added that North Ayrshire Council has developed a really good relationship with the local business community as a result of the Team North Ayrshire approach.

Presentation Three: Inclusive Growth at Project Level: The National Manufacturing Institute for Scotland

Alasdair Morrison explained that the National Manufacturing Institute for Scotland (NMIS) is an industry-led centre for manufacturing excellence with a Scotland-wide remit. He indicated that the Institute is hosted and run by the University of Strathclyde on behalf of ‘Team Scotland’. It represents the collaboration of industry, academia and the public sector, working together to transform skills, productivity and innovation.

He pointed out that manufacturing accounts for 15% of Scotland’s GVA and 52% of all exports, as well as representing almost 60% of R&D spend. He therefore suggested that manufacturing represents a good opportunity for underpinning Scotland’s future success. Alasdair suggested that NMIS represents an excellent example of partnership working between different public sector agencies as well as industry and academia. He indicated that there could be lessons to learn from the project and its partnership approach.

Alasdair suggested that at present productivity in Scotland is nowhere near what it needs to be in order for Scotland to be a competitive economy. He indicated that NMIS can help to improve Scotland’s productivity by introducing new processes, research and technologies that can create opportunities nationwide.

Alasdair indicated that NMIS is not about delivering what the public sector wants but is about the public sector facilitating what industry wants. He suggested that when thinking about inclusive growth at a UK level, it might be best to think of Scotland as a single region of the UK rather than looking at separate regions within Scotland, otherwise Scotland’s regions stand at risk of being dwarfed by the rest of the UK.

For more detail, you can view Alasdair’s slides here


Alasdair indicated that inclusivity has been at the centre of NMIS from the beginning. He suggested that the aim is for it to become part of the wider community and to provide a space that anyone can use. He suggested that there will be space for meetings and opportunities for bringing people in from outside the manufacturing sector to use the space. He indicated that the project is motivated by a non-exclusive mindset.

Responding to a question on the challenges of opening up spaces and making these welcoming, Alasdair indicated that it is difficult to satisfy all requirements. He suggested that the aim is to provide a space comparable to a US college campus, with open spaces to meet and no clear boundary between the Institute and the community. He suggested that one way that this is being delivered is by building cycle lanes which run directly through the NMIS space, and which connect up parts of the local area. He suggested that this is one way of trying to make the space usable and accessible. However, he acknowledged that the interior space represents a challenge as there will need to be some security. He suggested that it will depend on what is going on inside any given building as to how accessible it can be.

Alasdair suggested that NMIS will be able to play a role in education and in inspiring children to consider a manufacturing career, in particular those children who might not have considered it otherwise. He suggested that by the time children are in secondary school they often have their ideas about where they want to go and what they want to do after school fairly fixed. He suggested that it will therefore be good to try and introduce children to manufacturing earlier in the education cycle. He indicated that trying to expose children to opportunities they might not otherwise be aware of is one of the elements that will feed into inclusivity. He suggested that job creation ultimately comes back to education and to linking people with opportunities at an early age. He suggested that this approach will create jobs because it will provide opportunities for innovation that allow new jobs to be created.

An audience member suggested that there will be a need to work not only with schools, but also with youth organisations, to try and bring in young people who may be disenfranchised by mainstream education.

Responding to a question on how other regions will be able to buy-in and benefit, Alasdair indicated that that the Institute will be open to all businesses and colleges across Scotland. He indicated that there is a reference built into the business case for NMIS to integrate at a national level, which means providing the physical and resource space to allow that to happen.

An audience member pointed out that having space is one thing but that there needs to be a staff resource to facilitate visits and outreach. It was suggested that an Outreach Officer should be employed to take this forward.

Following the Q&A, attendees broke into two groups to participate in facilitated discussion on Inclusive Growth in Action.

Discussion Session Group A

Group A first discussed regional level inclusive growth. Speaking about the diagnostic tool, it was suggested that it presents opportunities for learning what works and what doesn’t work from different regions and applying these lessons. It was pointed out that Scottish Government does not have the capacity to run the diagnostic for every area, but that the toolkit is available on the SCRIG resource page along with the asset register, so that these can be used by anyone.

