The LPIP Hub: How do we Reach our Vision for Cities and Places?

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Rebecca Riley recently attended an RSA Urban Futures Roundtable looking at the potential of the UK’s cities. In a series of blogs, Rebecca reflects on the challenges facing places in building regenerative economies.

In the third blog in the series, Rebecca looks at the key steps we can take to reach our vision for cities and places.

This blog is for the Local Policy Innovation Partnership Hub (LPIP Hub) which launched early this year. The Hub seeks to address nationwide issues through local partnerships and places.It is a national consortuim led by the University of Birmingham and funded by the URKI.

Cities and city leaders need to innovate to grow, and this needs to happen across a range of policy areas. There are both local and national levers which can be implemented to help cities innovate:

Collaboration and Partnerships

Foster collaboration among stakeholders, including government, academia, businesses, and community organizations. Establish partnerships to share knowledge, resources, and expertise. Engage with local universities and research institutions to leverage their knowledge for urban innovation and problem-solving.

Key intervention ideas – Co-owned long-term city region strategies; single pots or co-investment/combined funds; pooled resources – intelligence and insight; and increased investment in local anchor institutions.

Social Innovation and Inclusion

Encourage social innovation to address societal challenges and foster inclusivity. Leaders should support and invest in initiatives that tackle issues that strengthen the social fabric such as affordable housing, reducing homelessness, investing in education, and greater healthcare access. Facilitating greater collaboration between public, private, and non-profit sectors to develop innovative solutions that address the needs of marginalized communities.

Key intervention ideas – procurement routes based on innovation and social outcomes; procurement routes for social enterprises and community-owned companies; investment in delivering good work charters; and city-level living wage approach.

Resilience Planning

Develop resilience strategies to address future pandemics, climate change, natural disasters, and other shocks. Enhance infrastructure resilience, implement early warning systems, and integrate nature-based solutions for disaster risk reduction. Encourage community engagement and empower residents to build resilient neighbourhoods. Invest in resilient businesses.

Key intervention ideas – Invest in capacity, capability, training and innovation in Local Authority teams; skills development in risk assessment and analysis; system redundancy assessment and diversification strategies which reduce dependency on single suppliers and ensure alternative options if there is failure; creating flexible governance structures and contingency planning as  seen during the pandemic,  promoting collaboration, fostering participative decision making to achieve shared outcomes; develop early warning systems that alert partners to potential risks, social, environmental or economic shocks; involve the community in planning processes, services and empower them in local decision making; promote systems thinking especially in the management of natural resources; create more resilient economies through effective smart specialisation alongside appropriate diversification from single industry economies; and invest in social security safety nets which support vulnerable residents often overlooked in cities.

Creative Financing Models

Explore innovative financing models to support urban development projects. These may include public-private partnerships, impact investing, crowdfunding, and social impact bonds. Encourage investment in sustainable infrastructure, affordable housing, and community-driven initiatives.

Key intervention ideas – innovative use of pension funds, lending and borrowing at the local level; sharing the risk and rewards through sustainable and efficient public-private partnerships which act in the public interest; impact investing in activities which produce positive social and environmental impacts; crowdfunding especially for creative, social or community and cultural activities; Social Impact Bonds as contracts between local government and private investors to fund social programmes; revolving funds which enable local authorities to develop a pool of money to invest which is replenished when there is a return on the investment or loan; Green Bonds, which raise capital for projects with environmental benefits; microfinancing where traditional banks offer limited support; asset repurposing or recycling selling underperforming assets in order to invest in other assets; peer-to-peer lending platforms to connect investors to ideas directly; specific competitions which address an innovation challenge; work with national government to provide tax incentives or wealth funds which encourage private investors to invest in specific city level schemes.

Data-Driven Decision Making

Harness the power of data analytics and artificial intelligence to inform decision-making processes. Invest in better use of data to identify urban challenges, monitor performance, and evaluate the impact of policies and interventions. Utilising predictive analytics and responsible AI approaches for proactive, risk assessment, planning and resource allocation.

Key intervention ideas – Robust, collaborative cross organisational data collection to gather shared relevant and reliable data and establish data governance and quality assurance practices; develop shared data visualization tools and techniques to present complex data in a clear and easily understandable format; data literacy training; Define clear and measurable key performance indicators that align with organizational objectives, outputs and outcomes; utilise ethical, data analytics methods, such as real-time data monitoring, benchmarking and comparative analysis, controlled experiments; predictive analytics, forecasting, statistical analysis and machine learning, to extract meaningful insights from the data; Build capability and skills in data analysis who can interpret the findings to inform decision-makers; and bring this together within decision support systems which feed into the decision-making processes.

Smart City Technologies

Embracing smart city technologies to enhance urban services and efficiency. This includes a range of socially responsible activities such as implementing sensors, data analytics, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices to monitor and manage infrastructure, transportation, energy, water, and public services. This can enable data-driven decision-making, resource optimisation, improved service provision and improved quality of life for residents. However, these technologies do not replace well-maintained hard infrastructure.

Key intervention ideas – sensors such as air quality, traffic flow, waste management and energy consumption; smart grids and energy management systems; intelligent transport systems to improve flow and reduce congestion; real-time traffic monitoring, smart parking, and route planning; integrated urban mobility solutions; smart street lighting; open data platforms; citizen engagement platforms and feedback; smart water management; digital civic solutions (alongside accessible solutions); smart healthcare which has accelerated in the pandemic such as telemedicine, remote patient monitoring and predictive analytics for disease monitoring; environmental protection monitoring; real time monitoring for disaster prediction; smart education systems such as e-learning, smart classrooms and digital learning.

