Story telling might lead to economic revolution

It is extraordinary how compartmentalised everything is – especially when we are campaigning in local elections.

We, few of us, who know a little about the way public responsibilities are demarcated between different layers of government, have a kind of sense of corrosive superiority as we expect campaigners to demand the right reform from the right level.

But partly this is just a function of sclerotic centralisation. The Treasury has a crushing monopoly on economic policy because, well – it always has.

Partly because of that, and because there is almost no local economic data collected about where money flows (the exception is bank lending to postal district level, forced on the banks by Lib Dem peers in 2012) – Whitehall doesn’t see the economic innovations at local level.

And in particular, they don’t see the emergence of a new generation of local entrepreneurs who are no longer prepared to wait patiently for the Chinese to invest or the government to give them a grant – and are trying to transform their local economies a bite at a time.

One reason policy-makers don’t see this emerging local revolution – in local banking, local energy, local enterprise, local food – is that they collect no data. Another reason is that there are so few stories doing the rounds.

Stories are the stock-in-trade among national politicians. Without them, they don’t see things. So my colleagues and I went to meet the new entrepreneurs to tell their stories – of big ideas and hurdles and re-thought plans and frustration and success and the difference it can make.

Not as dry thinktank case studies, but to tell their stories in depth. The result is a book of eight stories, Prosperity Parade, funded by the Barrow Cadbury Trust, and a showcase to what is really going on at the front line of economic innovation.

I hope that politicians, local and national, will not just read them – that they’ll go on to tell them too.

* David Boyle is policy director of the Radix thinktank, the author of Back to the Land (and other titles) and publisher at the Real Press. https://www.therealpress.co.uk/product/special-offer-back-to-the-land/

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