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British Academy launches Where We Live Now

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The British Academy has today launched Where We Live Now, a series of activities centred on the theme of place and place-based policy-making. It will incorporate events, academic analysis, policy forums and public engagement and more. 

Where We Live Now is being led by Dame Fiona Reynolds Hon FBA (University of Cambridge) and Deborah Lamb (Historic England) and is being overseen by a project working group and the Academy’s Public Policy Committee.

Where We Live Now will be divided into two parts:

Part One: What do places mean to people?

The British Academy will use the expertise of its fellowship to ask what we can learn from research in the humanities and social sciences about understanding what place means to people. What are the factors which generate a sense of belonging, and how do we begin to understand the different scales of place which people relate to for different purposes? 

Part Two: What does place-based policy look like?

The second stage of the project will use the gathered evidence to assess whether policy-making could better take into account how people feel about where they live. What does place-based policy-making look like, how is it being developed and implemented? We will test whether developing an understanding of the way people relate to places would help in designing more successful policies, and what the barriers to greater place-based policy-making might be.

Dame Fiona Reynolds, Honorary Fellow of the British Academy, Master of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and co-chair of the British Academy’s Where We Live Now project said:

“Place matters to us all, yet too often our policies are place-blind. This British Academy exercise helps us see how we can do better for people if we take their concerns about place seriously. The findings of our report demonstrate the enormous value of humanities and social sciences research. Drawing on the intellectual resources of the British Academy, this work puts a spotlight on the disciplines – geography, history, anthropology, literature and the arts, politics and psychology to name but a few - which can help us to make better policy decisions.” 

Deborah Lamb, Deputy Chief Executive, Historic England, and co-chair of the British Academy’s Where We Live Now project said:

“Improving wellbeing and placemaking go hand-in-hand. In order to boost local growth, we must put the needs of local people front and centre of policy making decisions; this will improve productivity and the connection of people to the places where they live. Place making is key to the government’s industrial strategy. As we seek to grow the economy across the regions, we must ensure the views of people and designing services specific to certain places is embedded in our policy making process.” 

Nancy Hey, Director of the What Works Centre for Wellbeing, member of the Where We Live Now working group said:

"We are seeing significant societal and political changes. The changing world of work, those left behind by globalisation, aging populations, climate change and technology are shifting the balance of politics as usual. There is not a contradiction between nationalism and globalisation. We all need a home and a national identity and we need to integrate a national and global identity.We need to understand what it means to be human and what matters to us most. We can focus our collective efforts on creating the conditions to support these.This means  

  • Policy that values what matters to people including dignity, control, trust and place
  • A focus on societal advancement with human beings at the centre and the purpose of the wellbeing of future generations.  

These problems can’t be solved by government, business, philanthropy or academy alone. New types of collaboration are needed including projects like this one."

Professor Tim O'Riordan FBA, member of the Where We Live Now working group said:

“A sense of place is part of the human condition. What makes this wonderful British Academy project so special is that it connects the regional to the cultural, and to the devolving political. This is the pathway of the next decade and Where We Live Now has proven this to be the case.”