The Birmingham Partnership Creating a new narrative for Birmingham 1 Introduction This purpose of this paper is to summarise the case for an over-‐arching partnership for Birmingham that supports the development of a broadly based leadership model, enables better creative connections between the numerous existing partnerships and supports the development of a positive narrative for Birmingham. It has been produced to inform the thinking of an informal working group, chaired by the Director of Public Health and drawn from the Chamber of Commerce, Birmingham Education Partnership, Birmingham Children’s Hospital, Aston University, Birmingham City University and the University of Birmingham, Birmingham Council for Voluntary Service and Birmingham City Council.
2.1 Local The Kerslake report recommended the development of a new approach to city-‐wide leadership. Following publication of the report, a number of public debates were held, organised by NewsinBrum and facilitated and hosted by Birmingham City University and the University of Birmingham. The high level of engagement with these debates, both through the events and social media, demonstrated enthusiasm and commitment from a wide range of stakeholders in the city, to work together for the good of the city. Responses and perspectives were diverse and varied but number of clear key themes emerged; • The need for more collective leadership across the public, private and community sectors, underpinned by mutual trust. • Acknowledgement that Birmingham has a great deal to be proud of as well as significant challenges. • The wish to focus on the positives rather than to be constantly re-‐iterating the challenges. • The importance of ensuring that any new leadership approach is diverse and inclusive and informed by continuing dialogue. 1
2.2 National England has one of the most centralised forms of government in the world. In recent years a number of new approaches to devolving power and resources have been introduced, focusing on cities, for example City Deals, although they have been top down, piecemeal, competitive and conditional. The current policy focus on Combined Authorities, formal alliances between councils to work together and pool resources, provides opportunities for local areas to gain collective control of resources devolved by central government to meet major challenges, including skills, transport and health. Although still essentially top down and conditional, Combined Authorities do provide some new opportunities to improve the lives of the people of Birmingham and the wider West Midlands. However the Birmingham Partnership develops, it will need to be outward focused and support wider collaboration across the region.
Aims of The Birmingham Partnership
The Birmingham Partnership will have as its primary objective the development of a positive shared vision for Birmingham and an understanding of how individual stakeholders can contribute to its achievement. The group will provide an informal forum to bring a wide range of stakeholders together. It will support innovation by increasing understanding of the current and potential contributions of those stakeholders. The group will support the development of a new Birmingham story by inviting the involvement in its work of key influencers such as business leaders, and MP’s and others that have regular and important opportunities to raise awareness of Birmingham externally. Key objectives: • Developing a shared vision for what Birmingham could and should be • Prioritising actions necessary to deliver this vision • Identifying how sectors and organisations themselves can contribute directly to the delivery of the vision, and to complement the activities of the City Council • Building self-‐belief and confidence in our ability to deliver this vision • Improving the external reputation of the civic and wider leadership
4 Creating a new narrative
Much of the discourse about places and their people is expressed in terms of narratives. Narratives help us to make sense of complex scenarios without losing sight of the intrinsic complexity which arises from the way in which narratives are developed and layered over time. 2
Many of the current narratives about Birmingham have their roots in the past, for example, that Birmingham’s schools are failing, when they are not or that the city is riven with racial tension, which it is not. Narratives accrete over long periods of time but it is possible to replace negative narratives with positive ones. Narratives also underpin many of the relationships between public services in Birmingham and its residents. Reshaping these relationships is key to developing more relevant and positive narratives about the city. Paternalism, where local government and other agencies stand over the people, was the dominant narrative in public services for many centuries. Consumerism, which became prevalent from the 1980’s onwards, underpinned the provision of services for a passive population. In recent years the combination of a number of major social changes, including austerity and the growth of social media, has led to the development of a new citizenship narrative, where public services work with people to co-‐ produce better outcomes. The citizenship narrative and the active involvement of local people is a vital part of the creation of an over-‐arching positive narrative for Birmingham.
Stakeholder mapping and analysis
Birmingham’s size and the diversity of those who live and work in the city is a great strength. However, there are challenges when seeking to strengthen pan-‐City leadership. The sheer variety and number of sectors and interest groups means that engagement will need to be well planned and as inclusive as possible. Key stakeholders include: • Business leaders in; Cultural/Creative Advanced engineering Business and Professional Services Logistics Automotive Aerospace Digital Faith groups Voluntary sector organisations Social Enterprise Housing Schools, Colleges and Universities Organisations involved in sport o o o o o o o
• • • • • • •
Statutory services o Health – GPs, CCGs, community services, hospitals o Police 3
o Fire and Rescue
Birmingham City Council members and officers Close neighbours -‐ key colleagues from Black Country, Solihull and Coventry (to build on the Combined Authority thinking and to demonstrate Birmingham’s enthusiasm for a shared leadership model for the West Midlands) MP’s and MEP’s Central Government departments e.g. DfE, DWP, BIS, DCLG
It is important to remember all stakeholders will have different degrees of power and interest in relation to particular topics or issues. Not all stakeholders wish to be involved or to contribute in the same way. A stakeholder analysis will be undertaken to identify who has the highest levels of interest, for example, because of the impact of an issue on their lives and who has the power to make things happen. Power may lie in control of resources, influence over those who do have the resources or in the ability to mobilise other assets and community capacity.
