Category Archives: British Urban Regeneration Association (BURA)
A seminar chaired today (Thursday 27 November ’08) by Lord Herman Ouseley in London drew a wide range of attendees from across the country. This was the first post-launch meeting of the BURA Equality and Diversity Forum, which will offer a programme of events around equity and effectiveness in regeneration across the business perspective, planning, site assembly, capacity building and much else.
This seminar, in Coin Street Neighbourhood Centre, London, followed the British Urban Regeneration Association (BURA) Equality and Diversity Forum Launch earlier in the year. The tasks which attendees set themselves this time around included examination of the business case for serious attention to E&D, and a look at the scope and capacity within the regeneration sector to deliver on equity.
An important element of the debate was that it included people with many different experiences and starting points, who together sought to identify a common understanding of effective approaches in regeneration to E&D in all its aspects.
Speakers during the event included Lord Herman Ouseley (conference chair), Paul Taverner of Bevan Brittan (developing E&D in a corporate context), Prof. Erik Bichard of the University of Salford (the E&D business case), John Bell and Paul Drake of ECOTEC (diversity), Sofia Yaqoob of Carnation and Jonathan Wilson of Carey Jones Architects (a case study of development in Bradford), Waqar Hussain (the Blackburn experience) and Michael Ward, Chief Executive of BURA (on ways forward). The conference convenor and rapporteur was Hilary Burrage (BURA Board member and BURA E&D Champion).
There is a real business case for this issue and a refreshed enthusiasm for inclusivity in regeneration, an appetite for change and a developing sense of purpose. Everyone, from all corners of the social spectrum, can have valid and valuable contributions to make to the make-up and shape of places being created or re-created. That’s not just ensuring each and every community within a community has a proper voice, but also that the workforce that delivers change is properly representative too.
This isn’t just about ensuring regeneration signs up to the E&D agenda, it’s about shaping places that work better.
Lord Herman Ouseley
Taking forward a serious corporate commitment to E&D in my (legal) company has been a very positive experience, which has brought people together in common cause, and has been beneficial to organisational performance. It requires an open mind and perseverance, but it is definitely worth the effort, both because it is the inherently proper thing to do, and because it brings good business outcomes.
Paul Taverner, Bevan Brittan
My research around people with disabilities who wish to work demonstrates the many assumptions we should, actually, not make, about how best to support their moves in this direction. When we provide services for people from a range of backgrounds and experiences we need always to discover from them themselves what is required and how to provide support. From that baseline we can all begin to benefit more fully, economically as well as socially, from the positive outcomes and effects of including everyone in our communities.
Prof. Erik Bichard, University of Salford
The regeneration profession needs to get better at E&D because only then can it understand the main barriers that need to be overcome in order to support individuals living in areas undergoing renewal. The current lack of understanding often results in missed opportunities both in employment into regeneration and in how local services are developed and delivered. Only when you invest in understanding the needs of diverse communities can you ensure services and opportunities are truly inclusive.
John Bell, ECOTEC
The regeneration profession needs to get better at E&D because it is an issue that is rarely properly addressed or fully understood. Whilst it is possible to conduct market research, there is no substitute for real life experience and fully integrating with those who have grown up in the local community.
Though I am of Kashmiri descent, I am principally British, and would like to think that I take the very best of my natural heritage to be an intrinsic and integral part of my British culture.
Some regeneration schemes can further divide communities rather than bring them together. Thus, it is of fundamental importance to provide the correct mix of uses on site to ensure that this does not happen. The LGA reinforces this, stating the need to give communities ‘a real stake in the regeneration of their neighbourhoods’. It is our aim to deliver this.
Sofia Yaqoob, Carnation
Leadership is always an issue in delivering E&D in communities. We need to be aware of the nuances of understanding in communities about who is deemed to be entitled to lead, and in what ways. Communities comprise people of all ages, men and women with different backgrounds and expectations, and this diversity must be reflected in the ways we try to work with communities to deliver their requirements.
