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Does your organisation have an economic strategy which seeks to address inclusive growth?


Inclusive growth, by the OECD’s definition, is “economic growth that is distributed fairly across society and creates opportunities for all”.

In our latest member survey, which ran in April and May, 58% of respondents said their organisation has an economic strategy which seeks to address inclusive growth. The main objectives set out in their strategy are business productivity and tackling inequalities (both 70%), climate emergency/net zero and raising skills levels (both 60%) and sector development goals (50%). Health and wellbeing (20%), community wellbeing and fair employment (both 30%), received the lowest responses in terms of targets.

Success is primarily being measured through GVA (75%), followed by employment data and social value (both 50%) and wealth gap (25%). However, agreeing measureable outcomes was highlighted by around one in three respondents as an issue, together with a number of other obstacles which are hampering inclusive growth.

The main challenge reported by economic development professionals is addressing the multiple aspects of deprivation (47%). Other significant barriers are empowering communities and overcoming engagement challenges (both 41%).

It is clear that whilst for many economic strategies to support inclusive growth are not yet in place, or are in development, inconsistencies in approach (and metrics) do exist and there is an opportunity for greater direction from central government.

So, we went on to ask members: what is your single biggest ask of the incoming government to support inclusive growth going forward?

Here are eight suggestions from our survey:

  1. Set out a national agenda for inclusive growth with relevant policies aligned to that.
  2. Don’t be driven by tokenism – find evidenced solutions to the problems, rather than just those that make the biggest noise.
  3. Focus on creating wealth-building opportunities at a community level, not through national data.
  4. Guarantee long-term allocated funding (not competition) and provide proper leadership on climate and sustainability to prevent piecemeal adoption of green skills and retrofitting.
  5. Introduce qualitative targets over a longer term rather than simple quantitative targets to achieve with a larger funding pot.
  6. Develop a strategic template, underpinned by legislation, to ensure greater consistency of delivery.
  7. Bring clarity over which metrics to use and improved publication of these metrics to allow for clearer comparisons.
  8. Deploy resources and make it easy to access the funds, including via financial support to local authorities so they can support their local economies, and funding support at the base of the system (outreach, community work etc).

A further consideration is whether economic growth more widely should be a goal in light of net zero targets and whether it can be achieved in an ageing society. Once again, we canvassed members for their views in our survey. 

The general but not overwhelming view was ‘yes’, though this would likely need to be more focused on inclusive growth, smart growth and fixing the productivity problem; transforming existing industry with appropriate approaches to mitigate issues if the impact of growth on the environment is not improved. It was also suggested that the question should be more around ‘how can we enable net zero through economic development?’ Examples were given as to where growth could be pursued in areas where there is positive impact on the climate, including low carbon technologies, recycling and organic farming. “It has to be a goal, but tempered by what is feasible”, added one respondent. 

We make some recommendations on net zero in our Grow Local, Grow National manifesto, which includes transition funding to enable viability gaps on local net zero schemes to be better overcome.

In my final article on our member survey, to be published next week, I will provide an overview of the key issues and themes which came out of other questions we asked around funding and finance.

Nigel Wilcock is Executive Director of the IED.