November 2008 Archives

08.11.27 BURA Equality & Diversity Forum, Lord Herman Ouseley A seminar chaired today (Thursday 27 November '08) by Lord Herman Ouseley in London drew a wide range of attendees from across the country. This was the first post-launch meeting of the BURA Equality and Diversity Forum, which will offer a programme of events around equity and effectiveness in regeneration across the business perspective, planning, site assembly, capacity building and much else.

08.11.27 BURA Equality & Diversity Forum, Coin Street, London ~ Sofia Yaqoob & Jonathan Wilson

This seminar, in Coin Street Neighbourhood Centre, London, followed the British Urban Regeneration Association (BURA) Equality and Diversity Forum Launch earlier in the year. The tasks which attendees set themselves this time around included examination of the business case for serious attention to E&D, and a look at the scope and capacity within the regeneration sector to deliver on equity.

An important element of the debate was that it included people with many different experiences and starting points, who together sought to identify a common understanding of effective approaches in regeneration to E&D in all its aspects.

Speakers during the event included Lord Herman Ouseley (conference chair), Paul Taverner of Bevan Brittan (developing E&D in a corporate context), Prof. Erik Bichard of the University of Salford (the E&D business case), John Bell and Paul Drake of ECOTEC (diversity), Sofia Yaqoob of Carnation and Jonathan Wilson of Carey Jones Architects (a case study of development in Bradford), Waqar Hussain (the Blackburn experience) and Michael Ward, Chief Executive of BURA (on ways forward). The conference convenor and rapporteur was Hilary Burrage (BURA Board member and BURA E&D Champion).

Some quotes:
There is a real business case for this issue and a refreshed enthusiasm for inclusivity in regeneration, an appetite for change and a developing sense of purpose. Everyone, from all corners of the social spectrum, can have valid and valuable contributions to make to the make-up and shape of places being created or re-created. That’s not just ensuring each and every community within a community has a proper voice, but also that the workforce that delivers change is properly representative too.

This isn’t just about ensuring regeneration signs up to the E&D agenda, it’s about shaping places that work better.
Lord Herman Ouseley

Taking forward a serious corporate commitment to E&D in my (legal) company has been a very positive experience, which has brought people together in common cause, and has been beneficial to organisational performance. It requires an open mind and perseverance, but it is definitely worth the effort, both because it is the inherently proper thing to do, and because it brings good business outcomes.
Paul Taverner, Bevan Brittan

My research around people with disabilities who wish to work demonstrates the many assumptions we should, actually, not make, about how best to support their moves in this direction. When we provide services for people from a range of backgrounds and experiences we need always to discover from them themselves what is required and how to provide support. From that baseline we can all begin to benefit more fully, economically as well as socially, from the positive outcomes and effects of including everyone in our communities.
Prof. Erik Bichard, University of Salford

The regeneration profession needs to get better at E&D because only then can it understand the main barriers that need to be overcome in order to support individuals living in areas undergoing renewal. The current lack of understanding often results in missed opportunities both in employment into regeneration and in how local services are developed and delivered. Only when you invest in understanding the needs of diverse communities can you ensure services and opportunities are truly inclusive.
John Bell, ECOTEC

The regeneration profession needs to get better at E&D because it is an issue that is rarely properly addressed or fully understood. Whilst it is possible to conduct market research, there is no substitute for real life experience and fully integrating with those who have grown up in the local community.

Though I am of Kashmiri descent, I am principally British, and would like to think that I take the very best of my natural heritage to be an intrinsic and integral part of my British culture.

Some regeneration schemes can further divide communities rather than bring them together. Thus, it is of fundamental importance to provide the correct mix of uses on site to ensure that this does not happen. The LGA reinforces this, stating the need to give communities 'a real stake in the regeneration of their neighbourhoods'. It is our aim to deliver this.
Sofia Yaqoob, Carnation

Leadership is always an issue in delivering E&D in communities. We need to be aware of the nuances of understanding in communities about who is deemed to be entitled to lead, and in what ways. Communities comprise people of all ages, men and women with different backgrounds and expectations, and this diversity must be reflected in the ways we try to work with communities to deliver their requirements.
Waqar Hussain

Regenerators are missing a trick at the moment. With the economic cycle in its current state, observing E&D could be the source of enterprise and creativity that is desperately required to keep regeneration on track. This is just one of the reasons why the BURA board is so passionately behind the E&D agenda, it’s not just about idealism, its about our core business. If you don’t believe me check the Boards of the Fortune 100 and FTSE 100. Those that represent good E&D practice are the strongest performers.