Regenerators are missing a trick at the moment. With the economic cycle in its current state, observing E&D could be the source of enterprise and creativity that is desperately required to keep regeneration on track. This is just one of the reasons why the BURA board is so passionately behind the E&D agenda, it’s not just about idealism, its about our core business. If you don’t believe me check the Boards of the Fortune 100 and FTSE 100. Those that represent good E&D practice are the strongest performers.
There is a small group of innovators and pioneers already signed up to this issue, but we’re also keen to reach everyone else, the others who are just waking up and keen to weave good E&D practice because its good business.
If we as regeneration practitioners neglect E&D, we are simply not doing our job very well, in either the business or the social sense. Attention to E&D is a fundamental part of genuine regeneration. How can a community develop and thrive if it is not fair and inclusive?
Hilary Burrage, BURA Board Director & E&D Champion
As we move beyond the CRE 2008 Report and other recent investigations in regeneration, we must attend to the E&D outcomes of regeneration, as well as to employment practices within the sector. Fair outcomes are required in funding allocations, types of housing and choices of areas for development.
BURA can, and will, work to build good practice in all parts of the sector. We will seek a ‘better way of working’. As we talk with our partners and with government we will keep true to our commitment to E&D, and find ways to take it forward.
Michael Ward, BURA Chief Executive
See more on the British Urban Regeneration Association (BURA) and visit the BURA website; and read about Social Inclusion And Diversity.
For more information on the BURA E&D Forum please contact Michael Ward at BURA
Summary: This is a version of the Keynote Lecture I gave at the NUREC 2008 conference, in Liverpool on 28 July 08.
In it we explore the connections between Knowledge Economies and Ecologies, and Big Science and Regeneration, especially in regional and sub-regional settings, and in respect of issues around Sustainability.
My basic thesis is that Knowledge is not yet recognised for the fundamental resource it surely is.
A complete version of this paper can be found on Hilary’s professional website, here.
Workable Regeneration: Acknowledging Difference To Achieve Social Equity (Equality And Diversity ‘Regeneration Rethink’)
Regeneration is a crowded field. It’s the market place to resolve the competing demands of social equity indicators as varied as joblessness, family health, carbon footprint, religious belief and housing. But it’s obvious something isn’t gelling in the way regeneration ‘works’. Could that something be the almost gratuitous neglect of experiential equality and diversity?
BURA, the British Urban Regeneration Association, is squaring up to this fundamental challenge.
Discuss equality and diversity issues with any group of regeneration practitioners, and just one of two responses is likely.
Some respond immediately: Yes, critical for everyone; what took you so long?
For others, the feeling seems to be more : Great idea, but not much to do with me.
So where’s the common ground?
Balancing strategy and everyday reality
How can we balance large-scale strategies for a sustainable economy with the immediate human reality that, as an example, women born in Pakistan now living in Britain have twice the U.K. average risk that their babies will die before age one?
The Board of BURA, the British Urban Regeneration Association, has during the past year thought hard about where in all this some commonality might lie, and what that means for the future. Whether as a practitioner, a client or recipient of regenerational endeavours, an agent for economic development, or a policy maker seeking sustainable futures for us all, questions of social equity matter a lot.
But the case for equality and diversity is easier for practitioners and decision-makers to see in some parts of regeneration than others.
Large-scale and micro impacts
No-one doubts, for instance, that new roads and other infrastructure can attract businesses and enhance employment opportunities for disadvantaged areas.
Some will acknowledge the physical isolation which new highways may impose on those without transport, now perhaps cut off from their families, friends and local amenities.
Almost no-one considers how regeneration might reduce the tragic personal realities behind high infant death rates in poor or ‘deprived’ communities.
The point is that these impacts are differential. The elderly or disabled, mothers and young children, people of minority ethnic heritage: overall the experience of people in these groups is more community disadvantage and fewer formal resources to overcome this disadvantage.
But for each ‘group’, the tipping points are different.
