Leeds Inclusive Growth Delivery Partnership, January 2022

The Inclusive Growth Delivery Partnership was set up as an inclusive forum to encourage people and organisations across Leeds to work together to support the delivery of the Leeds City Council’s inclusive growth strategy (leedsgrowthstrategy.co.uk).

An initial event was hosted in the summer of 2021, and then on January 27th 2022, a follow on Inclusive Growth Delivery Partnership event was hosted online, with around 100 people in attendance. I attended on behalf of Leeds Living, learning about the plans for development of Leeds and the challenges and opportunities that we are facing.

Nigel Foster, Lead Leeds Inclusive Growth Ambassador, welcomed attendees and introduced the event, providing an overview of what was to come.

Tom Riordan, Chief Executive at LCC, and Eve Roodhouse, Chief Officer of Culture and Economy at LCC, followed on from Nigel. Tom and Eve provided an update of inclusive growth progress in Leeds. They discussed how COVID-19 had impacted progress. They highlighted the effect of the pandemic on employment in and around the City and considered how the cost of living had been altered, and how much of an impact that the COVID lockdowns had had on the City, for example resulting in a dramatic reduction in footfall within the City Centre. Tom and Eve didn’t leave us with only the negatives. They discussed how the City has responded to the challenges. They mentioned how destination marketing had been used to encourage people back to the City centre, and highlighted the support that had been made available to people and organisations, explaining how important such support has been in helping Leeds through the pandemic and developing resilience for future shocks.

After the welcome and update, a panel discussion and Q and A session on the ‘great job agenda’ took place. Eve Roodhouse moderated the discussion, helping to ensure that the conversation flowed and that questions were posed and answered concisely. Speakers in the panel included Cllr Jonathan Pryor, who is the Deputy Leader of LCC and Executive Member for Economy, Culture and Education; Frances Jones from the Centre for Local Economic Strategies; Sarah Swales from Leeds Beckett University and Jermaine Benjamin from the recruitment agency Transition Partners. Audience members were able to ask questions, and I enjoyed hearing the range of different perceptions and thoughts.

The keynote presentation for the event followed on from the panel discussion. It was delivered by Kate Raworth and Leonora Grcheva from the Doughnut Economics Action Lab. The keynote was titled ‘Doughnut Economics for a thriving Leeds’. This started with an overview of how the 21st century began. The pair produced a great slide which summarised this: ‘financial meltdown, climate breakdown, protest crackdown and COVID-19 lockdowns’. I found it scary to think of how much we have been through as a global population over the last 20 years, and how much more we are likely to have to contend with over the next 20.

Kate and Leonora went on to discuss a model compass for human prosperity, which can be used to explore how we are faring as a global population. They highlighted how humanity, on the whole, is living out of balance, with almost every nation living outside of the centre of the compass. During the presentation, Kate and Leonora discussed how we can move nations to live in balance. They explained that a move towards regenerative economics is needed to change the future. Such a move would ensure that economic processes work with and within the cycles of the living world, rather than running down the earth’s life-supporting systems. I found this concept interesting and considered how such an approach to working would also be relevant to many other fields of work and life.

To paint a picture of how such a move is possible, Kate and Leonora provided examples from across the world of where steps are being made towards regenerative economies. They mentioned circular construction in Amsterdam, and a car-free city centre in Oslo. However, they went on to say that a move towards regenerative economies is not enough, and that economies also need to be distributive, whereby opportunities and value are shared with all those who co-create it, rather than just giving it to a few. Again, they provided examples of where steps are being made. For instance, highlighting public transport in Amsterdam, solar cooperatives in Edinburgh, and low-carbon social housing in Milan. To conclude the keynote, Kate and Leonora considered whether Leeds could feasibly live within the doughnut by shifting how the economy works. To do this, they ‘unrolled’ the doughnut and explored possible futures. They looked at the ecological ceiling for Leeds, considering how Leeds could be a good place for wildlife, and the social foundation, considering how Leeds could help people to thrive. They also looked at global factors relevant to Leeds and what changes would be needed to ensure that Leeds can thrive without harming other countries or populations. Kate and Leonora again provided some examples of cities, such as Nanaimo in Canada, where doughnut plans have been developed to explore how cities can be realigned, looking at alternative scenarios and outcomes. Some cities, such as Birmingham, UK, have co-designed such plans with members of the public and this is something that could be considered in Leeds.

Following on from the keynote, Professor Paul Chatterton discussed activity on doughnut economics and Leeds. Paul gave the Leeds spin on Doughnut Economics and also introduced the Leeds Doughnut, which is set to be launched on 28th April 2022. He discussed how Leeds can be a thriving city whilst respecting people and the planet at the same time, building on the ideas that were mentioned by Kate and Leonora. Paul provided an overview of work done so far in Leeds, focussing on Climate Action Leeds and the associated community hubs. He explained that over the next 5 years we are going to see big changes being made, so that by 2030, Leeds will hopefully enjoy a zero-carbon, nature friendly and socially just future.

The Leeds Doughnut plan is in development, and Paul gave us a snapshot. He discussed to what extent Leeds people are thriving, and whether the City nurtures local ecosystems. He also considered to what extent Leeds respects planetary boundaries and people worldwide. Paul was clear that although the Leeds doughnut is still under construction, there are many doughnut-friendly activities taking place in Leeds already. He was positive about where Leeds is, and explained that as a city we are not too far outside of the doughnut. However, Paul was realistic, and made a call to all changemakers, including all of those people attending the online event, asking them to build collaborations, and explore what can be done together to overcome challenges that exist in terms of getting to where we want Leeds to be by 2030.

Towards the end of the talk, Paul facilitated 15 minute breakout discussions. During the breakouts, attendees were encouraged to look at one element of the doughnut. Discussions were summarised when attendees came back to the main event. In conclusion, Paul encouraged all attendees to register for the April event during which the Leeds Doughnut will be unveiled. He also mentioned that there is a position available as part of the doughnut team and gave an overview of plans for the year.

The closing remarks for the event were provided by Nigel Foster.

I learned not only about doughnut economics, but I also heard about what is being done to move Leeds towards a more regenerative, distributive and overall more sustainable economy. I’m looking forward to seeing the doughnut launched in April and am eager to get involved where I can, with supporting Leeds to become the city that LCC envisions it to be within the next 10 years.

Photograph by The Collective.

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