Unlocking the Talent

Just re-read the Unlocking the Talent paper from HMG March 2008.

Here are some of the bits that have stuck with me.

This is a government committed to unlocking the talents, not of some of the people, but of all of the people. We want to see every region, city, town and neighbourhood do well, not just the few. Our national prosperity and competitiveness depend on our ability to tap into the creativity, energy, ingenuity and skills of the British people.

Well yes – but we have got more prosperous over the last 30 years but much less happy.  The drivers for this are not purely economic…

We need to unlock the talents of the British people, so that each of us may rise to our full potential, for the benefit of all of us.

But this is about more than individual fulfilment and success – it is about our place in the new world developing around us. Britain can no longer be a country held back by disadvantage and unfairness, but instead be a nation firing on all cylinders, and ready to embrace the future. With the rise of the economies of China and India, we need to unlock British talent so we can be competitive in this rapidly changing global economy.

Ditto comments above – this is not all about global competitiveness and ‘laggards’ holding us back.  The rationale for fulfilling potential is not about prosperity – it is about humanity, becoming, identity etc.

Government at all levels must be focused, imaginative and courageous to create opportunities for people to flourish. A key element of this is to forge more influence, control and ownership by local people of local services such as employment, health, education and transport.

To tap into the talents of all of the people, not merely the few, we need to involve people actively in:

  • improving deprived areas through regeneration and promoting work and enterprise
  • encouraging active citizenship, and reviving civic society and local democracy
  • improving local public services by involving local users and consumers; and
  • strengthening local accountability.

Community empowerment is the process of enabling people to shape and choose the services they use on a personal basis, so that they can influence the way those services are delivered. It is often used in the same context as community engagement, which refers to the practical techniques of involving local people in local decisions and especially reaching out to those who feel distanced from public decisions.

Interesting that this empowerment stuff is only targeted at ‘deprived areas’.  Strikes me that doing this in some of the more affluent communities could produce remarkable results too.  This is about fulfilling human potential – everywhere.

Promoting work and enterprise and strengthening the economic base of an area – and so connecting the supply and demand sides for labour – will be central to reversing decline.

Yawn…..This is not about providing employment fodder…..

Effective regeneration:

  • relies absolutely on the active participation and engagement of local people and communities, and not on just the articulate and organised, but on the broad majority of residents and groups traditionally excluded from consultation exercises
  • creates lasting solutions by giving local people the power to control their destinies, create enterprises, channel investment and income, and to involve local people in social enterprises, mutuals, and co-operative ventures
  • tackles the underlying causes, rather than the symptoms of decline. Regeneration strategies will need to tackle market failures that act as barriers to economic growth and employment as a means to reversing decline. Evidence shows that those in employment are happier, healthier, and less likely to be involved in crime; conversely poor health can prevent people getting into work
  • targets investment at the appropriate spatial level, with effective co-ordination between neighbourhood, local, sub-regional and regional levels, as well as between national agencies
  • takes account of the fact that successful regeneration will require private sector investment, for example in delivering new homes and in creating jobs.


  1. Governments, and civil servants, seem to believe that if they say the right words, or the right-sounding words, then the right consequences will inevitably follow.

    The trouble with the Westminster bubble is not so much that its occupants don’t mean well, but that they overestimate the effects of meaning well. It’s all very well to talk about unlocking people’s potential but there needs to be a recognition that for a lot of people life is hard, and it’s about to get harder.

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