Inclusive Growth: What it means, why it matters, and how to deliver it in practice

March 6, 2019   By Dr Jennifer Anderson, Director of Economics and Social Value, Jacobs

Jacobs was delighted to partner with NLGN on its Inclusive Growth Innovation Exchange. Participants from local authorities across the county came together to discuss what inclusive growth means, why it matters, and also to share experiences on how to deliver this agenda in practice.

Opening discussion centred on what inclusive growth means. It is s clear that there is some confusion as to what exactly inclusive growth is, and what an inclusive growth strategy looks like. This is understandable as the term is being interpreted and used in many different ways. We need to guard against this, and there is a key role for the NLGN in contributing to the development of a common language that aids clarity and understanding on this agenda. This is imperative if we are to have any chance of delivering inclusive growth, and deliver it we must if we are going to reverse the decades of inequality that have blighted our economies and societies for so long.

Inclusive growth, at least as a concept, is relatively simple. It requires us to place an equal focus on both increasing growth and tackling inequality; to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to participate in growth and benefit from it. Historically, his represents a radical shift in economic and political thinking. For decades, economic growth alone has been considered the ultimate means of achieving prosperity for all. The focus for economic policy at both national and local government has been on getting market-led growth right, with Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and employment being the key measures of success. We neglected to look at how the benefits of growth were shared because the assumption was that growth would automatically “trickle down” and benefit everyone. Inclusive growth lays the foundations for a new type of growth – inclusive, sustainable and incorporating equity from the start.

There are fundamental challenges to delivering inclusive growth, including the need to broaden the scope of our measurement systems to look beyond average measures of GDP and employment and include measures of inequality, wellbeing and quality of life. There are two key issues here for local authorities: first, the need to deploy appropriate metrics and collect the data required to track progress in delivering inclusive growth outcomes; and second, the need for assessments of the impacts of alternative interventions to inform the real-life decisions that are made in councils every day to improve the lives of those in their local community.

There have been significant advances in the methods and data to measure economic and social progress over the last few years, driven by the Inclusive Growth Initiative and UK Social Value Act (2012). Jacobs, in partnership with Simetrica (renowned leaders in social value impact and wellbeing measurement), have developed the Social Value Bank®, the largest and most robust measurement tool available for measuring the total impact and value created by programmes, policies and projects. This is a simple, user-friendly software tool that can be used by local authorities themselves to quantify and monetise the relative contribution of different interventions to inclusive growth outcomes.

There is no single best model for inclusive growth. The route to inclusive growth will differ depending on the specific challenges and opportunities in specific areas. Local government leaders, therefore, need to be clear sighted about: the key factors that are constraining inclusive growth opportunities in their locality; the priorities for inclusive growth in their locality; and, the interventions that will enable local people and places to fulfil their potential.

Inclusive Growth has been described as “the challenge of our times”. At Jacobs, we believe it is also the opportunity of our times to deliver a new type of growth, one that is economically and morally sustainable with equity factored in from the start and built from the bottom up. We look forward to working with NLGN and its members to identify the initiatives, actions and practice that can unlock untapped potential in this area going forward.

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