Our Vision for Leeds is an internationally competitive European city at the heart of a prosperous region where everyone can enjoy a high quality of life.
Leeds Initiative Vision for Leeds – 2004 2020
That must seem like a pretty distant vision for many Leeds residents. For the tens of thousands that are living on incapacity benefits. For those who have no job. For those who work in the third sector and are more interested in social justice than international competitiveness. For parents who are struggling to raise and educate their children. For pensioners. For migrants and refugees.
But the problem is not with the vision per se. The problem lies with the resources available to help a very wide range of people and communities to connect with it. To understand why it is relevant to them and how it can help them to make progress on their agenda. How it can help them find a sense of belonging in a Leeds community that is striving to make ‘progress’.
For a vision to be effective a wide range of stakeholders have to be able to connect with it and make sense of it in their own context, and then to use it to leverage action – to make things happen. Otherwise it is just words. I suspect it is no accident that this ‘Vision for Leeds’ appeals so directly to the white collar community, to the developers and the investors. To those that have power shall be given more.
Visions can help to pull us towards a more attractive future, but only if they are relevant to us and are dripping with possibilities for action.
In the world of organisational and business development the ‘Vision backlash’ has started. Instead of dreaming of distant possibilities those leading the backlash ask:
- ‘What is it that we are on the verge of becoming?’,
- ‘How, at this time, is it possible that we could change?’
This ’emergence’ based on a process of ‘presencing’ (understanding the ‘here and now’ and then acting to tip the balance in favour of progress) honours the past as much as the future. It ensures that the future is rooted in the strengths and cultures of the past. It encourages placemaking based on history as much as on the future. And this matters because it is the history that has shaped us all. Our cultures, our psyches our potentials and our preferences. Development that honours who we are, what we have become and what we believe it is possible for us to be.
Perhaps we should compliment the Vision with a real understanding of what we have the potential to become – not by 2020 – but right now.