The scope for examination of differential equality and diversity impacts – of infrastructural arrangements, of process, of capacity building and of everything else to do with regeneration – is enormous, and would go quite a way towards reducing unintended consequences and even greater serendipitous disadvantage for some people.
This work has hardly begun, but it is I believe a basic requirement and tool for making progress towards genuinely remediated and sustainable communities.
One size does not fit all
It is obvious that currently something isn’t gelling in the way that regeneration ‘works’. That something, to my mind, is the almost gratuitous neglect of difference. However one looks at it, one size simply does not fit all in the greater regenerational scheme of things.
But if you zoomed in from outer space, you’d be forced to the conclusion that one size does in fact fit almost all when it comes to senior decision-makers and influencers. There are amongst leaders in regeneration some women, a few non-white faces, and perhaps even smaller numbers of influencers with personal experience of, say, disability; but not many.
This self-evident fact has, of course, been a matter of deep concern to those in the regeneration sector over the past few months.
Meeting social equity requirements – or not
In the final three reports it published before its amalgamation last September into the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) demonstrated very clearly that regeneration bodies at every level, including 15 Whitehall departments, are failing to meet their race relations obligations. They also showed very compellingly that people from ethnic minorities are more likely to live in poverty, experience poor health, and encounter the criminal justice system.
Causal factors cited as underlying the CRE’s findings encompass most of what regeneration is supposed to do well. Failures of leadership, impact assessment, legal framework and recruitment are all lamented in the reports.
And we can add, alongside the CRE’s analysis, inequalities arising from gender, belief and other factors such as disability, as well as the wider issue of the invisibility and powerlessness of people of all kinds who are on low incomes – who, as it happens, are the main ‘recipients’ (perhaps we should call them ‘clients’?) of regeneration.
There is a huge disparity here. Look round pretty well any significant regeneration-facing board room or policy think-tank, and it’s apparent that the majority of those wielding influence (on behalf, we should note, of people whose communities are to be ‘regenerated’) are comfortably-off, able bodied, white men.
In this respect, as everyone involved freely admits, the BURA Board fits the mould. Each BURA (elected) Director brings something special to the table; but few of them can offer at first hand a personal perspective divergent from the stereotype. We have therefore decided, unanimously, to address head-on this increasingly serious challenge to our capacity to deliver as leaders in regeneration.
But the BURA Board focus on equality and diversity, whilst driven primarily by the impetus to uphold best practice in regeneration, is not entirely altruistic. This is also good for business.
There is plenty of evidence from well-grounded research that sharing different understandings of any complex situation, right up to and including at Board level, brings benefit all round – including to the bottom line.
Our resolve to implement equality and diversity good practice throughout BURA has required that we look anew at how we function. The BURA Board recognises that we will need to be receptive to new ideas, willing to change things where needs be, and transparent in our own processes and activities.
The BURA programme for action
The BURA action plan, launched in Westminster on 20 February ’08, is therefore to:
· conduct an equality and diversity audit of all aspects (including Board membership) of our organisation’s structure and business, and to publish our outline findings and plan for action on our website;
· monitor and report on our progress towards equality and diversity;
· dedicate a part of the BURA website to offering up-to-date information on equality and diversity matters, in a format freely accessible to everyone;
· develop our (also open) Regeneration Equality and Diversity Network, launched in February this year (2008), to encourage very necessary debate and the exchange of good practice;
· appoint from amongst elected Non-Executive Directors a BURA Equality and Diversity Champion (me), to ensure a continued focus on the issues.
In all these ways – developing inclusive partnerships at every level from local to governmental to international, supporting new initiatives and research of all sorts, keeping the equality and diversity agenda in the spotlight – we hope to move regeneration beyond its current boundaries, towards a place from which we can begin to establish not ‘just’ remediation of poor physical and human environments, but rather true and responsive sustainability.
Regeneration is complex
Regeneration is more than construction, development or even planning; it has to address for instance the alarming recent finding by New Start that sometimes ‘race’ concerns are focused more on fear, than on entitlement or social equity.
