Having been Director of IPPR North for eight and a half years, it is time to move on.
I’m very proud of what we have achieved at IPPR North over these years. When we published Northern Prosperity is National Prosperity in 2012 – our 200-page strategy for the Northern economy – few could have imagined that such an engaging policy debate would follow in the name of the ‘Northern Powerhouse’. Devolution was in the doldrums, RDAs were being scrapped and IPPR North was dependent upon public funding. Through our contributions to the debate on schools and skills, our blueprint for Transport for the North which is now unfolding before us, our recent Northern Energy Strategy, our annual State of the North reports, and in so many other ways, we have consistently set the Northern Powerhouse agenda and brought meaning to it.
I’m also proud of our work on devolution and civil society. For me, our Decentralisation Decade and Rebooting Devo reports still represent the most coherent routemap for further English devolution and it is very gratifying to see metro mayors – something IPPR has campaigned on for over 2 decades - having an increasingly important role both locally and on the national stage.
There is a saying though that for a man with a hammer, every problem looks like a nail - and I have reached that point. My obsession with a democratic and federal solution to England’s profound regional disparities cloud almost any policy discussion. It seems there is still a long way to go until many of the key players in the Northern Powerhouse debate reach this conclusion themselves and neither of the mainstream Westminster parties have properly grasped the critical importance of devolution in unlocking the nation’s potential and their own attempts to govern. Real change is going to require new means.
On a personal level, I am looking for new challenges, new collaborations, new ways of looking at the world and I’m delighted to be taking up the post of Director of Public Services and Communities within the Action Research Centre of the RSA. The RSA, with its mantra think like a system, act like an entrepreneur, is the perfect environment for me to explore new approaches to social and economic change, locally, regionally, nationally and on the global stage. I have long admired the breadth and depth of thought and action at such an historic institution and I look forward to joining Matthew Taylor, Anthony Painter and other innovative thinkers as we take forward the work of the Inclusive Growth Commission and reinvent relationships between people, place and power.
From IPPR North’s perspective, my departure will allow for some fresh leadership and new thinking. I am leaving IPPR North in a very healthy situation with funding secured almost until the end of 2018 giving a new Director a little time to find her or his feet. Much more importantly though, I am leaving a brilliant team of colleagues and friends for whom I have enormous respect and gratitude and in whom I have every confidence that the agenda and principles we have developed together they will carry forward into the new era that will now come. IPPR North is very much ‘open for business’.
Finally, I’d like to reassure the many people who have shown IPPR North generally – and me personally – so much commitment and support in the years gone by that my passion for a more autonomous North – leading not pleading - is undiminished. In my final weeks at IPPR North I intend to write a new essay spelling out a case for a reinvigorated political identity in the North. In my new role at the RSA, I am intent on exploring and understanding new forms of political action and social change that can support the conventional processes of policy influence that we have championed at IPPR. And in my spare time I want to support those pan-Northern social movements that are bubbling under the surface and waiting for their moment.
I am incredibly grateful for the privilege of working with so many wonderful people – inside and outside of IPPR - over the past eight and a half years and I sincerely hope that in the coming weeks before I finally take up my new post on the 14th May there are ways in which I can show that appreciation. I also hope that in many cases we will be able to work together again in the future.
An advert for the new Director post can be found here.
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