Across the Inclusive Growth Network (IGN), good work has been a key priority over the last couple of years. There isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ approach to good work and places are exploring a range of approaches and local mechanisms to improve employment standards: flexible work, living wage, community wealth building approaches and good employment charters, to name a few.
‘Good work’ means different things in different places, and approaches need to be tailored to the distinctive characteristics of a local economy, its sector mix, business base and labour market. One of our members seeking support from the IGN to understand what this means for their economy is the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority (SYMCA). Described as Britain’s low pay capital, the Combined Authority is seeking to tackle high levels of in-work poverty and job insecurity, and increase opportunities for progression into higher paid roles.
The Combined Authority worked with Metro Dynamics to define the challenges and opportunities, and articulate what good employment means for South Yorkshire, drawing on best practice from elsewhere and extensive engagement with partners across the city region, including local authorities, public sector organisations, businesses and the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sector.
What became clear through this work is the broader role that businesses and organisations play in developing a more inclusive economy. Taking an innovative approach that goes beyond ‘good work’, the Combined Authority and Metro Dynamics defined ten ways that businesses and organisations can drive inclusive growth – from employment practices through to the buying of goods and services, work with communities, and environmental policies. These actions build on best practice and evidence of what works, and were co-developed in an iterative and collaborative way with a range of partners across South Yorkshire.
Businesses and organisations can drive more inclusive local economies by:
This work has acted as a springboard to explore and progress other initiatives and programmes, including:
- Better Business Challenge – the Combined Authority has been exploring the Mayoral manifesto commitment to encourage businesses in the region to invest in their communities. There is much to learn from both recent evaluation research on existing ‘employment charters’ and practice, as showcased through the IGN itself. Using these insights, the team has begun a process of co-developing the ‘Better Business Challenge’ with a cross section of organisations in the region.
- Work and Health – SYMCA recognise the importance of good work in enabling good health and that poor health or disability can be a significant barrier to employment and economic inclusion. SYMCA are working closely with local NHS Integrated Care Board colleagues to look at their shared challenges of economic inactivity, poor health, recruitment and retention to identify innovative ways of supporting more people into public sector jobs and how to take a more flexible approach to employment retention for those who develop health conditions.
- Economic and Social Inclusion – SYMCA is working on translating the inclusion evidence base developed by the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research, Sheffield Hallam University, a piece of work commissioned by SYMCA, into a framework to guide action to increase social and economic inclusion. The Mayor has established a Health Equity Advisory Panel who are developing an action plan to improve health outcomes in South Yorkshire and reduce health inequalities, with a focus on the social determinants of health.
- Further exploration of the good work agenda – the MCA has supported the universities (Sheffield Hallam and University of Sheffield) to secure funding via Research England as part of Yorkshire Universities. This is now being deployed to support this priority. The MCA is also working closely with Heritage Lottery funded consortium led by the New Economics Foundation, Centre for Thriving Places, CLES, and Coops UK on a five year Regional Action Plan project.
- Bring businesses and organisations on a journey – defining good business practices needs to be done with businesses and organisations, not to them. This means carrying out meaningful engagement and co-development with a broad range of organisations from across the public, private and VCSE sectors.
- Use simple and clear language to make the case – words can have different meanings depending on the sector and organisation. It is important to speak to businesses and organisations in their language, avoiding policy jargon and overly technical language, and clearly demonstrating the benefits of good business practices.
- Build self-reinforcing coalitions – utilise the networks in your place to create a ‘snow balling’ effect that drives momentum. Use your engagement process to establish a committed group of businesses and organisations who become advocates and champions.
- Recognise the resource requirements – dedicated capacity is needed to drive the delivery of these initiatives, working with officers across the Combined Authority to embed new processes and proactively engaging with businesses and organisations. A business planning process is currently underway to allocate resource to agreed priorities. This will ensure adequate resources are available to take this further.
This work has been delivered through fully funded IGN implementation advice – bespoke support, tailored to member needs, which helps to unlock projects that deliver inclusive growth.