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What is place-based policy-making?

The policy process is predominantly a sectoral one – policies for education, health, welfare, are largely designed on a national scale to affect change across all regions. Money and resources for policy implementation also flow from Whitehall according to this structure.

However, policy decisions have differential affects on different regions, places and communities. People continue to maintain powerful and meaningful associations to those places, at varying degrees of locality – their county, their town, village, or even their street. Is it possible for our political and policy processes to better take this into account?

Through Where We Live Now, the British Academy questions whether aligning the design and resourcing of policy-making to the scales at which individuals connect to places, irrespective of standard departmental or sectoral divisions, would produce more effective policies and improve people’s lives.

Read the reports and 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.”