Recognising the Real Problem?

Regeneration aims to bring opportunity to areas that are in decline, and to empower people to take advantage of those opportunities. The decline of an area is often caused in the first instance by structural economic change and a reduction in employment. Parts of the UK have experienced substantial deindustrialisation and loss of jobs since the 1970s, particularly during deep recessions in the early 1980s and early 1990s. In some areas there has been a rapid turnaround in employment; in others a cycle of decline has been set off.

Unlocking the Talent of Communities – DCLG 2008

This is a fairly standard analysis of the reasons for decline.

When industries pulled out things went wrong.

I believe things went wrong when the big employers moved in.

Policy and practice focused on providing a largely compliant workforce that was fit for purpose.  Employer engagement ruled.  All parties were more or less happy with the deal.  At the time, and for many years after, it (arguably) worked reasonably well.

A bureaucratic mindset prevailed – characterised by patriarchal contracts between workers and employers which rewarded compliance.  Industrialists and managers came up with the plans.  Unions negotiated for pay and conditions and the majority just had to pick sides and choose leaders – on whom they felt they could depend.

A deep mindset of dependence set in. Dependence on employers, dependence on unions.  DEPENDENCE.  Generations learned how to successfully play the dependence game.  Many still play it.

Entrepreneurial qualities were lost.  Autonomy was devalued.

The genesis of the problem was not when the industries left, it was when they arrived.

For nearly 30 years now I think policy has largely neglected this deep change of identity, personality and self image that swept through many of these communities.

If we are serious about unlocking talent, then as well as providing skills training, CV clinics, classes in self employment, business planning and entrepreneurship we have also to tackle these issues of identity, personality and self image.  And this is best done through conversation – not classes.

Challenging, caring, compassionate but powerful conversations.  Conversations that accept, catalyse and confront.  Conversations that are characterised by high trust and strong relationships.  Conversations that are genuinely focused on helping to unlock potential and to enable potential to develop.  Conversations that start from where people are at – and follow them where they need to go.  Not the usual conversations that steer people towards opportunities predefined by the planners.

Instead we breeze into these communities and ask naive questions;

  • Have you got a great business idea?
  • Ever thought of starting a social enterprise?

Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals

Rule 2: Never go outside the experience of your people. The result is confusion, fear, and retreat.

Rule 3: Whenever possible, go outside the experience of an opponent. Here you want to cause confusion, fear, and retreat.

Speak Your Mind



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