Fact-finding mission to United States kicks off development of a new economic model

CLES deputy chief executive Matthew Jackson is to visit cutting-edge projects in the United States as part of work to develop a more socially progressive model for local economic development in the UK.

The aim is to offer an alternative to the flawed ‘trickle down’ approach that currently prevails and which has failed to bring prosperity to many parts of the country.

The project will build on work by the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES) over the last 30 years to challenge the assumption that by investing in a place and creating wealth this will benefit all sections of society.

Decades of infrastructure development initiatives, inward investment projects and multimillion pound regeneration schemes have come and gone in many parts of the UK and yet these places remain unchanged. In many cases inequalities have widened and poverty has become more entrenched.

The current shape of devolution promises hope, but we need to learn from other places where local democracy and local people, rather than the central state, are in charge.

Matthew Jackson will take in New York, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Washington, Philadelphia and Providence over the coming weeks to examine places that are harnessing local energy and assets for social progress – and not just relying on trickle down.

He will base himself at a number of organisations that have sparked this growing movement. They include the Democracy Collaborative in Cleveland, which has harnessed the purchasing power of anchor institutions to promote cooperative business ownership in low-income neighbourhoods.

At Sustainable Pittsburgh he will discover how the area has worked to ensure social, economic and environmental concerns are addressed together to bring sustainable solutions for communities and businesses.

He will also visit the Social Enterprise Greenhouse in Providence, a rapidly growing network of business and community leaders who are creating jobs and supporting positive change.

Matthew’s visit is part of as three-month sabbatical at the end of which CLES will publish his findings and map out a new local economic development approach for the UK.

Matthew Jackson said: ‘I am really looking forward to the opportunity to learn about urban policy in a different environment. The cities I will visit in the United States are adopting new and alternative approaches to local economic development and we are hoping the visit will enable us to transfer learning to a UK context. It is great that CLES as an organisation at the forefront of research around local economic development is prepared to offer this opportunity and I am grateful to the organisations which are hosting me.’

Neil McInroy, chief executive of CLES, said: ‘For 30 years CLES has been at the cutting edge of improving our local economies. With ingrained levels of poverty and inequality in many of our places, we need to look far and wide for innovative ideas and policies. Matthew’s sabbatical is vital to our national need to develop practical workable projects which break us free from the rather sterile set of orthodoxies which are currently dominating economic development in England.  Having also been on sabbaticals, I know that this will not only benefit CLES, but be an enhancing experience for Matthew.’


If you would like to find out more about the project, interview Matthew Jackson or are interested in articles based on his findings, please contact Austin Macauley at austinmacauley@cles.org.uk

The Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES) is the UK’s leading independent charitable research and member organisation, with a focus on economic development, regeneration and place-making. It undertakes a range of activities including policy research, consultancy, production of publications, training, events, information and briefing service.