Delivery of our ambition to achieve genuine best practice will require the courage to move beyond current and largely unperceived hierarchies of inequality and diversity – not ‘just’ race, but gender / sexuality too; not ‘just’ faith / belief, but also disability – towards a framework which encompasses the challenging complexities of the world as people actually experience it.
No comfort zones
There can be no comfort zones in this enterprise. Acknowledging stark contemporary truths and painful past failures is essential if we are to succeed.
The purpose of regeneration is not to make practitioners feel good, it is ultimately, rather, to do ourselves out of a job; to improve, sustainably, the lives of people who are often neither powerful nor visible in the existing wider scheme of things.
Moving from piecemeal regeneration to sustainable futures makes two demands of us: that we see clearly where we all are now; and that we ascertain properly where the people of all sorts on whose behalf we are delivering regeneration would wish to be.
Multiple aspects of diversity
When we can balance constructively, say, the carbon footprint concerns of a businessman in Cheltenham, and the ambition to influence childcare arrangements of an Asian heritage woman in Bury, we shall be getting somewhere.
Diversity in its many manifestations – age, belief, (dis)ability, gender, race or whatever – is part of the human condition.
Consistent focus on the many factors underpinning that condition would be a powerful impetus towards sustainability. It would also be also a huge professional challenge.
Taking the lead as regenerators
That’s why we as regeneration leaders and practitioners must make equality and diversity a critically central theme, both within our own organisations and in the services which we deliver.
And it’s why we must start to do this right now.
We hope you will want to join us on our journey.
A version of this article was published as Regeneration re-think in Public Service Review: Transport, Local Government and the Regions, issue 12, Spring 2008.
Hilary Burrage is a Director of BURA, the British Urban Regeneration Association.
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Social Inclusion & Diversity
Today (20 February 2008) saw the formal launch of the British Urban Regeneration Association (BURA)’s Equality and Diversity Framework and Network. The event, at the Abbey Community Centre in Westminster, was attended by people from across the regeneration world, and produced much discussion about how BURA and its partners could move forward.
In my role as BURA Champion for Equality and Diversity I was lucky enough to join our President, Sir Jeremy Beecham, and other colleagues, in presenting and discussing initial ideas about this challenging issue.
Your views too are welcome. To begin the debate, this is what I said:
BURA Regeneration Equality and Diversity Framework Launch
Wednesday 20 February 2008, Westminster, London
This event was set up, as Sir Jeremy explained, because of serious concerns which the BURA Board has about inclusivity in regeneration.
The evidence is before our eyes; the top of the profession is overwhelmingly populated by white men.
Regeneration fits the white male stereotype for leadership in Britain only too well; and the stereotype extends even to the BURA Board itself, where Directors are elected from amongst our hundreds of members.
Something has to be done. No-one disputes that, as regeneration practitioners, we must address inclusion; but few of us have articulated how this intention fits in with regeneration. And fewer still I suspect, are sure how to do it.
The BURA Board has therefore decided to invite your help and support as we move forward on this challenging issue.
What is inclusivity and why does it matter?
A look at the work of the Equality and Human Rights Commission gives us a good feel for what an inclusive society might look like.
It would be a society in which people had safe and secure opportunities to enjoy a happy and healthy life.
In this society people of every sort would find themselves in positions of influence and leadership, and able to work towards a situation which in turn releases the potential of others.
This would be a society in which we, as regeneration practitioners, understood the impact of our work on all our fellow citizens, and then applied that knowledge across all our activities.
It would be a society in which, say, Asian women in Bury had as much opportunity to develop their interests and employment potential as white men in Cheltenham. It would be a society in which families in both these communities were equally likely to see their children born healthy and strong, with an equal expectation of a long and happy life.
In a nutshell, it would be a society which is stable and sustainable.
And if regeneration isn’t about achieving socio-economic stability and environmental sustainability, I don’t know what is.
