Business in the Community (BITC) is the UK’s largest and longest established business-led membership organisation dedicated to responsible business.
Its Place Taskforce has recently launched an enquiry into how to get the best from business in place-based regeneration.
As Chair of the Place Taskforce, I am keen to get the views and voice of UK local government heard by the business community in this work. We are delighted that LGA board members Cllr Abi Brown and Cllr Simon Henig have agreed to join the group, and that the LGA will be submitting evidence.
The taskforce has a high-powered membership, which includes leading figures from the world of business, academia, the public sector and civil society, and has appointed Ian Taylor, from Oxford University’s Blavatnik School of Government, to lead on researching and writing the report.
Over the next few months, the taskforce will take evidence from businesses, councils, government, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), charities, not-for-profit organisations, universities, regional devolved levels of government, and those organisations with an interest in the levelling up agenda.
The aim of the taskforce is to provide a blueprint and route map for businesses wanting to engage in place-based regeneration, which will be published in a report in 2022. With the communities that were ‘left behind’ before the pandemic set to be hardest hit by COVID-19 pressures, it is a timely moment to build on the momentum of the community self-organisation and cross-sector collaboration that we saw during the pandemic, to capture learnings, accelerate the pace of change, and positively impact communities across the UK.
“It is a timely moment to build on cross-sector collaboration”
Business in the Community is a firm believer in the role that businesses can play, particularly when working collaboratively with civic institutions.
Business, when it works best, can be a convener, provide leadership and independence, cut through complex problems to drive action, and advocate for a place. The Government’s Town Deals programme, with its focus on business leadership, has demonstrated what can be done.
The taskforce will look at best practice examples and case studies as part of developing a better understanding of the impact business can have. Other themes to be explored include the value of devolution, the impact that better regulation plays, and the role of community champions.
It will also look at the impact of COVID-19, the role of different businesses dependent on their size and sector, the areas where business can have the greatest impact, and principles of cross-sector collaboration.
The call for evidence will be backed up with several evidence sessions, visits to places where business and civic interventions have worked well, and to communities where challenges remain.
A number of institutions have offered to host roundtable events where discussions can take place about what does and doesn’t work, so we can learn together.
A few years ago, the UK’s universities took a long hard look at their role as civic institutions and the contribution they could make in ‘places’.
The Civic University Commission and its report has led to a much-improved understanding of where these powerful learning and research bodies sit, and what they can contribute to national wellbeing and social progress.
Now, universities see their civic role much more clearly. Their work during COVID-19 has been a great exemplar of this – and something from which the Place Taskforce can take much inspiration and heart.