This report presents the findings of a research study funded under the European Union Leonardo da Vinci scheme, undertaken through the Centre for Equality Research in Business (CERB) at the University of North London. The University was a partner institution (along with New Opportunities Centre and Support for Women in West Athens), the main project being undertaken by Fundación Universidad Empresa de Valladolid (FUEVA). The project was concerned with current and emerging issues in employment-oriented local economic development, that is, activities, initiatives and interventions intended to create and maintain sustainable employment within particular localities. The project was particularly concerned with exploring two key issues:
1) the nature of the practice of employment-oriented local economic development, and following this, the education and training requirements of individual practitioners of such work (the 'agents');
2) the organisations ('agencies') which are involved in such work, and how they operate.
Part One of this report addresses the first of these issues, ie the practitioners or 'agents' of employment-oriented local economic development. Part Two deals with the agencies, ie the organisations of various types which are involved in these activities.
The context of the study is primarily that of inner-urban areas. It was decided by the researchers, at a very early stage of the project, that the study of agencies would be better if the main focus was on the local area. Geographically, this encompasses the London Borough of Islington and, to some extent, parts of the neighbouring London Borough of Hackney. Figure 1 is a map showing the London Borough of Islington, its neighbour Hackney and also the City of London, and where these are located in Greater London.
This area is characterised by many of the features of inner-urban metropolitan areas in the UK, and probably of most developed western economies. There has been considerable de-industrialisation, decay of the built environment, and a rise in social problems such as unemployment and relatively low educational achievement. Although there are pockets of relative affluence, the area rates high on government measures of deprivation. Despite being situated close to areas of high level commercial activity (particularly the financial services sector in the City of London and the retail and entertainment sectors in London's West End), the population of the local area, especially its black and ethnic minority communities, experience relatively high rates of unemployment.
The terms 'urban renewal' and 'urban regeneration' have increasingly been used to refer to initiatives concerned to remedy this complex of related problems. The term 'regeneration' in particular has come to prominence, partly because much central government funding for such initiatives is now provided through what is termed 'Single Regeneration Budget' (which brought a range of government departmental funds for economic development together under one budget). This is intended to ensure coherence in strategies which necessarily transcend the departmental boundaries at both national and local government level. This study is, therefore, located within the broader arena of urban renewal and regeneration.
However, the study is primarily concerned with the employment development aspects, although, as the report shows, the broader context does have significant implications. The complex nature of urban regeneration, and especially its historical development, has given rise to a multitude of approaches based on different ways of understanding the nature of the problems to be addressed.
Part One of the report examines the different perspectives on employment-oriented local economic development, that we have identified through this study. These are broadly categorised into four perspectives, which may be seen to have arisen historically. Their main features are described, in terms of the underlying bases for analysis and prescription. The practices deemed to be appropriate according to these perspectives differ and so, therefore, do the perceived educational and training needs of individuals ('agents') seeking to engage professionally in local economic development. We go on to consider the implications for such diversity of approaches, and the extent to which there may be some resolution of the diversity rather than continued contestation over 'claims for jurisdiction'.
Part Two of the report presents ten case studies of organisations and initiatives ('agencies') engaged in local economic development. These agencies have been selected by virtue of the differences, to highlight what we term the 'patchwork quilt' of organisations and initiatives.
We also provide, in appendices, information on qualifications currently available and organisations providing opportunities for continuing professional development for those engaged in local economic development work.
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