Regeneration is more than the sum of its parts
I believe firmly that the task of today’s regeneration practitioners is to work themselves out of a job. We need to believe at a very deep level that ‘regeneration’ is not the same as ‘construction’, or ‘remediation’, or even as ‘planning’.
Critical though these callings are, real regeneration is much more than that.
After 30 years of regeneration in Britain, we should now be seeking very actively to reinvent ourselves as ‘sustainability practitioners’, as professionals who work to maintain an equitable, healthy and safe environment for everyone.
This reinvention of ourselves would require massive changes in the way we work, in our collaborations across disciplinary boundaries, and in our perceptions of how fellow citizens who are not exactly like ourselves experience their lives.
We can’t do that if we don’t understand how to achieve inclusivity, and why it matters.
But there is a very long way to go.
What is BURA doing about itself?
* Firstly, we have undertaken a thorough audit of our own organisation.
* We have looked at the gender and ethnicity of all members of staff and the Board, going back for three years, and for staff we have correlated this with salary bands. We shall report these findings to the Board when it next meets, and post a summary of this information thereafter on our website.
* We will also decide as a Board, in consultation with, we hope, our new Chief Executive, how much more data it might or might not be appropriate to record about the Board and staff.
* And we shall consult too on whether and, if so, how we need to look at the ‘inclusion’ characteristics of all BURA members.
* We would hope at the same time to start research on these characteristics as they apply to the regeneration sector as a whole, and to see how this compares with the data for the British population overall.
What is BURA doing to support progress in regeneration overall?
* Importantly, we are not seeking to compete with anyone; we are offering a supportive network which encompasses the whole spectrum of interests – inclusive, not competitive, with the sole aim of moving this positive agenda forward.
* Also, we recognise that no-one as yet has all the answers; we are simply trying, with everyone else, to identify both the challenges and the opportunities.
* We are launching today a Regeneration Equality and Diversity Framework, an ‘umbrella’ group welcoming people and organisations from every part of regeneration, ‘professional’ to ‘community’, to address a wide range of issues around equality and diversity.
This group will not seek to undertake work already done by others, but will help to link together the inclusion themes which regeneration good practice must address.
Some examples of what the BURA E&D Framework seeks to achieve
* We will support the exchange of information and views about what are the most immediate challenges for Equality and Diversity in regeneration in the UK.
* We will seek to collaborate with government at local and national level, and with research bodies already examining aspects of Equality and Diversity.
* We will develop the BURA website as a free open-access resource, available to all, hosting weblinks to legal and professional aspects of regeneration practice – including equality and legal audits – and enabling wider discussion between BURA members and partners.
* We will offer practical help and support to people from different communities who wish to become involved in regeneration – perhaps for instance by offering bursaries and work placements – in a collaboration between BURA and our members and corporate partners.
* But most of all, we will seek to work with all of you to make the BURA Regeneration Equality and Diversity Framework not just a talking shop, but a vibrant and positive reality.
In for the duration
* This is however slow-burn. We’re asking the questions but we don’t as yet have many of the answers; everyone here today can help.
* The BURA Board are unanimous that we must work hard to make our Equality and Diversity Framework a reality, not just an ambition.
We very much hope that you will want to be part of this reality.
Contact Hilary at BURA
Next week sees the launch in Westminster, London of the British Urban Regeneration Association (BURA) Regeneration Equality and Diversity Framework.
The BURA Board has unanimously resolved to try honestly to do what regeneration is supposed to do – reduce inequality and discrimination through the creation of environments where people can lead sustainable, happy and fulfilling lives.
From the regeneration perspective, equality and diversity are difficult things to get one’s head around. There are so many variables.
I tend therefore to approach these issues from the ‘other end’, and to ask myself the Big Question: what might a community look like when we’ve finished ‘regenerating’ it?
Put that way, things begin to fall into place.
Two outlooks are possible for a place or community which has received the full attention of the regeneration professionals.
