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Three ways economic development can help business today

 

What are the three ways economic development can help business today?

Collecting the bins and planning are statutory functions at most local authorities in England, economic development  (ED) function is not a statutory function.  So it is right that we ask what is the value of economic development and what contribution does it make to business growth.

This article sets out the three ways economic development can help business today.   So here we go, we hope this article contributes to the discussion about what local government can do to boost business.

  1. Bring together local agencies
    Economic development should have a focus on bringing growth and investment to the area.   As an economic development professional your role is to stay focussed on this.  In England local authorities cannot set the tone and direction for economic development by themselves.  Economic development has a collaborative attitude which recognises the uniqueness and value that other organisations can bring.  Economic growth comes through collaboration.   Central government, Local Enterprise Partnerships, Councils, Chambers of Commerce all have a part to play.   Success will only come from these agencies collaborate.

  2. Share insight
    There is such a wealth of information and data available to us.  We do not need to rely on who shouts loudest in the room, or those with fixed opinions based on personal prejudices.

    By sharing data we can bring different sources together to build a nuanced, clear picture of the current situation.   This will then lead to insights and perspectives on the problem.  For example at a recent client meeting we were able to bring new data on road traffic patterns which fundamentally changed the ways the client “framed” the problem of traffic exiting a business park.

  3. Set out and own a vision for the district
    We’ve been saving the best until last!  It is not the job of business to create and own vision for the locality.   Business look to local authorities for vision and leadership of place.   Leadership and vision is central to economic development

    So let’s get to work!

 

 

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Why do you love statistics?

Even if we don’t “love” statistics, they are crucial for effective local services…

 

Why do you love stats? It is a tricky question that might not make your Valentine date melt with delight. The question is especially difficult if you weren’t in top set at school. (For the record I was bottom set maths, and only just scraped a pass following lots of after school tutoring). Anyway back to stats. Here at Red Potato, we’ve embraced statistics with the zeal that a former smoker embraces data on the dangers of passive smoking.

The reason for our zeal is because without data too many of the big political and economic decisions are made on “gut” instinct. Don’t worry I’m going to rehearse points made previously about Brexit, Trump election and Russian bots on Facebook. My point is that without statistics the less glamorous decisions that effect us locally on road improvements, changes to parking schemes, or where and why a company decides to locate, are determined by those who shout loudest.

Local decisions probably have more effect on our daily life than Brexit & Trump, yet without statistics, data and insight these local decisions would be made based on hunch and gut instinct. So, it really is in all our interests to look beyond the rhetoric and ask “where is your evidence for that statement?”  And the answer to that question lies with lovely statistics!

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Some nice workshop feedback…thanks!

Education workshop feedback

Since our intervention, Red Potato staff have received this great workshop feedback.

Many thanks to @welhatcouncil for these kind comments:

“We would like to thank the The Director of Red Potato, Jay Wheeler, who led the Education Workshop on Apprenticeships, Skills & Training at the Welwyn Hatfield Annual Alliance Conference on the 12th of November 2015. Delivering this key workshop played a valuable part in contributing to the overall success of the Conference which saw the launch of the Welwyn Hatfield Economic Development Strategy 2015/2016.”

At the conference it was great to hear from local schools, colleges and business leaders.  Most noteworthy was the way everyone committed to improving the prospects for young people in Hertfordshire.

So, as a consequence of the conference, it seems business and schools will work together more effectively.  If as a result of our intervention at the conference, we make this happen more quickly, so much the better!

http://www.welhat.gov.uk/article/6178/13112015-Alliance-convenes-for-launch-of-Economic-Development-Strategy
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Herts Healthy Homes Partnership Programme, with Hertfordshire County Council

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Hertfordshire County Council/ Herts Healthy Homes project

Red Potato were selected by Hertfordshire County Council to:

  1. build engagement and involvement from a diverse range of partner organisations, including voluntary sector organisations, district and borough Councils
  2. ensure partnership outcomes were recorded and communicated
  3. work with Herts Healthy Homes partners to create and embed referral processes

Hertfordshire County Council said:

“Red Potato were really efficient and happy to talk to other key providers. We’d have no hesitation in recommending Red Potato for project support. They deliver exactly what they promise.”

 

Herts Healthy Homes & Red Potato
Herts Healthy Homes – Red Potato provided project support for this Hertfordshire County Council partnership project

 

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#WHDAC2105Awards

Well done to all the Teams who participated in the 2015 Welwyn Hatfield Dragons Apprentice Challenge!  Red Potato were pleased to be a business partner with Welwyn Hatfield Council to deliver the programme again this year.

