Urban Living Birmingham: Challenges facing the City

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The Urban Living Birmingham (ULB) Consortium brings together the expertise of four universities (University of Birmingham, Birmingham City, Aston and Warwick); working in partnership with public, private and third sector agencies. ULB is funded by RCUK via the Urban Living Partnership initiative and Innovate UK. There are over 40 project partners or stakeholders working with ULB including the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA); Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP); Sustainability West Midlands (SWM); the Energy Catapult; and the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare.

The Consortium was assembled to identify and understand the challenges and opportunities across the city of Birmingham and to identify integrated city-wide solutions. It was necessary to involve such a diverse range of partners since understanding the complexity of urban living and addressing challenges goes beyond any single business, sector or discipline. For instance, every city has its own geography, heritage, diversity, opportunities and constraints, all of which should be understood and reflected in city solutions. Diagnosing challenges and identifying integrated city-wide solutions is important because it provides an opportunity to enhance public, third and private sector effectiveness creating better outcomes for people and households across the city. For example, the current system of urban services and governance are too siloed in concept, fragmented and over-centralised, and often fail to meet customer needs. It requires radical change in governance and service delivery, which would rely on process and product innovation in their provision and management. A core aspect of the ULB project is to develop a set of diagnostics that will contribute to identifying and understanding integrated challenges, such as these, facing cities like Birmingham.

The ‘Touchstone Group’ is a critical part of the Consortium, which consists of representatives from the public, private and third sector from across Birmingham and the West Midlands Combined Authority. On the 29th November 2016, the ‘Touchstone Group’ met with the Urban Living Birmingham research team to consult on identifying the core interdependent challenges facing Birmingham. The discussion was informed by a presentation of results from a 6-month period of quantitative analysis, which involved two elements: evidence analysis (led by Joanne Leach) and quantitative analysis (led by Rachel Mulhall). The analysis was based upon examination of multiple data sources, including a data reduction technique to identify groups of indicators for urban living in Birmingham, and consultations with the ULB academic team and Touchstone Group. The results indicated a set of broad challenge areas that provided further insight into the interdependency of city services in Birmingham. The analysis also identified complex interdependencies between health, employment and residential location across Birmingham and also the importance of the relationship between wellbeing and connectivity. The outcome of these discussions are to be published in late January 2017 (so if of interest please do follow this) and identified the lenses/areas of focus from which the next phase of Urban Living Birmingham will follow. So watch this space!

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