Inclusive Growth: Place, Participation, Partnership and Promotion

By Brian Connolly, Scottish Enterprise

In exploring inclusive growth, my current experience is split between two distinct perspectives; the academic and the actual. Working in an economic development agency, there is a need to understand the strategic value of intervention and aligning how we engage with where we can make the most difference. Having made the decision to undertake a professional doctorate, there was also a desire to explore Inclusive Growth; recognising that whilst this concept is regularly employed in discourse around economic development, there are challenges in ascertaining delivery through the private sector. A range of definitions exist across the public, private and third sectors, yet from my own insight I believe there is value in exploring Inclusive Growth from four specific perspectives.

Place: In discussing inclusive growth there is a recognition of the need to root outcomes in a specific geography. Whilst there is broad recognition that the public sector has a role to play in terms of interventions towards an inclusive economy, policy and finance at a national level can only create a vehicle for change. There is a need to facilitate and empower the drivers at a local level and ensure that there is a clear understanding of the challenges as experienced on the ground. Through open partnership, there is a need for stakeholders at all levels of delivery to work together. For Scottish Enterprise, this has seen a greater recognition of regional working and building our relationships locally. This includes engaging more with the private sector in helping business understand more about the local economy in which they are embedded e.g. supply chain opportunities and how they can facilitate better outcomes for both themselves and society.

Participation: Recognising the need to root equality in place, the SCRIG diagnostic tool developed through the North Ayrshire pilot has now provided a means of building bottom up intelligence which empowers local players to deliver more. The success of this tool came from a genuine desire to engage and work with local communities in charting their challenges and empowering them to identify solutions. There is a wealth of information on the growing need to ensure that outcomes are built and delivered locally, yet there is also a need to understand the role of business in their respective communities. Platforms such as the Scottish Business Pledge, Business in the Community and Scotland Can B programme allow companies to demonstrate their desire to do more, yet how we do we connect companies into the wider discussions?

Partnership: There are several examples of large inward investment successes in Scotland which have created significant employment opportunities in areas of deprivation; yet generational issues relating to health, infrastructure and skills can prevent this being maximised. Inequality is an issue which goes beyond economic development and whilst there is research which demonstrates the value from economic participation, there is a need to tackle the challenges out with this if we are going to facilitate access to the opportunities created through growth. In moving forward these discussions, responsibility is a shared burden with a need to bring together public, private & third sectors alongside community representation and understand how we work together to create change which benefits all. The Community Planning structures in place across Local Authorities are a good base, yet there is also a need to consider the regional learning through City and Growth deals.

Promotion: “Change begets change”; if we are to successfully introduce a more inclusive economy in Scotland, we must be willing to share this story and highlight its value both to society but also the companies which will participate in delivering it. Many companies openly engage with the desire to contribute towards societal goals and there is a need to recognise where promotion of this behaviour will bring forward other voices to the table. The issue that currently exists is moving inclusive growth from a “public sector intervention”, towards a shared goal across all partners and developing the language which enables its delivery; helping to make the business case around why IG is a benefit and not a burden.
The challenge of inclusive growth is one which exists in both research and reality with a need to rationalise how we can tackle economic inequality, and the implications for inequality in other fields such health and education. Whilst at the initial stages of my research, the shared knowledge gap in both theory and practice is that of how to engage the private sector and learn more about their experiences; what does inclusive growth mean to them? This is the start of the journey, and whilst we do not fully yet know the way, “not all those who wander are lost”.

If anyone is interested in learning more about this area of study or engaging around inclusive growth, I would be happy to discuss: brian.connolly@scotent.co.uk

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