Building Sustainable, Inclusive and Smart Economies: The ReSSI project

Economic development remains perhaps the most important topic in public policy discussions. There is constant debate about how to quantitatively grow the economy, as well as about the qualitative aspects of that growth. Increasingly, there is an express desire to build economies which deliver both growth and better outcomes for all.

One particular example is the Europe 2020 desire to achieve smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. This implies developing economies which are, in turn, based on knowledge and innovation; promote resource efficiency, becoming greener and more competitive; and foster high-employment, thus delivering social and territorial cohesion. A tall order, made more difficult by the fact that the European project offers only a menu of end-points, but fails to indicate pathways get there. To make matters even more complex, whatever changes are required must be implemented in the shifting social, political and economic landscape of the post-2008 economic crisis.

A changing world

Over the last decades it has become apparent that economic development is best delivered by coalitions of actors and institutions, rather than left to specific ‘growth engines’ (such as the services industry, exporters, or the State alone). Growth – of whatever type – requires that people of all walks of life come together to imagine the economy they desire. This puts a special focus on the communication and knowledge flows amongst public bodies, private businesses, third sector organisations and the public. It is in the intersection of those flows that sustainable, inclusive and smart economies can be built.

In addition, a paradoxical aspect has been noted: in the globalised world, the geographical scale at which economic growth is better promoted is the region. However, regions remain the most contested scale of governance, caught between the legislative power of central government and the implementation imperatives of municipal power. All of this makes the construction of sustainable, inclusive and smart economies a difficult proposition. The Regional Strategies for Sustainable and Inclusive Territorial Development (ReSSI) project aims to help address these difficulties.

An extensive research project

ReSSI consists of an extensive collaboration between territorial stakeholders (regional and local) and universities originating in four European countries:

  • UK: Coventry City Council and Coventry University – Centre for Business in Society;
  • Denmark: Region of Southern Denmark and University of Copenhagen – Department of Geosciences and Natural Resources Management;
  • Italy: Municipality of Turin and Politecnico di Torino – Interuniversity Department of Regional and Urban Studies and Planning;
  • Portugal: Municipality of Oeiras and University of Lisbon – Institute for Geography and Planning.

Each of the four territorial stakeholders has defined a set of knowledge needs, which the research partners will address in the course of ReSSI. Territorial stakeholders and the respective research partners will work in close partnership to make sure that the lessons and conclusions of the project are implemented, thus assuring impact in the long run.

The project is financed by ESPON EGTC, as part of their ‘targeted analyses’. The research team is coordinated by CBiS, and co-led by Dr Carlos Ferreira and Prof Stewart MacNeill. Mr Kevin Broughton and Prof Nigel Berkeley are also part of this research team.

The Coventry case: electric and autonomous transportation

At the time of writing, the research team has submitted a first (inception) report to the funders, and agreed on the specific of the cases in each of the territories. In the case of Coventry, the case study will address the Future Transportation Strategy, currently being devised and implemented by Coventry City Council. This strategy involved collaborations with regional actors such as the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership and the newly-formed West Midlands Combined Authority, as well as businesses, non-governmental organisations and citizen groups. In particular, the research will analyse projects to launch a fleet of electric taxis; to conduct autonomous vehicles trials; and the respective infrastructure developments required. All these projects contain aspects of sustainable, inclusive and smart economic development for the region.

The ReSSI project began in November 2016, and has a set duration of one year.

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Project: Ethical Jewellery

Throughout 2014 and 2015 I had the pleasure of being part of a team working on a project about ethics in the jewellery industry. At the time we produced a report of findings; the first part of the report deals with the pressures on the industry, the second reflects on findings about consumers. You can see the report below:

I also co-authored an academic paper, published in the Journal of Business Ethics back 2015. It is titled Understanding Ethical Luxury Consumption Through Practice Theories: A Study of Fine Jewellery Purchases. You can find it here (behind paywall).

This was the first long-term project I was a part of after finishing my PhD and starting an academic position as researcher. I felt it was a particularly interesting project, as it analysed the path to implementing CSR in a very specific market from both sides of the market – businesses AND consumers. There is precious little work of done which comprehensively covers the two types of economic actors with respect to what happens in an economic space (such as jewellery SMEs).

It was very interesting to note how jewellery consumers and jewellery businesses fed off each other, each expecting the other side to make the first move, to the point that implementing CSR in this space looked quite difficult. There are many cases such as these – where a ‘good idea’ is not becoming reality back because both consumers and businesses hold back until the other makes a move. The result might be a lot of policy interest, which struggles to translate into economic reality – see the case Electric Vehicles, for example.

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Article: Untangling the trust-control nexus

An article co-authored by myself has recently been published in the European Management Journal. Titled (deep breath!) Untangling the trust-control nexus in international buyer-supplier exchange relationships: An investigation of the changing world regarding relationship length, it explores how trust between organisations changes over time. It was the result of a now-completed project with colleagues Ann-Marie Nienaber (Coventry University – Centre for Trust, Peace & Social Relations) and Max Holtgrave (WWU Munster).

Here is the abstract of the paper:

Control and trust are the primary governance mechanisms buying organizations rely upon to organize and maintain their collaborative exchange relationships with foreign suppliers. But the question of how control and trust interrelate and should be pursued seems entangled and practical advice remains largely elusive. Based on empirical data on 212 recently- and long-established buyer-supplier exchange relationships in the textile industry, we test the relationship between three practices of interorganizational control (output, process, and normative controls), two dimensions of interorganizational trust (competence and goodwill trust), and relationship performance. Using structural equation modelling, we demonstrate the value of controls for building and validating trust to depend as much on the specific control practice deployed and dimension of trust observed, as on the temporal stage of the exchange relationship. Moreover, we reveal distinct performance effects of the different control practices and dimensions of trust. Herewith, this study allows for a comprehensive understanding of the trust-control nexus in collaborative exchange relationships between buyers and their foreign suppliers. Addressing managers, we reveal how normative controls can be used to build trust and promote performance at the start of the relationship, whereas output controls need time to reach their full potential. Process controls, in turn, are found to have adverse effects.

You can find the article here (behind paywall).

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ESPON Seminar – urban-rural partnerships

Last week I have the pleasure of taking part in the ESPON Seminar in Bratislava (Slovakia), titled “Where are European cities heading? Evidence for better policy-making”.

Besides having the opportunity to talk to colleagues and stakeholders about the upcoming ReSSI project, I also had the opportunity to speak in a policy lab about urban rural partnerships. The site links to a 1-slide presentation I brought along, which I illustrates the rural-urban divide in the Coventry-Warwickshire region. ReSSI will help address these.

There is no photo of me in the page, but for those with fond memories of the ‘Where’s Wally’ book series, here is a group shot. You’ll find me close to the front, helpfully propping up a desk.


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