The Challenge requires local schools to work with local businesses and charities with the aim of growing £100 “seed capital” into at least £1000.  All the proceeds from the Team activities are given to the charity that the team is paired with for the duration of the competition.   At the Awards event, it was great to hear about the strong relationship that had been built and that many of the schools said they would continue to work with the charity, even though this year’s Challenge is now over.

You can get a flavour of the excitement by viewing the Awards night story!

 

 

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Working in Partnership with Councils

Judgement Day at the #LGCAwards: We were really happy when asked to be part of the Welwyn Hatfield Council presentation to the Local Government Chronicle Awards panel in #London.  During January the team (composed of Welwyn Hatfield Council and Red Potato staff) put in the time to prepare and rehearse our pitch to the judges.  It was great to have the support of the Welwyn Hatfield Council CEO who quizzed us hard, before approving our final presentation.   Red Potato had helped the Council engage local businesses with an innovative scheme for young people to gain experience of being an entrepreneur.  The young people gained valuable experience which will help them in their future careers and the businesses gained a useful insight into the mindset of “Millennials”, as customers and potential employees.   Red Potato has conducted initial research that shows that a typical Return on Investment for businesses who participated as a staggering 81.8%! In terms of cash that means for every £100 a local business invested in the programme, they could receive benefits worth upto £500! If you’d like to discuss how we could work with your local council and local businesses to achieve similar results do get in touch.   In the meantime we anxiously await the results of the LGC judging process….

On behalf of Red Potato we wish Welwyn Hatfield Council the best of luck, for when the final awards are announced in March.

 

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Rearranging the deckchairs – keeps the local economy ticking over

We’ve all heard the phrase “rearranging the deckchairs on the Titantic”.  The definition on Wiktionary is

“To do something pointless or insignificant that will soon be overtaken by events, or that contributes nothing to the solution of a current problem”

Many local councils are faced with an office estate which was designed in the last century, if not before and now frankly doesn’t really meet the needs of the business.  However the buildings are often local icons – and if councils don’t occupy them, not many businesses would want them either.   So we are left with a situation of reconfiguring a building when the inevitable staff and structure changes are made.

Once staff know whether they are keeping their job and where they fit in the new organisation chart, the next most important thing is where they will sit.   At a time of great uncertainty knowing where we spend our working time is some comfort.   Now you’ll remember that the stated reason for these changes is often the need to save money, but that didn’t take account of the building work, nor costs of redundancy, nor most importantly the changes in front line operations.     So now we have a situation where untold staff time is spent worrying about their future (including worrying about the distance to the kitchen and who will maintain the tea fund), costs for putting up new partitions, costs for moving and testing kit, costs for building more “pods” for managers who “need” privacy and lots and lots of meetings.

Someone, somewhere should check whether all those savings really do materialise.  A job for Audit Commission – hmm, maybe, but that’s been abolished! The only option left is the “Armchair Auditors” armed with their FOI requests!

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Transformation in the Voluntary Sector

I am not an expert on the voluntary sector and don’t pretend to be.

But clearly the sector is in the process of massive changes.   The NCVO published a best practice guide for local authorities and the voluntary and community sector.   At a time when the prospects for the voluntary sector are “shrink, merge or go bust” it is all the more important that public sector organisations recognise the value of the voluntary sector and also the pressures that the voluntary sector are facing.     

Adherence to the CLG guidance on community right to challenge and giving the volutary sector a fair deal when imposing cuts  is only part of the answer.   Having a genuine, authentic discussion with the voluntary sector is what is needed, not megaphone diplomacy.

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Do the preparation, check the destination

The  project has been completed, the final report, finally approved, the diary is clear of project update meetings and the virtual team has gone its separate ways.

But what has changed?   How have things improved?   Have things got better for local people?   These are the questions which we need to be answered for any project involving public resources and aimed at addressing local community need.     Sounds obvious but how good is the sector at addressing these questions – from my own experience I think the picture is mixed.   There are some genuine efforts to communicate with residents about project outcomes and whether the initial objectives were achieved.      There are also some pretty poorly executed attempts at corporate back-slapping based on fairly limited progress.

The reason for this is measuring outcomes means we need to state clearly at the outset of the project “how will people be better off”.    Mark Friedman discusses the process of “turning the curve”; describing the outcome to be improved and what is likely to happen if nothing changes.   Actions are then measured against this projected baseline.  By taking effective and timely actions, improvements are made against the baseline.

The trick is doing the preparation beforehand to agree the metrics by which the project will be judged, including milestones to check progress along the way.    And regularly communicate with residents must be central to the project.

If people don’t feel that things have changed then the project can’t be claimed to be a success.

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