Either it will thrive, moving forward to a happier future, where people feel fulfilled and their needs are met in a much more embedded way than before; or it will in time lose its expensive new patina and sink into a deeper, sadder, less secure state even than before.
These different outcomes depend largely on the extent to which that community has been enabled to achieve sustainability.
Three aspects to sustainability
Sustainability has three major aspectss: physical (‘environmental’), economic and social. None of these can be achieved longer term without the others.
Sustainability is impossible without equality and diversity; so regeneration too is underpinned by them.
A stark truth
The Commission for Racial Equality’s final blast at the regeneration business, when in late 2007 that organisation became a part of the new Equality and Human Rights Commission, was well placed. It demonstrated, starkly, that ‘race’ issues remain desperately under-addressed in regeneration.
And it certainly made the Board of the British Urban Regeneration Association (BURA) sit up. Already painfully aware of a lack of diversity at the top table, now we had undeniable evidence about one critically core aspect of disadvantage.
Many realities, many ways forward
The more we looked at disadvantage – whether resulting from age, religion and belief, disability, gender, race or sexual orientation – the more it seemed to stem from the same issues; issues most often around opportunities and resources which people feel they have been denied.
The multiple realities of ‘ordinary’ people’s lives are what define our communities and how they interface with the wider society. This then, surely, is what regeneration is all about?
Where to begin?
So here is BURA’s starting point.
As leading players in regeneration, BURA’s Board has resolved to try honestly to do what regeneration is supposed to do – which is to reduce inequality and discrimination through the creation of environments where people can lead happy and fulfilling lives.
To do this we will look carefully and immediately at how we can put our own house in order; we will listen to and liaise with as many other interested parties as we can; we will seek out, and where necessary and possible commission, research which informs our ambition; and we will take the message wherever it needs to go.
We introduced the BURA Regeneration Equality and Diversity Framework concept at our 2008 annual conference, in January. We shall launch it formally at our London event on 20 February; and we will monitor our progress thoroughly as we move forward.
We hope you too will want to be part of this journey.
Hilary Burrage is a member of the BURA Board, and BURA Equality and Diversity Champion. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The BURA Equality and Diversity campaign is supported by New Start and Ecotec.
This article is a version of the piece published in New Start, 15 February 2008.
See also: New Start survey reveals doubts over cohesion and New Start Editorial of 13 February 2008.
The British Urban Regeneration Association (BURA) annual conference is in Liverpool this year, on 30th and 31st January 2008. The conference, bringing together some 300 people, will see brisk debates between professionals and community leaders from across the U.K. One important focus may be the search for consensus on what regeneration is ‘about’.
BURA is an organisation moving forward with increasing momentum and confidence in both its own role and the direction and meaning of regeneration in Britain.
What is regeneration?
We, as members of the Board of BURA, are beginning to understand anew, or at least consciously to explore in a new way, what ‘regeneration’ means. The discussion will doubtless continue for a long time yet; but for me some clarity is emerging from many years in the business.
Regeneration is much more than ‘construction’, ‘development’ or even ‘capacity building’.
In the end, regeneration is about adding long-term shared value to all these activities.
Regeneration’s a real win-win; it’s about creating a more equitable, more sustainable life-context for everyone.
The challenge is, how to do it.
The UK is often said to be at the forefront of regeneration. BURA’s annual conference discussions this week should prove interesting.
Regeneration and development are often focused on what’s ‘unique’ and ‘special’ about a location. What does it have which others don’t have? This is a good question, but it needs a context. There are many ways to define ‘special’ – and even more to define ‘unique’. Not all of these special qualities translate well beyond local boundaries. Maybe it’s when locations work with outsiders to find commonalities and difference that they can make this ‘USP’ regenerational focus most effective? But how can this be done? And by whom?
Marketing and renewal have in recent times become closely connected in terms of what happens to areas which require ‘regeneration‘. Along with the basics of reasonable housing and facilities, there is often a clear focus on what sort of ‘unique selling point’ (USP) a location can offer, as plans are made to develop and energise a rather stagnant local economy / community.
