Shaping the future of our places

– from local engagement to national best practice…

An appeal and to place-shapers and leaders to lead on support for UK places.

This appeal is so full of obvious statements, views and comments that there is no need for you to read it.  However, I’m going to write it anyway, so I’d appreciate your feedback.   It is also a call to arms for people passionate about places.

UK places are full of opportunities for businesses and residents.  There are far more opportunities than even the most imaginative could consider for where they work, live and play.

Many of these opportunities are in the gift of the custodians of our places.  Custodians such as Business Improvement Districts (BIDs), Councils etc.  Some of these too, have no financial cost to any user.

So why are we not making more of the opportunities to improve our local economies and/or enhance where we work, live and play?

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Download All Issues of Place Magazine here. Essential reading for all people passionate about UK places.

I’ve been in the ‘place space’ long enough to know that those working in BIDs and Councils want nothing more than positive results for their area.  They want to provide these opportunities by the bucket load and each and every one of them will be delivering successful and worthy projects, they just want to deliver more of them.

The reason why they are not able to make the most of every opportunity is a lack of comprehensive engagement with residents and businesses.

Now this is not just the fault of the community.  Maybe there are lessons to be learnt around better communication from the top down but it is also the duty of the community to listen to the messages that are coming their way.

All custodians of place will be sharing updates and ideas with their businesses and residents.  All of them at some time will have wanted to introduce a project that would enhance the place in some respect.  All of them will have invited people to come to a meeting to discuss the merits of delivering the projects and all will have been disappointed by the attendance at the meeting, thereby negating the chance for this to proceed.

So, what do our custodians do?  Do they visit every business individually?  I know they would if they thought that the response would be useful.  Expected responses when visiting a business will be, ‘too busy to talk,’ ‘I’ll phone you back’ (then don’t), ‘yes it’s a great idea I’ll definitely support it’ (then don’t), ‘I’ll be at the meeting’ (then aren’t) etc. 

Then you come to the glorious 5 to 10% who help BIDs and Councils always turn out to help deliver these projects.  Sadly though, many of these will become battle weary and drop by the wayside.

Our custodians can’t give up though, they are paid to be there.  The trouble is that once they understand the level of interaction in a community they then deliver accordingly.  So, great ideas and projects become victim to ‘there’s no point no one will come’ or ‘that won’t work here, people are too apathetic’. 

What you end up with is a handful of great projects delivered where you could have a bucket load.

I’m confident that with meaningful and deep engagement in a place anything (and I mean anything) can be achieved. 

Working with the business and resident community and having two-way conversations between them and BIDs and Councils strips away barriers to success or ‘doing’.  Barriers such as lack of cash, lack of consensus, lack of support, lack of political will  etc are all removed when you can reach across the community.

You can address physical, financial and political threats to a place by being able to call on your community to act and protect their place.

So, I say that the most powerful tool for managing, preserving and promoting place is engagement and its free for all to use.

So, what is to be done?

The most powerful tool for supporting places nationally is sharing ideas and shaping policy and guess what?  Sharing best practice is free too.

Place Managers, BID Directors, Regeneration and Economic Development Officers attend conferences.  It’s a ‘thing’ that we do.  After the event, ask them the most valuable information that they learnt from the event and many will say ‘oh, I was talking to Bob and Jane from Fabtown and they are doing this thing and it’s great and I am going to try for the same outcomes here’.

But outside of a conference environment and outside regional meetings how can there be a continuity of sharing ideas.

In my very, simplistic view, just scale up the issues discussed in the first half of this, what is now becoming too long (hope you are still with us) blog.

As a custodian, engage with the information that is coming your way.  Better still, step up and lead on sharing that information that is being broadcast ‘at’ you.

Revive & Thrive is committed to increasing engagement locally as well as supporting places nationally.

In a previous blog I suggested that, in a local area, better engagement is created by high street champions and resident champions.  This is because people trust and listen to their peers.

If you are reading this as a place practitioner, you are the peer that can help influence change not just in your place but in places all across the UK.

Revive & Thrive is looking for place practitioners to form a steering group and/or become non-executive directors of Revive & Thrive to build the space that can deliver real and lasting results UK wide.

We will offer you all of our resources including our networks, our Place Magazine, our newsletters, our regional events and two conferences in 2017 for you to inspire nationally.

You will help to shape the Revive & Thrive network to build an organisation that truly represents place of all shapes and sizes whatever model they use for managing their place.

If you want to help lead and inform places nationally, please contact me on 07590 005692 or email mark@reviveandthrive.co.uk for an informal discussion.

Mark Barnes

Managing Director and Founder

Revive & Thrive Ltd 

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