It was suggested that the diagnostic tool can be used without Scottish Government’s direct involvement, but that where this is the case it needs to be used with some caution. This is because the methodology is not perfect and some of the measures used are quite subjective.

The point was made that the tool cannot produce data, but instead all data has to be gathered and entered into the tool as part of the diagnostic process. The main function of the tool is to highlight problems and help to prioritise these. For this reason, it was felt that ‘tool’ may be a misleading name, and something like ‘model’ might be more appropriate.

It was suggested that the tool has a lot of value in terms of its ability to help get buy-in for policy and initiatives and to help get people on the same page. The process can be as important as the outcome. It was reiterated that the results of the process can strengthen arguments and provide a useful lobbying tool.

The point was made that the diagnostic tool is the first one which combines both economic and social issues and it was suggested that there should be an intention to run the diagnostic for every region.

The question was raised as to whether and how inclusive growth is being included in the City and Regional Growth Deals. It was indicated that Scottish Government have set out that in order to receive funding, regional partnerships will need to develop a strategy informed by inclusive growth and the inclusive growth diagnostic.

Group A went on to discuss inclusive growth at the project level. Thinking about the question of how inclusive growth can be built into the design of projects it was suggested that some measure of social capital is needed. The point was made that economic development professionals sometimes shy away from social capital because it’s hard to measure, but it was indicated that when jobs are created, access to the networks that allow people to know these jobs exist is vital. This is what social capital means in the context of inclusive growth.

It was suggested that those designing projects need to engage with the community they are trying to help right at the start, and to begin with a relatively open-ended agenda on how they will do this. The point was also made that if inclusion is a consideration from the start, the impacts that are broadly intended by the project can guide which community the project should locate in. In this way, inclusion and inclusive growth can drive the agenda. Having said this, the point was also made that some projects will have greater potential to deliver inclusion that other, so that should be kept in mind; not everything can feed into this agenda.

Discussion Session Group B

Group B began with a discussion of how useful practitioners think the diagnostic tool will be in relation to their region/sector. No-one in the group had direct experience of using the diagnostic but they agreed it is a good starting point for thinking about and delivering more inclusive growth. However, it was indicated that the tool cannot give the whole picture. Instead, it’s main use will be providing an evidence base.

It was suggested that people are still struggling for a definition of inclusive growth and with the concept of inclusivity generally. It was pointed out that inclusive growth was once defined in relation to developing countries but has since moved towards economic growth and fairness for all. The point was made that there might never be a single, all-encompassing definition of inclusive growth, and that outcomes will differ at local, regional and national levels.

It was suggested that the diagnostic could be good for the City and Region Growth Deals as there is now an appetite for more control to address regional challenges to be located at the regional level.

Discussing the likely impact of measures of inclusive growth, it was suggested that these do not always have the political impact that measure like GDP and GVA can have. It was suggested that the National Performance Framework might provide an opportunity for looking at a series of measures on well-being as well as GDP.

Thinking about the key opportunities and challenges that exist in measuring and delivering inclusive growth, it was suggested that the diagnostic tool could be useful at an agency level for targeting support where barriers to inclusive growth are identified.

It was suggested that the Scottish Business Pledge might present an opportunity to develop an ‘inclusive growth’ pledge with accreditation for public contracts and conditionality of support. It was suggested that access to opportunities should be an important part of this, so if jobs are being created there is still a question about who will have access to those jobs.

Group B finally turned to a discussion of what practical support is needed to meet the opportunities for inclusive growth that exist. One suggestion was that it would be useful to have some inclusive growth targets to aim for. It was also suggested that inclusive growth needs to be defined for the private sector to ensure that business don’t see it as a burden rather than an opportunity. It was also suggested that a more collaborative business culture might help, as well as more partnership working between business, academia and the public sector. It was indicated that a case study of a business doing well whilst delivering inclusive growth would be a useful way to tell the story of inclusive growth to companies.

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