A note from Marty Reid: Sharing the vision for a fairer city

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I’m sure I’ll be echoing the feelings of many when I say that it feels like our team have been through the wringer over the past few weeks. It has been a tough time for everyone, full of uncertainty and worry. However, I’d like to share some experience on why I ended last week starting to feel cautiously optimistic again.

This change in outlook is not because of the UK Government’s tentative steps towards alleviating the lockdown. As an organisation with a physical hub at the heart of our business, we know only too well the immediate challenges on continuing to keep people safe, and the long road ahead in rebuilding.

Rather, my positivity stems from the way in which our own city and regional communities are starting to come together to plan for what ‘recovery’ should look like.

It may be jarring for some to be talking about recovery when so many of our community are still struggling to keep their organisations afloat day by day. There are definitely painful times ahead, but there is also a growing realisation that we have a unique opportunity to rebuild the economy into something better than what came before.

Last week I joined a workshop by the Bristol One City Economy Board, alongside representatives from regional businesses, social enterprises, arts venues and academic institutions. The discussion centred around developing a shared vision for a fairer, sustainable economy including:

  • Strengthening the place of the UN Sustainable Development Goals at the heart of economic planning.
  • Recognition that the growth in local supply chains (critical in any effort to reduce carbon emissions) aren’t just necessary, but actually practical or desirable in many areas.
  • Focusing joint public and private investment in activities or ventures that support inclusion or equitable access to business and learning opportunities.

To illustrate the diversity of engagement, I found myself in a breakout group with representatives of Bristol Zoo and Colston Hall discussing the shared challenges around the future of venue spaces and new ways of engaging with our communities.

The Visions for a Fairer City webinar has since taken this conversation to a broader audience, and, as I write this, I’ve been watching new ideas bouncing around social channels. Engine Shed will be playing our part in this process by organising a series of collaborative online events in the near future to help facilitate activity to making this vision of a better economy a reality.

Amsterdam has received international coverage for publicly embracing the ’doughnut’ model – a transformative approach to city region planning which looks to place social and ecological values alongside economic growth. Perhaps we don’t shout about it enough, but we are seeing a level of engagement, collaboration and vision emerging around Bristol and the West that has the potential to go much further.

Everyone should have the opportunity to be part of this conversation and indeed play a part in shaping a new sustainable and fair regional economy. Keep your eyes open for a series of sector/subject specific virtual workshops coming soon at Engine Shed, but if you have great ideas you’d like to share in the meantime, please get in touch.

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