As an initial strategy this is sensible. Asking people to reflect on the defining features of their locality is a good way to support emerging ideas about how to improve things. Direct stakeholders’ views are always crucial to the exercise.
It is not always reasonable to expect those who live in a place to be aware of what is unique about their location, and what may not be. How can we be sure?
But encouraging the view that a place is better / more interesting than anywhere else can be a political or cynical ploy, not a genuine attempt to move forward. How much easier to leave people in their comfort zone, than to challenge local assumptions which perhaps make a difficult situation more immediately palatable for those who have to cope with it every day…
One aspect of regeneration in practice is a responsibility by those who take the lead, to ensure that the wider picture is at least available to direct stakeholders. No-one can insist that everyone has a wider view, but it seems reasonable to require at minimum that this is easily available. (Not all regeneration powers-that-be would agree about this requirement, of course; and many of them are not equipped for various reasons to do it.)
Finding common ground
Suggestions that things could be better if we emulated others elsewhere – or indeed the proposal that, instead of insisting we’re unique, we acknowledge commonality with others who also do things well / have a given local attribute – need not be negative.
Offered positively, information about other places and ways of doing things becomes a strength. Why not share a problem or a benefit? Increasingly, disparate geographical areas are coming together in this way. The North of England Mills and Canals conferences have been going for some years; BURA has recently identified both the Seaside and Universities as shared challenges and opportunities for the towns and cities concerned; rural areas have long-time histories of sharing good practice in agricultural produce shows and much else.
Taking it to the people
These good ideas now need to become more visible. For regeneration to be effective ordinary people, the immediate stakeholders in the process – not just the experts – must understand what’s happening and why. And part of that much-needed understanding is sharing commonality (specialness) as well as defining uniqueness.
Is there a role here for new ways to reach regenerating communities on the world-wide web? And, if so, who’s going to make it happen?
The 2006 British Urban Regeneration Conference (BURA) conference ‘Futures’ Debate raised many important issues. Critical to all these, if regeneration is ultimately to be effective, will be increasing focus on (1) the implications of global warming and sustainability, and (2) the challenging task of mutual ‘translation’ between the many stakeholders in any developing programme, to ensure that understandings and ideas are shared and can evolve.
I went to the ‘Futures’ Debate at the British Urban Regeneration Association (BURA) Annual Conference in Milton Keynes, on October 11th. The debate was a vigorous affair, chaired and led by BURA Director Jackie Sadek, a woman who knows how to keep the exchange of ideas flowing.
The format comprised an introductory address by Government Minister Richard Caborn, two minute slots each for six leading regeneration practitioners, and responses from a ‘jury’ of expert witnesses. Then the discussion was opened to the floor – more than a hundred practitioners and attendant media representatives from around the country and beyond.
The central issue under debate was how we all perceived the future agenda of regeneration in the U.K.
The event was, as Jackie Sadek herself said, a ‘rollercoaster’ of deeply informed give-and-take, covering matters from the micro and to the massively macro. No single brief report could do it justice, but I will try here to give a feel for the ideas which in retrospect caught my attention, at least.
Keeping the Government’s attention
Leadership and ‘guidance’ from on high were felt by several speakers to be missing from the regeneration agenda. There’s plenty of regulation – to judge from comments, some of it outdated – but too little real enablement. Some said that governmental attention spans are too short; regeneration is a long-term proposition. Others criticised the ‘constant’ changes which they saw in regulation and funding, and wished for more attention to large-scale infrastructure.
No-one, however, suggested that the government is not committed to regeneration as a seriously long-term venture; and most speakers thought it can be demonstrated by ‘real’ examples that regeneration does work. There’s scope here for dialogue at the highest levels, if common positions between protagonist practitioners can be elucidated.
Silos and scale
Regeneration still is not joined up, if we are to believe the comments of many speakers. We continue to operate in silos (including fiscally; no
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.