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Where We Live Now

Where We Live Now

The British Academy has published a set of reports on place-based policymaking - aligning the design and resourcing of policy at the most appropriate scale of place, in order to develop meaningful solutions, which improve people's lives.

What is place-based policy? Watch the video:

Where We Live Now is a series of activities centred on the theme of place and place-based policymaking conducted by the British Academy.

It incorporated analysis, events, a microsite, policy workshops, and case studies. This project was led by Dame Fiona Reynolds Hon FBA (Master, Emmanuel College, Cambridge) and Deborah Lamb (Deputy Chief Executive, Historic England), and was overseen by an expert working group and the Academy’s Public Policy Committee. 

Over the course of the last 18 months, we have worked with a variety of organisations and individuals to discuss place – what does it mean to people, at what scale do people relate to place, and is there a way we can use this understanding to improve the design and delivery of policy?

We have discussed a number of aspects of, and barriers to, place-based productivity strategies in England and Wales: place quality, health, housing, employment, skills, infrastructure, planning, post-industrial decline, culture and the environment. As a result we have produced 4 key briefing papers, a collection of perspectives including 8 essays, 4 case studies and a variety of poetry and imagery, and two policy papers.

We found a great willingness from policy-makers within central and local government, service delivery professionals, the private sector, and voluntary sector organisations to listen to the needs of people within their places, but often very little idea about the best way to put this into practice. The work we have done has demonstrated that, particularly in a devolving world, place can offer a useful lens to reconsider how best to deliver critical services including those focused on community support, health and wellbeing, social and benefit supports, education, skills and lifelong learning in a more integrated and effective way.

 Productivity and workshop briefing papers:

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.”

We asked people who work in different aspects of place-making to highlight ideas, challenges and good examples:

Where We Live Now: Policy - PDF DownloadDownload a flyer about the project.