Digital Connectivity and E-Governance

Improve digital connectivity and promote e-governance initiatives. Enhance access to high-speed internet and digital services for all residents. Implement online platforms for citizen engagement, feedback collection, and participatory decision-making. Leverage technology for transparent and efficient government operations and service delivery.

Key intervention ideas – digital and mobile services portals (alongside accessible human services); citizen engagement platforms, which complement other forms of engagement; utilisation of national digital identity and authentication processes for local services; ensure interoperability across services; online service payment options; automation of bureaucracy and forms; use of social media and digital platforms to communicate; and utilise government and university data centres and cloud services.

Renewable and Efficient Energy

Transition to renewable energy sources and improve energy efficiency in buildings, public lighting, and transportation systems. Promote the use of solar panels, wind turbines, and energy-efficient appliances. Develop district energy systems and microgrids to enhance energy resilience and reduce carbon emissions.

Key intervention ideas – single point of information for government support; renewable energy incentives such as tax credits, grants and feed-in tariffs; targets for percentages of energy generation within specific timescales; net metering allowing energy producers to put back into the system; implement and monitor energy efficiency standards; energy audits and efficiency programmes which support transition for households and companies; upgrade infrastructure to smart grids; investment in local and international research on local energy storage solutions, and renewable energy technologies; invest in public transport and EV infrastructure; support community-based renewable energy initiatives; local carbon pricing mechanisms; green procurement policies; and public awareness and education programmes.

Circular Economy and Waste Management

Implement circular economy principles to minimize waste generation and promote recycling, upcycling, and resource recovery. Encourage sustainable waste management practices, such as composting and waste-to-energy initiatives. Emphasize the reduction of single-use plastics and promote responsible consumption and production patterns.

Key intervention ideas – extended producer responsibility holding manufacturers to account for the lifecycle of products; waste segregation in households and businesses; recycling and upcycling initiatives; composting programmes; promote circular design and product information; material recovery facilities; waste to energy facilities; deposit return systems; encourage and support businesses to adopt circular business models; zero waste initiatives;  specific public-private partnerships and green procurement approaches that tackle initiatives.

Sustainable Urban Planning

Adopt sustainable urban planning practices that prioritize compact, mixed-use development, efficient transportation networks, and green infrastructure. Integrate principles of walkability, bike-ability, and public transit to reduce reliance on cars and promote active transportation. Incorporate green spaces, parks, and urban farming to enhance environmental sustainability and residents’ well-being. City region planning powers; combined funding pots for infrastructure investment; investment in green and blue infrastructure. Urban-rural connectivity is essential when considering the growth and utility of cities, it is crucial for balanced regional development, improved economic opportunities and overall societal progress.

Key intervention ideas – Additional activities beyond those mentioned above include – Mixed use planning which encourages zoning and recreational spaces; transit orientated development that prioritises the high-density mixed-use areas, with accessible blue and green infrastructure to encourage public transport use; investment in urban rural connectivity and upgrading of public transport networks; investment in and access to green infrastructure including parks and urban forests; pedestrian, disability, child friendly design; energy efficient building design; climate responsive design considering local climate change and extreme weather events; affordable housing and inclusivity encouraging mixed income neighbourhoods; adaptive reuse and historic preservation encouraging the maintenance of the distinctiveness, character and cultural heritage of places; investment in resilient digital infrastructure which connects sociodemographic communities, hinterland and rural areas; investment in services which support suburban and rural areas which rely on cities such as financial accessibility, skills development and education and health and wellbeing; and incentives for urban rural investments, tax and other support measures to stimulate investment outside urban centres.

Cultural and Wellbeing Planning

Cities need to capitalise on their diverse societal ecosystem, with a focus on leveraging cultural activities, heritage, and artistic expressions to enhance individual and community well-being. Activities in this policy area aim to foster a sense of identity, belonging, and social cohesion while promoting mental, emotional, and social health, often overlooked in planning but fundamental to the social fabric of places. These activities can provide a platform to harness the power of a city culture and drive a deeper appreciation and understanding of the place and what it has to offer locally, regionally, nationally and internationally

Key intervention ideas – cultural events and festivals that enhance local traditions, sports, arts, music and cuisine; promoting artistic expression and creative activities; cultural exchange programmes which promote learning across diverse communities and groups; community arts programmes that make places more attractive for residents, businesses and visitors; intergenerational programmes which bring together people from different ages, to share experiences; cultural therapy programmes to address mental health through a culturally sensitive approach; cultural education in schools incorporating local history, traditions and preserve cultural narratives; community cultural centres; art therapy programmes to use creative expression as a means of personal growth; cultural awareness training; collaborative cultural projects to achieve community aspirations with artists; cultural tourism sustainable tourism that promotes cities, their traditions, heritage and economic development raising perceptions of place; and cultural mentorship that that connects individuals with practitioners to create skills development and knowledge sharing.

In the next blog in this series, Rebecca discusses whether productivity can bring the change we need in places.

View the previous blogs in the series:
The LPIP Hub: What are Cities and What Role Do They Play in our Social, Economic, and Environmental Systems?
The LPIP Hub: What are the Challenges Faced by Cities and Places? What do we Want and Need Them to be?

This blog was written by Rebecca Riley, Associate Professor for Enterprise, Engagement and Impact, City-REDI / WMREDI, 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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