There is a small group of innovators and pioneers already signed up to this issue, but we're also keen to reach everyone else, the others who are just waking up and keen to weave good E&D practice because its good business.

If we as regeneration practitioners neglect E&D, we are simply not doing our job very well, in either the business or the social sense. Attention to E&D is a fundamental part of genuine regeneration. How can a community develop and thrive if it is not fair and inclusive?
Hilary Burrage, BURA Board Director & E&D Champion

As we move beyond the CRE 2008 Report and other recent investigations in regeneration, we must attend to the E&D outcomes of regeneration, as well as to employment practices within the sector. Fair outcomes are required in funding allocations, types of housing and choices of areas for development.

BURA can, and will, work to build good practice in all parts of the sector. We will seek a 'better way of working'. As we talk with our partners and with government we will keep true to our commitment to E&D, and find ways to take it forward.
Michael Ward, BURA Chief Executive

08.11.27 BURA Equality & Diversity Forum, Coin Street, London ~ Lord Herman Ouseley, Paul Drake & HB 08.11.27 BURA Equality & Diversity Forum, Coin Street, London ~ Lord Herman Ouseley, Paul Drake, Waqar Hussain & HB

See more on the British Urban Regeneration Association (BURA) and visit the BURA website; and read about Social Inclusion And Diversity.

For more information on the BURA E&D Forum please contact Michael Ward at BURA

Precision instruments Research Forum has this week, 5 November 2008, carried an analysis (including an article by me) of A Vision for Science and Society, which DIUS, the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills launched on 18 July and concluded on 17 October. The debate is by no means over. This is a conversation which has as yet a way to run.

The article which follows is a version of my contribution to that debate, exploring the view that science in the service of civil society needs to find ways to engage more openly with those whom it seeks to serve.

What's science for?
The social sciences don’t get much of a profile in A Vision for Science and Society, the document that launched the three-month consultation organised by the DIUS, the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills that closed earlier this month. So perhaps I, as someone at the ‘social’ end of science, am bound to see this documentation differently from some of my colleagues and fellow contributors to the debate from the natural and physical sciences.

Nonetheless, this debate is a big step towards an answer to what in my view is a central question in complex contemporary society: “What is science for and what should it do?

Science in the 21st Century
I was lucky enough to attend the inaugural Sir Gareth Roberts Science Policy Lecture at the Science Council in November last year when Ian Pearson, then Minister of State for Science and Innovation, initiated the current discussion. He asked us to consider how to nurture a “more mature relationship between science, policy and society” for the 21st century.

Subsequently, when the consultation was launched in July, DIUS re-iterated the vision: “The government is committed to creating a society that is excited about science and values its importance to our social and economic well-being; feels confident in its use; and supports a representative, well-qualified workforce. This vision encapsulates our long-term ambitions and we believe it directly addresses the science and society challenges facing us today.”

The Big Question
All excellent stuff, though I recognise it’s not a universally popular perspective. The seekers-after-truth may sometimes feel it diminishes or side steps their endeavours; but all scientists seek veracity, and, within that, the subset comprising research scientists also all seek new truths. The Big Question is:

Which of these many truth objectives should the state and other collaborating parties encourage and finance, and why?

The DIUS consultation goes some long way to securing answers to this question, but not perhaps quite far enough. However, let’s consider the positives first.

There is a fundamental underpinning in the DIUS discussion of the ways in which science must address the global challenge imperatives—climate change, security, population, resources and disease—and on how the rest of civil society (all of us) must engage in this, too.

Addressing the imperatives
There is also much discussion about how to focus science translationally in our economy, towards the delivery of real enterprise and products arising from scientific research....

This makes the department’s failure to acknowledge the potential value of regional science policy in the regeneration of economically depressed areas all the more bizarre.

But the evidence of DIUS’s earnest intention to encourage more, and more diverse, people to become scientists is perhaps a fuzzy first step towards developing some sensible regional science and knowledge economy policies.

From the inside looking out
And yet…and yet… Somehow, the debate feels as though it is being conducted from the inside, looking out.

There is, it might be felt, an implicit assumption that if only everyone understood science better, even half as well as the scientists, things would be fine and we could all just get on with it.

Much as I wish this might be true, there is a part of me that doubts it.

Strategic fit
The consultation documents and the questions DIUS posed to aid discussion did a thoroughly decent job of exploring ways to achieve a better strategic fit of people, business, services, science and technology at the national, if not at the regional, level. But they do not explore why, conversely, science just does not seem to ‘fit’ everyone in our complex and diverse society.

Many of us, according to the surveys that informed the DIUS discussion, maintain that science is ‘exciting’. However, far fewer people are actually up for it when career options are floated or other aspects of informed involvement are tested.

