What if Leeds carried on as it is..?

Leeds Architecture

This is an interesting question asked on the What If Leeds.…website (registration required before you can contribute)

The underlying sense is that perhaps Leeds is fine.  We can just keep on keeping on.  Now I am sure that the sustainability crew would have a thing or two to say about that.  Interestingly they haven’t, yet.  As might those who don’t get to share in the benefits of living in the city, the poor and marginalised.

But, change is inevitable, progress is not.  Leeds’ own Max McKeown taught me that.  The art of strategy is about increasing the chances of progress being achieved, because change takes care of itself….
The real problem here is in the methodology that we use to try to think about change and ensure that it is progressive.
The current vision and plan methodology is, how can I put this, a little clunky.  A touch slow.  Impractical.
However if we write it off and do nothing then the usual suspects will maintain power so that they and their friends can order the city as they would like – some would say as  a big investment opportunity to suck disposable income from a city region while providing the promise of good work and jobs for all.
We need a process for influencing strategy in the city that is a)continuous and b) gives everyone a voice and power in the process.
We need a market place of visions where we can choose to work towards as many or as few as each of us personally prefer.  We need to use visions to enable self-organisation, conversation and action.  Not to produce statutory documents.  We need personal visions of what progress means – not just a ‘city’ vision.
We should be thinking about how we continually facilitate a process of ‘emergent change’ rather than a vision session every 5 years followed by decades of bureaucratic management in its pursuit.  No-one does strategy like this anymore, do they?
But what is this process really about?
  • Are we giving a steer to the city fathers so that they can benevolently chart our progress to a better place?
  • Or are the city fathers really trying to engage us in creating our own future?
  • Or is this just a necessary/statutory piece of ‘consultation’?
Time will tell.
But Leeds has to change.  The only questions are how, and who will benefit?
I think it is time for Leeds to have a complete rethink about how it organises itself to be a truly innovative city.  And innovation (the prodigal child of strategy) is not an elite sport.
It is very much for all of us.

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