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40 years of the IED: Tony Jackson


In the latest of a series of articles featuring influential IED people and projects from our proud history dating back to 1983, we hear from Tony Jackson, Chair of the IED between 2003-06. 

It was the Ministry of Overseas Development which gave me my first job post-university, sending me as an economic development officer to Malawi to work in the Office of the President and Cabinet supervising the various agricultural development projects being undertaken there with the help of funding from donors.

My time spent there was most enjoyable, working with friendly Malawians in a beautiful country, alongside development officers from across the world, and three years later I was teaching students and researching at the University of St Andrews, Scotland. A decade on I was elected to my local authority, which allowed me to combine my academic work with practical development tasks. The time I spent as an elected member of a local authority provided excellent experience, liaising with highly competent council officials and co-operating with my fellow councillors, often across party lines.

When I decided to stand down from involvement with my local authority, I still wanted to apply my academic skills to practical matters, so working with a couple of academic colleagues I set up a spin-off university consultancy to undertake economic development work. It was at this stage that I became involved with what was then called the Institution of Economic Development. A few years later, IED secretary Colin Lomax persuaded me to join the Institution’s National Council, which met every four months in London, using a room in one of the professional engineering bodies in Westminster Square, overlooking the Houses of Parliament. Several years later I became the Chair of the IED’s National Council. 

The best way I can describe what we did at that time is to go through an edition of our quarterly journal, using Issue 81 for the winter of 2003-04 as an example. The journal was professionally produced for our members, with the one illustrated being edited by Daniel Mouawad who subsequently became Chair of the National Council (and is currently the CEO of a London local authority). It was aimed primarily at practising local development officers, with short reports on current issues rather than long articles, and expertly put together by Andreas Goldner, our Production Editor, together with Anna Chiampesan, our Art Editor.

The copy illustrated ran to 20 pages, and my Chair’s Column demonstrates that our concerns then remain as relevant today. As the column explains, the issue had several reports on what we would today call ‘levelling up’, arguing that greater efforts should be made to promote greater growth in under-performing local authorities. On page 9, I gave a report entitled ‘Correct at Last! – The Real UK Regional Disparities since 1995’, which used the Office for National Statistics’ recently published data to show the disparities in Gross Value Added (GVA) between different parts of the UK. On the next page I gave a report on the strategic development partnerships being created in New Zealand, drawing on the short research sabbatical I had enjoyed at the University of Auckland.

Altogether, this issue contained 12 reports by different contributors along with a dozen more short items, including on the back page a notice of intent to promote IED Fellowships, and a promotion of the IED’s Postgraduate Certificate, Diploma and MSc in Local and Regional Economic Development, which was validated by three UK universities (including my own) together with the IED. This offered a qualification ‘relevant to practitioners of all ages and backgrounds involved in all aspects of economic development and urban/rural regeneration’. 

The same issue listed the members of the National Council at the time: myself as Chair with Geoff Herbert as Vice-Chair, and nine directors: Neville Braybrook, Daniel Mouawad, John Firn, Mike Jessop, Robert Jolley, Colin Lomax, Isobel Rawlinson, Neil Robertson and Richard Williams. These were all practitioners of local economic development, most of whom worked for a local authority, along with one who ran his own firm, another who worked for a regional development agency, and one who worked for a local enterprise company. Colin was an excellent Honorary Secretary of the National Council and the recently deceased Stephanie Wakefield was our efficient Director of Administration.

As well as book reviews, the quarterly journal contained Branch news and information on branch meetings and conferences, to complement the annual national IED AGM and Conference. The photograph illustrated here shows a meeting of members of the National Council, with many familiar faces who provided the lifeblood of the IED, but I cannot recall whether this was a formal meeting or a reunion.  

In any event, the above structure and the resulting quarterly journal offered helpful support for the IED membership, which was reinforced by an annual two-day conference held across different UK venues each year. In this way, we were able to keep in touch with our membership and offer them what we hoped was a valued and congenial professional organisation tailored to their needs. I should add with considerable regret that the excellent hard copy journal was eventually forced to close because of economic pressures, but that was well after I had retired from an active involvement with the National Council.  

Following my retirement from university work, I still retain an involvement in local economic development, serving as one of the editors for the Journal of Local Economy.

Tony Jackson is an Honorary Research Fellow, Town and Regional Planning, in the University of Dundee’s School of Environment.