Inclusive growth – a fairy tale or the beginning of systemic transformation? - RSA

Inclusive growth – a fairy tale or the beginning of systemic transformation?

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  • Picture of Indy Johar
    Architect, Co-founder of 00, and member of the RSA Inclusive Growth Commission
  • Devolution
  • Public services

Inclusive growth feels like an easy set of words; a comforting blanket in an age of anxiety, almost a childhood fairy tale told to calm nightmares. But manifesting inclusive growth requires the systematic transformation of an increasingly power law economy - in which the few take all. It means attacking the 20th century Holy Grail illusion of meritocracy, which has consumed our rational mind to pamper our ego and ignore our invisible privileges. It’s the hidden fact under the black swan hero’s tale.

Systemic transformation requires us to unlock a new model of growth and democratic wealth & value creation, in times where austerity no longer merely applies to public services but equally to the palliative state of our current model of growth we see almost all around the world. This change also requires us to democratise the creation of growth, and thereby its benefits, and not merely through redistribution (although this will no doubt make a large contribution in kickstarting the process).

The Inclusive Growth Commission, of which I have been a part, has sought to challenge the doctrine of trickledown economics. But we also have to challenge the doctrine of trickledown innovation, recognising instead the necessity to drive innovation in the everyday and everywhere; it cannot be the reserve and the deserve of the start-up few, but an invitation for all to transform and drive progress in every aspect of society.

The transformation required is a full stack transformation, inclusive growth needs to both address the geographic spread of growth and the demographic spread of growth.

In terms of the geographic distribution of growth, devolution, and perhaps more importantly the local empowerment of economic leadership is critical, but it also requires us to -

  1. Build equitable connectivity infrastructure – both physical and digital – in which London has had a significant advantage & leadership;
  2. Build institutional infrastructure – particularly the innovation and invention capacity of city regions. This could include, for example, a federated Nesta network across the city regions, along with their own Catapult Centres, research councils and regional banking infrastructure;
  3. Increase investment in democratic culture and arts. Turning back from the high culture narrative we have slowly adopted over the last 7 years to empower creatively and expression of all. This is fundamental to growing the deep cultural permissiveness, agency and democratisation of creatively - essential for the democratisation of innovation.   
  4. Enhance the economic development capacity of city regionsThis means more than start-up funds, co-working spaces and building business development/marketing capacity. It includes building capacity to invest strategically in building radically new institutional infrastructure, regulatory technologies and leadership of local economic growth - to genuinely support the creation of innovative lead & contextual markets.
  5. Use Public investment and the procurement capacity of city regions to intentionally and permissively drive the democratization of innovation and act as a local innovation multiplier. This may need the legislative support of a Local Value Act to accompany the social value act.
  6. Creating networks of city-regions, within the UK and globallyBrexit will give us the capacity to radically re-imagine the nature of global flow management, and this could include: city region visas, corporate/intuitional visa exemptions, parametric trade agreements which would enable us to manage global flows to accommodate the material divergences which exist within the nation state as opposed to just between them. 

In terms of addressing the demographic spread of inclusive growth – we need to look far more fundamentally into our means for driving innovation. How do we democratise the capacity to innovate? This means addressing the following:

  1. The nature of our currents models of business management across large sections of our economy is focused on control, compliance, role adherence as opposed to democratising invention, improvement and innovation. Fundamentally rebooting our conceptions, practices of management across large scathed of our economy is central to unlocking our productivity and engagement puzzle. 
  2. Reimagining our Further Education colleges not as sub universities but as specialists in Vocational Education and Tacit Learning - focused on being lifelong institutions for continuous up skilling for all sectors of the "tacit knowledge" economy - from data science to 3D manufacturing.
  3. Refocusing our 5-18 year old educational infrastructure from skills to the development of capabilities - the capability to learn and unlearn, be discursive, be resilient, lead, to adopt perspectives & logics, to be multi-lingual (by which I mean maths, arts, English, Chinese, physics, chemistry). Fundamentally we need to see our 5-18 year old Educational infrastructure as creating the foundational capacity for all citizens to continuously learn and unlearn - as opposed to hoping we can decipher, predict and teach a skill or vocation which prepare people for the rest of their lives .  
  4. Researching and experimenting with the role of radical policy interventions such as Universal Basic Income and a local value act (enabling Public Bodies to procure on the basis of a strength of local innovation multiplier) to start to unpick the multi-generational effects of inequality along creating the foundational capacity for democratising innovation.
  5. Finally, there is no doubt we need drive transparency of pay rewards in organisations to "incentivise" an inclusive wage economy. For example imagine an national obligation for all UK institutions to visually benchmark all employment related payments relative to the rest of the organisation (including suppliers and investors.) 

The above list is by no means exhaustive, but what's becomes very clear is that this future will demand & drive a massive transformation of city regions. Inclusive Growth Commission has been a brilliant platform for discussing these and many other ideas and the need and means to create the new institutional required stack to support the fundamental democratisation of our economy.

The Inclusive Growth Commission is an essential first step in building the case for a generational transformation. The Commission’s Final Report, in many ways seeks to frame a policy keystone, whilst recognising this scale of change required will never be achieved as a ‘one step wonder’ and will inevitably take time and collective effort of many.

This is a beginning for making an economy focused on unlocking the brilliance of all - I for one would like to thank the RSA to taking this important foundational step. 

Indy Johar FRSA is a member of the RSA Inclusive Growth Commission and Co-founder of 00 and Dark Matter Laboratories.

Find out more about the RSA Inclusive Growth Commission

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  • Indy, Perhaps a good start would be democratising the Inclusive Growth Commission? As one participating in a practical way, I find myself repeatedly confronted with academic arguments which take the position that nobody did.thought this.  Black Swans wouldn't be Black Swans if there was such a thing as inclusive dialogue. When Pope Francis said we need a conversation that includes everyone, but failed to explain how. My late colleague told an international conference - "We all get to invent whatever new economics system that comes next, because we must." We don't do we?

  • Outstanding roadmap Indy. For such a short piece it was very comprehensive. Your take on altering FE colleges to focus on life-long learning is enlightening. I find it surprising so few academics stress this considering the number one skill we must all possess is the ability to adapt to the ever-changing environment around us. In addition, buried towards the end is one of my favorites - focusing on the the "local multiplier." Most often naive government officials focus on macro economic number such as the GDP of a locale rather than burrow down into the components and leverage effect of that number. Again very insightful. Thank you.

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