Planning effective engagement and communication
In order to engage the widest-‐possible number of stakeholders and secure their contribution and commitment to being part of The Birmingham Partnership, we will undertake some careful preparatory work, including; o Refining the questions and themes for Birmingham o The widest possible range of stakeholders is identified o That initial discussions are held with key stakeholder organisations to inform them of the purpose of The Birmingham Partnership and encourage them to become involved in an initial summit during the summer
Engagement is the life-‐blood of accountability and is essential to the creation of a positive narrative and a more inclusive leadership model for Birmingham. Effective engagement is underpinned by five critical success factors: Commitment to engaging widely and to listening to a wide range of views, including those which challenge entrenched power relationships and fixed perceptions about the challenges and opportunities for Birmingham. Communities of individuals and groups identify themselves in different ways from the ways in which service providers view them. For example, people who are often only discussed in terms of their needs will also have significant assets and capacities. They also have very diverse needs and interests so a ‘one size fits all’ top down, broadcast message is unlikely to connect well. The stakeholder mapping and analysis stages of the project plan (see below) will enable the working group to have a good understanding of existing networks. Connections are made when messages resonate with people and they respond. Connections range from the giving of information, for example, about a public engagement event, to the devolution of power and resources to individuals and groups. It is important to be clear about the purpose of engagement and to match the method used (the channel) to the purpose.
The Channels used to connect and engage with people should be chosen because of their appropriateness to the needs of the people to be communicated with, rather than for the convenience of those wishing to engage. Effective engagement happens when a wide range of channels are used. These may include meetings; surveys; websites; social media especially Twitter; local radio; local newspapers and face-‐to-‐face. It is important to match the choice of connections and channels to the needs of communities to ensure effective
engagement with the right people, in the right way, about the right things and at the right time – for them.
Public services have often been criticised for failing to engage with disadvantaged groups. This has caused high levels of anxiety without providing any clarity about which groups are ‘hard to hear’. It is the combination of social marginalisation, powerlessness and lack of understanding of the language and the official and unofficial ‘rules’ of public life which combine to create significant barriers to engagement.
All engagement activity is based on the premise that individuals, partner organisations and communities can and will engage in a dialogue. However, the capacity which different groups have to engage will vary enormously. It is helpful to work with the local voluntary and community sector to build the capacity of citizens to become more involved. Voluntary organisations can act as advocates for individuals and groups of customers or citizens. However, it is important to avoid falling into the ‘usual suspects’ trap by over-‐using the same small, self-‐selected group of people as if their views are a proxy for those of a large, diverse group of citizens or a whole community.
Community development can help to increase confidence, raise awareness and make local connections – all of which provides a good foundation for community engagement. Individual citizens may require advocates to help them express their views. The key requirement of advocates is that they articulate the needs and wishes of the people they speak for and not their own. It is clear from the public response to the events organised by NewsinBrum that it can be very effective for a community group to act as ‘animateur’ of engagement activity. Not only do they have access to extensive networks of people who both know and care about the issues, their involvement demonstrates that citizens have both power and influence.
Change is the key test of whether engagement is effective. Unless people feel listened to they will soon disengage, which is costly in terms of both wasted resources and damaged trust, reputations and relationships. Successful engagement gives access to the untapped capacity of people to be more creative, do more for themselves and each other. This doesn’t mean that people can expect every decision to be made in line with their wishes but it does mean they’ll know they have been heard and their contributions are truly invaluable to the creation of a positive narrative for Birmingham.
7 Using an ‘Appreciative Enquiry’ approach Appreciative Enquiry is a model for analysis, decision making and the creation of strategic change. It is based on the idea that asking questions about ‘what works’ and envisioning a positive future creates positive reIationships. It is underpinned by five principles; • The Constructionalist principle – which proposes that what we believe to be true determines how we see the world. • The principle of Simultaineity proposes that real change starts to happen when we talk and think about the things we’d like to change. • The Poetic principle refers to the way in which people engaged in a shared endeavour co-‐create a shared narrative • The Anticipatory principle proposes that our current behaviour is influenced by our expectations about the future • The Positive principle proposes that momentum and positive change are driven by positive sentiments such as hope, inspiration and camaraderie. The model uses a four stage model to build and then implement and collective visions for a better shared future.
• What works well?
• How can things work beber?
• Implement change
• Plan and prioriase change
The working group has agreed to use an Appreciative Enquiry approach to underpin the design of the ‘Start up’ event, future events and engagement via social media. 7
8 Outline Action Plan Actions Form The Birmingham Partnership working group First working group meeting Stakeholder mapping and analysis Outline engagement plan ‘Start up’ event Second working group meeting Full engagement plan and work programme for 2015/16
Outcomes Build collective leadership
Lead Chamber of Commerce and BCU
Deadline Early May
Shared sense of purpose Understanding of diverse needs of stakeholders Clarify engagement priorities and set out methodologies to be used Begin engagement for real Review progress
Director of Public Health Universities
UoB and BCU
Hosted by Aston ?
Director of Public Health UoB and BCU
Set out agreed work plan for next six months
A draft proposal for Birmingham Partners.