‘Place transformation’ has become a well-used term, as the principles underpinning the positive transformation of place are becoming better understood and established.
But does this mean we know what it is or how to deliver it?
Place transformation needs a shared ambition and vision with clear outcomes and outputs. It cannot be delivered by one authority working on its own, even less by one department or the ‘Place Director’. At its core is the need for effective partnerships between different levels of government, the public, private and voluntary sectors and, probably most importantly, local communities.
I am sure you will have seen many examples of place-based partnerships where ambitions have been set high, but the partnerships have ultimately underperformed. In many instances this problem is because the activity being undertaken is born out of a requirement for a partnership to be put in place to meet a regulatory or funding obligation.
Local Partnerships’ experience is that successful place transformation needs to consider partnership and governance issues as an integral part of the development of a vision, before detailed programmes are developed. This is the only way one can overcome the challenge of aligning interests and getting the buy-in of partners and the local community.
There are two words that can be used to test whether partnerships are likely to succeed:
Leadership and Ownership
Leadership and ownership help define roles, the level of engagement required and when engagement should take place. Leadership is clearly a role for local authorities in the partnership. Ownership has to be spread equally between partners and the community. Getting ownership requires partners to understand why their involvement will benefit their organisations and again points to very early consideration of engagement and governance.
The issues raised in the NLGN’s Innovation Exchange “Leading Partnerships to Transform Place” are at the core of how our local areas respond to and recover from COVID-19. Those areas already struggling are likely to have a greater hill to climb – requiring greater effort in the area of place-based planning and transformation. The justification for putting place transformation at the heart of our strategies is greater now than ever before.