There is much discussion at the moment in Scotland about whether greater devolution, or indeed independence, would further the country’s ambitions to drive a Wellbeing Economy. At CTP we work with local and regional governments around the UK and this question has struck a chord with us. What role can devolving more power, at every level, play in bringing about the radically different economy our society and planet urgently need?
Over more than a decade we have been asking people – from powerful leaders to the most marginalised in our society – what matters to them. The answers are remarkable mostly for their similarity. The key ingredients we need to thrive are known at a fundamental level, by us all. We need secure, warm and comfortable homes on clean, safe and navigable streets. We need meaningful work that pays the bills and hopefully contributes in some way to others. We need education and health services that keep us mentally and physically flourishing at all stages of life. We need friends, family and a wider community that we can fall back on in times of need. We need access to and the protection of the clean air, land and seas and the natural environment around us.
Providing these fundamental building blocks of a ‘good life’ should be the main, perhaps only overarching goal of governments and business alike. Yet the bigger the government and the bigger the business the further away from this everyday reality they seem to get. National or supra-national bodies and corporations have persuaded themselves, and in most cases everyone else, that the purpose of all of our collective busy-ness – the ‘economy’– is there to deliver a never ending graph of ‘economic’ growth, whilst powering eye-watering rises in the wealth of the richest 1% and a terrifying acceleration towards climate catastrophe.
Yet there are seeds of hope and the shoots of growth for a different future. In local towns, cities, regions and the devolved nations of the UK the voices for change are getting ever louder.
If you are the leader of a local council, or an NHS manager in a city hospital, or a social business owner employing local people, you don’t need to be told what matters to people. You see it, feel it, live it every day. When these people are given power they know how to wield it for good, yet power is something that is in very short supply at a local level in our highly centralised country.
‘We work with local community organisations and infrastructure bodies to help shift power and influence to the people who have the real answers – communities themselves’
At CTP we work with Combined Authorities up and down the UK that are looking to rewire whole regions to deliver better wellbeing for people, places and the environment. We work with local governments and public services to help them join up disparate pieces of the system so that health and housing budgets come together to deliver health-giving housing in thriving and supportive communities, and planning rules can be adapted to put a growth of wellbeing as a key demand for new developments. We work with local community organisations and infrastructure bodies to help shift power and influence to the people who have the real answers – communities themselves.
We see time and time again that when you devolve power ‘downwards’ people are often more bold, insightful and ready to take the big decisions that seem impossible to those trapped in groundhog day in the corridors of Whitehall or Canary Wharf, as our Deputy Chief Executive wrote about last year in the Political Quarterly. In the regions, the cities, the towns and the communities of this country a ‘wellbeing economy’ is increasingly a no brainer because the outcomes it prioritises and delivers are the priorities of the people.
As we face the collective crises of climate, energy, migration and cost of living, all delivered by our out-of-date and out-of-touch economic model, I think we can safely say that too much centralised power has indeed corrupted our ability to thrive – equitably or sustainably. Perhaps now is the time to devolve that power and allow local and regional leaders and communities to lead us on a path to a better future for all?
Photo by Kairos Panamá: https://www.pexels.com/photo/people-voting-with-hands-17277380/