The newly formed Building Inclusive Growth (BIG) network met for the first time last week. As is appropriate for a new network we raised a number of questions – why inclusive growth, why Scotland and why now?
In policy circles around the world, from the USA to Brussels, from the OECD to the IMF, inclusive growth is increasingly part of the conversation. The prospect of a lengthy period of low growth, coupled with high levels of income inequality and increasing levels of wealth inequality has brought this issue to the front of the line. However, there is considerable disagreement over what is meant by the term itself, the concept of ‘inclusivity’ being highly fragmented, diverse and subject to wide interpretation. At the first meeting someone quoted Neil McInroy, Chief Exec of the Centre for Local Economies, in saying that “inclusive growth” has a tendency to focus on growth at the expense of inclusivity and prefers the term inclusive economies. A top priority of this network at the early stages is agreeing precisely what we mean by inclusive growth and how this relates to the Scottish economy.
This brings us neatly to why now is such a crucial time. The RSA Inclusive Growth Commission is starting to gear up and there is a genuine opportunity for a Scottish network of Fellows to have a real influence on its deliberations. Given the political, institutional and policy differences extant in Scotland, it is vital that we have a say, to ensure the Inclusive Growth Commission is truly UK-wide.
Scotland is in a particularly interesting place with regards inclusive growth. The enhanced powers of devolution and the prospect of further reform of local government mean that we have most of the policy tools at our disposal to deliver a more inclusive economy. Further, the current Scottish Government has already placed inclusive growth front and centre in their economic development policy and strategy.
The nascent network has already excited interest among potential collaborators and partners, both within Scotland, such as the Scotwest Credit Union, and across the UK, such as the All Party Parliamentary Group on Inclusive Growth at Westminster. There is no equivalent group at Holyrood but maybe that could be something the BIG network could investigate?
Public policy, and place especially, dominated our discussion at the launch event but we must not lose sight of the role that business must play in this. In short, unless and until the private see inclusive growth as ‘business as usual’ we will never be able to deliver true inclusivity. This requires a culture shift to enable businesses to see the benefits of a more inclusive approach. Increasing evidence, from the Fair Work Convention in Scotland to the B Corp movement in the USA, is demonstrating that inclusive business practices can lead to a win-win-win, for businesses, for their employees, and for society as large.
It is not acceptable that this network be merely a talking shop, where we sit around and congratulate each other on our clever ideas, for it is nothing if we do not seek to bring about genuine change – improved public policy, a more inclusive business culture, and, most importantly, the raising of the aspirations and attainment of those most disadvantaged in our society, particular among the young. We are neither discussing nor considering inclusive growth, we are Building Inclusive Growth.
Find out more about the RSA Inclusive Growth Commission