Forms of knowledge
Science is the ultimate in human rationality (though, even then, less rational than proponents may choose to believe). But consistently rational, many of us simply are not.

Even among those well qualified in science, there are some for whom it is no more than a technical adjunct to their personal overarching beliefs and way of life.

Science is just one form of knowledge among many. What distinguishes it is its startling capacity to provoke and direct change. In this, we all, every one of us, have a stake. Science underpins our lives and we often pay for it through our taxes.

Science for the people
Looked at in this light, perhaps scientists employed or funded by civil society (‘government’) have an additional responsibility, beyond that of their usual professional obligation to seek transparency and veracity in their work.
This additional responsibility is to ensure that publicly funded science is both relevant to, and good value for, the investment civil society has made in it—just as private employers expect the same for their investments.

But where is the focus in DIUS’s debate about the particular roles and responsibilities of the scientists themselves, when they conduct ‘science for the people’?

Multi-disciplinary teamwork
Publicly funded science must be responsive and iterative; it must offer ways forward for implementation in real communities of real people.

I don’t, however, see much in the DIUS debate about how science programme managers (and, ideally, all others involved) are to be equipped to deliver this. At the very least, it requires integrated truly multi-disciplinary teamwork between scientists, policy makers and wider stakeholders at every stage, from concept to delivery.

Public scrutiny and quality assurance
And here, too, is a meaningful role for government science advisory councils, offering quality assurance and public scrutiny through independent expert opinion on which science government should support, and why.

Yet the value of these bodies—let alone how to strengthen and learn from them—is not considered in the DIUS debate.

In private industry, company boards appraise their scientific investments. Civil society must do the same for public investment, transparently.

Science as human agency
Which takes me back to the central issue.

We can’t expect everyone to be enthused about a science that appears granite-like before them. If we want true public engagement, science has to emphasise, not deny, its human agency.

Science is about risk, uncertainty and adventure, and the way real human beings cope with and grow through these challenges.

As we all know in our heads if not our hearts, it is not just about serious-looking chaps in white coats, whom the bravest of other sorts of people may join in the search for knowledge.

A compelling human story
Scientists have a very human story to tell, of choices and priorities, crossroads, blind alleys and huge successes.

If we want everyone to believe science is ‘for them’, this story must be told openly, explicitly and contemporaneously, warts and all, by those who are actually doing it.

Then science will seem genuinely relevant and accessible, a humanly shaped, ever-evolving and fundamental part of modern life. That is how things really are, from the outside looking in.

Is DIUS game for this? The debate has yet to begin.

A version of this paper was first published in Research Fortnight, 5 November 2008, pp. 17-18. Hilary Burrage has experience as a member of a science advisory council, but writes here in a purely personal capacity. Her submission to the consultation on DIUS's A Vision for Science and Society, is available here.

Read more about Science & Politics and see more of Hilary's Publications, Lectures & Talks

08.11.03 Heron pic @ JoelBird viewing, Calderstones Park, Liverpool  011aaaa 135x124.jpg We were delighted this evening to attend the Private View of Joel Phelan's JoelBird paintings (acrylic on canvas) in the Coach House of Calderstones Park, Liverpool. Joel, a locally-born artist, is also a talented musician (JubJub / Eto The Band). He has created wonderfully life-like yet 'designed' impressions of birds which we see in our local parks. It would be great if these works inspired other younger people in the city to observe more closely the natural world around them.

08.11.03 Joel Phelan & Minako Ueda-Jackson @ JoelBird Private View, Calderstones Park, Liverpool

08.11.03 Hilary & Tony Burrage @ JoelBird Private View, Calderstones Park, Liverpool

Read more web reports on Liverpool, European Capital Of Culture and see more photographs of Locations & Events.

More information on Joel Phelan's work: JoelBird

08.10.03 Liverpool Biennial Spider, Web of Light, Ai Weiwei,  Exchange Flags This spider, set against the austere statue of Lord Nelson and a backdrop of Liverpool's historic Town Hall, has so much more to offer than the monster mechanical arachnid which scoured our streets a short while ago. La Princesse was piece of engineering; this spider is a work of art. It trusts us to see in it what we will - it's magical, creative and beautiful all at the same time, leaving the imagination to work its fancies.

08.10.03 Liverpool Biennial Spider, Web of Light,  Ai Weiwei, Exchange Flags & part of Lord Nelson & Britannia statue

More information: Liverpool Biennial 2008 plus The Observer Review of 'Web of Light' and the Liverpool Biennial.

See more of Hilary's photographs here: Camera & Calendar; and read more articles about Cultural Liverpool.