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Forward Economic Thinking

Economic Development Consulting

Sustainable Economic Development
E
conomic development – creating jobs and growing businesses – is hard. Doing it sustainably – creating real benefits for local people, tackling poverty and minimizing environmental impacts – is even harder. That’s where we try to help, as shown below:

Assessing local economic needs and opportunities

A
ny economic development project has to start by understanding the issues that it is aiming to address. This will usually involve a mixture of:

  • Examine statistical evidence such as rates of economic growth, qualification levels, unemployment and sectoral composition.
  • Carry out local surveys to gain understanding and input from local people and/or businesses.
  • Examine best practice in similar projects or areas, using a range of techniques to find key messages that are most relevant to the project.
  • Consult key stakeholders such as potential funders, experienced experts in relevant areas, local and national politicians, and where possible, end-users.

We can carry these steps out in an effective way, using established techniques, a wide network of contacts and a generous helping of good old common sense.

H
aving established a clear need to do something, be it a new project, a major programme with lots of projects, or a new policy approach, there is often still a long way to go before it can happen.  There are usually four key elements to this, though the balance between them will depend on the nature of the project:

  • Planning projects, programmes and policies/strategies involving defining objectives, deciding on delivery methods, identifying funding needs, designing governance arrangements and much more.
  • Business planning to carefully identify likely costs and income generated, predicting usage or take up, detailed project appraisal and – again – much more.
  • Securing funding whether it be from national pots such as national grants, local funding or corporate social responsibility funding programmes.
  • Necessary approvals, which might include planning permission, environmental consents or political agreement.

We have a track record of negotiating each of these steps, and can help with any or all of them as needed.

Helping to deliver sustainable economic development

T
he proof of the pudding is in the eating: even the best designed projects can need help to deliver effectively. With a range of experiences across a decade, we can bring practical support, insight and additional capacity to ensure that projects and programmes deliver as intended. The types of areas we typically support include:

  • Procurement: turning a general aspiration into a clear, tight specification for a service, which can be procured through competitive processes.
  • Hands-on delivery: getting involved in delivering support to businesses or training to clients as required to make a project work.
  • Management: identifying strengths and weaknesses in the performance of a project, and making practical, realistic proposals to improve deliver.

In the rare case that we can’t help, we will almost know someone who can.

A
core part of our work centres on finding out what works in sustainable economic development, and sharing this knowledge with others to improve policy and practice.  There are three main aspects to this work:

  • Review, carrying out a systematic assessment of what is working, what can be improved, what stakeholders think of the project or policy, and making recommendations for approval.
  • Evaluate, a more formal review at the end of a policy or pragramme, involving a rigorous assessment of the impact that a project, programme or policy has had, including assessment of ‘net additionality’ (a piece of jargon meaning the overall impact that would not have happened otherwise).
  • Share, making sure that those who need to know about what works are fully informed, through workshops, presentations or written evidence as required.

There is no one-way to do economic development so each local economy, organisation or government will approach it differently.