I have recently returned to the West Midlands for my role as a Policy and Data Analyst after five-years living and working in Wales. Coming back to the area after time away, I can see first-hand the changes across the city. Birmingham is rising to its position as the United Kingdom’s second city; attracting more businesses and investment than ever before. But in many ways, the most exciting changes are the buzzing hub of cultural attractions, diverse cuisine and live music venues that people elsewhere seem to know nothing about. While I see the city for all its gems, Birmingham remains somewhat burdened by its outdated image. I feel incredibly lucky to be granted an opportunity to contribute to City-REDI’s ongoing programme of work. In doing so, I am excited to help to identify and promote Birmingham and the West Midlands’ rich economic, cultural and social treasures and provide input into policies that help to address the ongoing problems for the region.
The move also marks the end of my PhD and the beginning of my new chapter with City-REDI. My ESRC funded PhD explores stakeholders’ participation in engagement strategies that help to shape the identity of cities and regions. The research looks specifically at Bath and Bristol, discovering the ways that stakeholders collaborate in the presentation of the cities in which they live, work and invest. Too often certain stakeholders’ voices are ignored and my research looks at the reasons for these continued exclusions. I am a strong advocate that people should play an important role in shaping the places, cities and regions that mean so much to them. If I could achieve just one thing from my PhD, it would be helping make the complicated and top-down process of stakeholder participation more inclusive. My PhD research draws upon my ongoing interest in place-based identity, stakeholder governance and place branding. One of the areas I am particularly looking forward to within my new role is translating these findings into the context of Birmingham and the West Midlands with our upcoming work on Birmingham’s transitioning identity and reputation.
Throughout my PhD, I was an active member of the academic community, contributing to the teaching at Cardiff University and presenting my findings at national and international conferences. A snapshot of some career highlights includes the honour of being awarded the Best Academic Paper at the Institute of Place Management conference in September 2017 and gaining ESRC funding for a two-month Overseas Institutional Visit to Curtin University in Perth, Australia. On top of the added perk of feeding my love for travel, this experience helped me to develop international partnerships with fantastic scholars from across the world and work together on collaborative research projects.
The transition to my role at City-REDI has been made easier by my previous work with the Welsh Economy Research Unit (WERU) at Cardiff Business School. At WERU, I was a Research Associate, working in partnership with the Welsh Government and Small to Medium Business Enterprises (SMEs) to provide insights into the potential impacts of digital technologies for business and regional innovation, productivity and sustainability. This provided a hugely beneficial starting point, with WERU and City-REDI sharing regional economic research interests, as well as a recognised ability to translate findings into industrial policy.
I am excited to see what challenges await as I settle back into the West Midlands and begin the next stage of my research and consultancy journey. I am particularly looking forward to being a part of a multi-disciplinary team that continue to shape the West Midlands’ regional and national growth policies and push for these benefits to be shared among a place’s stakeholders.
This blog was written by Laura Reynolds, Data and Policy Analyst, City-REDI, University of Birmingham.
The views expressed in this analysis post are those of the authors and not necessarily those of City-REDI or the University of Birmingham.
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