Learning From BURA

BURA Logo.(small).jpg Membership of the British Urban Regeneration Association has helped me to see a wider picture of renaissance and renewal in the U.K. Lessons learned include: 1. Wider stakeholder engagement is vital right from the start of a proposed regeneration programme. 2. Environmental sustainability also needs to be built in from the start. 3. There is a need, increasingly recognised, to ‘translate’ the perspectives and understandings of different players at all levels in the process of renewal.
I’ve been a member of the British Urban Regeneration Association (BURA) almost since its beginnings. They held an early event in an enormous marquee on the brownfield site of the old Liverpool Speke Airport, now home to the Liverpool South Marriott Hotel; and somehow HOPES, the community-led charity which I chair, was invited to send a representative.
Now, a decade or so later, I am delighted just to have been elected to the BURA Board of Directors.
So the past few weeks have been a steep learning curve for me.
Engaging in the business
Firstly there was a visit to the BURA offices in Hatton Garden, London, where I met the very busy and welcoming officers and staff. There’s nothing like seeing people actually at their workstations for perceiving how involved and interconnected their business is.
Then I found myself in Manchester, chairing a BURA Forum of practitioners from all sorts of backgrounds who are connected with that city. And again, a few weeks later, I attended a dinner in that same location where we discussed the issues currently facing the construction industry, as it moves towards a more coherent and cohesive identity.
And finally this week I went to my first full Board meeting, in London – an event where, new girl as I am, I felt immediate resonance with many of my own concerns and interests, but in the course of which I also discovered a great deal more about the wide and fascinating remit of BURA overall.
An emerging consensus
Three things have struck me particularly about everything I’ve seen and experienced over the past couple of months.
Firstly, there is a rapidly emerging new core emphasis on what it means to talk about stakeholding in regeneration and renewal. At last it seems to be understood (a) that the engagement of wider stakeholders (for which read, ‘the community’ and others who have no direct commercial or public service interest) is not a desirable add-on to be pursued once the main objectives of a programme have been determined; but, rather (b) that without the insights and active consent of at least the majority of those unto whom a programme will be ‘done’, there is little point in the programme anyway. And this applies whether one considers the proposals from a straight business or from a wider social perspective….. Look no further than this week’s High Court judgement on proposed Edge Lane (Eastern Approach) developments in Liverpool, for evidence of the impact an individual – the doughty Elizabeth Pascoe in this case – can have on a situation where, in some people’s view, more emphasis should have been given early on to stakeholder issues.
Secondly, the consensus now developing offers a much more integral position on environmental sustainability. Again, those involved in regeneration now concur that this needs to be built into their plans right from the beginning, especially since energy will often be produced much more locally to its destination in the future.
And the third lesson so far? It’s that the sort of tasks I tend to find myself undertaking these days will become even more an aspect of professional activity in the future. There is sometimes a real need, now much more commonly acknowledged than previously, to ‘translate’ the work and understandings of given parts of a professional team to people in other parts of it; and often on top of this there is also a requirement to translate the perceptions of wider stakeholders to the professionals (and vice versa). Sometimes this has to be done on a ‘salvage’ basis, to re-stabilise a programme already under way, and other times it can be undertaken, more comfortably, far earlier in proceedings.
The humble joined-up approach
I suspect we are seeing the establishment of a new phase in now-maturing regeneration good practice.
For some while there has been considerable consensus about the core skills and activities which comprise most of the professions relating to regeneration. There are now established paradigms around particular professional contributions to regeneration, with all the power and conviction which arises from clearly defined and accredited expertise.
Alongside this however I detect a growing realisation that with acknowledged power and expertise must come a new humility, a genuine desire to learn from other stakeholders of all sorts (and as early on as possible) if regeneration programmes are to achieve their objectives. Whether it’s renewable energy specialists talking with construction engineers and planners, or developers and local residents trying to communicate with each other, everyone is having to articulate their positions very clearly, whilst they also try to perceive how other people see things.
It’s these wider perceptions about how we can learn from each other which BURA’s developing agenda will help to bring about.

Posted on September 30, 2006, in British Urban Regeneration Association (BURA), Equality, Diversity And Inclusion, Regeneration, Renewal And Resilience, Sustainability As If People Mattered, The Journal. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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