So much for innovation in enterprise policy.
The best we seem to be able to do at the moment is rehash 1980s style enterprise zones to distort the market in favour of some places over others through a combination of tax breaks and more relaxed approaches to planning. An enterprise zone becomes little more than a place where we encourage entrepreneurs to put their businesses because of a few breaks that the state can afford offer. They are often little more than a business park with flexible planning requirements. It looks like there will be 20 of them, funded to the tune of £1.25m each per year. And at that level of funding any tax breaks are likely to be tiny.
But what would a real ‘enterprise zone’ look like? Not some policy makers confection but a community that really knows how to support enterprise? A community that does not try to pick winners in the pursuit of GDP but really supports individuals and groups in pursuit of whatever matters most to them?
Well, the first pre-requisite for such an enterprise zone would be that a high percentage of the population really were clear on what mattered most to them. They would be aware of the current situation (politically, environmentally, financially culturally and socially) what they love about it, what they hate, and what they want to change as a result. They would be helped and challenged to clarify their self interest.
They would have some kind of idea of what progress looks like to them. They would have some idea about the direction in which progress lies. They would be encouraged to reflect on the nature of ‘better’ to produce a creative tension between how things are and how they might be. This creative tension would drive enterprise.
And they would have some kind of game plan about how they were going to make progress. They would accept that the responsibility for progress is theirs. They would know how to deal with both set backs and success and have what psychologists call a high internal locus of control. In short they would believe that they can influence their future. That it is not essentially down to fate, luck or others.
They would be living and working in a community that recognised enterprising people (NB these may or may not be looking to start a business. Enterprise in human endeavour comes in many more forms than just entrepreneurship) and individuals and groups in that community would know how to help. In short a real enterprise zone would be packed full of people who know how to help and are themselves ‘help able’. In such an enterprise zones we would indeed ‘all be Jim’.
People would feel a sense of belonging because they were part of community that wanted them to succeed and likewise provided opportunities to help others succeed as well. Success would not be down to fiscal policy but to social policy. We would succeed in our enterprise because of the people in our community not because of planning or taxation perks.
In short an enterprise zone would be little more than a competent community. And this has more to do with regeneration ‘between the ears’ than with planning regimes, taxation policy or property development.