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Q&A: Arup Excellence in Economic Development award


Arup’s economic development team was awarded the IED's Excellence in Economic Development standard at the Institute’s 2018 annual conference. Here we catch up with Associate Director Lynne Miles to find out more.

Why did Arup go for the Excellence in Economic Development standard?

“Arup is a large, global firm working across a series of disciplines, perhaps most commonly known for its expertise in the built environment: architecture, infrastructure, transport planning, urban design and landscape – all disciplines that are rooted firmly in ‘place’. Our economic development offering is a complement to that. We provide services in strategy, business planning, feasibility, evaluation and appraisal which help cities to define what they want, deliver it, and ultimately demonstrate impact. We have economists across the firm, but our core local economic development sits within the Integrated City Planning team, and particularly in the City Economics team in London. Many of our other disciplines – engineers, architects, town planners – have their own rigorous quality assurance and chartering systems. Our quest to accredit and improve ourselves professionally has always been somewhat less structured. We were therefore delighted when we became aware of the IED’s Excellence in Economic Development Self-Assessment Toolkit which has allowed us to assess and be accredited for our work in economic development.”

What was the process you had to go through, and how was the overall experience?

“After reaching out to the IED regarding our interest in the Excellence in Economic Development standard we received the comprehensive toolkit that allowed us to self-assess our economic development expertise. The toolkit covers the following six modules: Research and Analysis; Strategic Planning and Programme Design; Appraisals and Evaluations; People and Partnership Skills; Operations Planning, Implementation and Project Management; and Understanding and Supporting Business. Each module further describes core areas, professional competencies and the knowledge and understanding that is required to obtain expertise in the module. With an impressive level of detail, it required us to provide evidence that these core competencies existed in the company through both skills of employees and project experience. Our approach to this was to create a skills matrix of the staff directly involved in local economic development on a daily basis and gather information about 70 of our own directly related projects. The self-assessment toolkit also provided us with flexibility as an organisation and IED member. We could have chosen to self-assess and use the IED toolkit to help our improvement within the company, but it also allowed us to take it one step further (for a fee) – to external accreditation.”

What will the Excellence Economic Development standard give Arup, and what impact do you think it might have on the organisation?

“Quality assurances are important for Arup’s credibility, providing our clients and staff with evidence of our expertise, and to hold ourselves to the highest standards in our work. To receive the Excellence in Economic Development accreditation was therefore an important part of business development for Arup. The process of assessment was also useful beyond accreditation. Through the assessment tool we were able to better identify knowledge gaps and areas of improvement for our team, and better assert our specific economic development experience and expertise. The assessment has also fed into the process of establishing our own local economic development skills network. What we learnt will influence our areas of research, recruitment and future bid decisions.”

Would you recommend the Excellence in Economic Development process to others and do you have any ‘top tips’ for others?

“We warmly recommend the process of self-assessment and further external assessment from the IED. First and foremost, it is a flexible process for members that gives a framework of understanding the field. You can choose to focus on the areas that are of most relevance to your business, or you could assess yourself across the whole field of competencies to identify gaps and areas of particular expertise. We would recommend talking thoroughly to some of the IED staff to ensure mutual understanding of the scoring system, and also to gain good advice throughout the process. The IED is such an important voice in professionalising the local economic development sector and the more we collectively invest in and engage with it, the stronger and better respected our sector will be.”

For more information on the IED’s Excellence in Economic Development standard, please click here.