The ReSSI Project: Good Practice for Local and Regional Authorities to Better Collaborate for Sustainable, Inclusive and Smart Development
Dr Carlos Ferreira, Professor Stewart MacNeill and Dr Kevin Broughton successfully delivered the ReSSI research project’s final deliverables (with 3 other EU partner universities) to ‘ESPON’ in January 2018. The research aimed to identify good practice for local and regional authorities to better collaborate for sustainable, inclusive and smart development across Europe.
The Centre for Business in Society at Coventry University has led an EC-funded research group helping local and regional authorities to develop their economies. Locally, the findings will help Coventry City Council develop new partnerships and collaborations across the West Midlands after Brexit.
Local and regional development and cohesion are common objectives of European, national and local policymakers. While there is an important role for regional and local administrations, post the 2008 financial crisis they have fewer financial resources and, in many cases, diminished regulatory powers. It is, therefore, necessary for them to coordinate their actions within national frameworks and also to work alongside a range of other stakeholders including businesses, charities and organisations of civil society.
The objective of the ReSSI project was to examine good practice in local and regional development in this changing environment. The project was collaboration between four stakeholder administrations and universities in the UK (Coventry City Council and Coventry University), Denmark (Region of Southern Denmark and University of Copenhagen), Italy (Piedmont Region and Polytechnic University of Turin) and Portugal (Municipality of Oeiras and University of Lisbon).
The research was financed by the EC through ESPON - the European Spatial Planning Observation Network. ESPON provides evidence, knowledge transfer and policy learning to public authorities and other policy actors at all levels throughout Europe and recommends improvements to European Cohesion Policy.
The cases analysed included both sectoral and territorial initiatives:
- Electric Taxi Infrastructure and the UK Autodrive Self-Guided Vehicles project (Coventry);
- Developing and Coordinating Strategic Regional Growth Plans (Southern Denmark);
- Creating Ecological Corridors connecting regional parks and Overcoming Urban/Rural Dichotomies (Piedmont);
- Creating a Green and Blue Park to improve connectivity and enhance environmental and cultural assets (Oeiras).
Although the case studies are diverse, the findings suggest a similarity of needs and priorities – with common implications for future EU Cohesion policy and for future regional funding in Britain. Common to all cases was a focus on communication between all stakeholders.
Local and regional authorities can bring businesses and civil society together, and help translate their objectives and preferences into ideas to be developed. It was also found that the individuals working in local and regional authorities are often the most important piece of the economic development puzzle.
Despite reductions in funding, local and regional administrations still have a vital coordinating role and are important repositories of tacit, ‘know-how’, knowledge and have a strong role in defining funding priorities and in governing strategies and projects. However, given the financial constraints, it is important to align strategic planning and funding streams, to simplify the integration of funds and to enhance their flexibility.
Regarding Coventry itself, the findings from ReSSI will help Coventry City Council in developing new forms of collaboration. In particular:
- Promoting the West Midlands region as a test-bed for product testing and market development - to help build relationships with businesses while also rebuilding lost tacit knowledge;
- Building the role of Local Authorities as brokers amongst private and public-sector stakeholders, and providing a store of know-how on regional development;
- Devoting a portion of funding to promote cooperation across the West Midlands region since productive cooperation amongst regional policymakers needs to be fostered.
The most recent project deliverables can be found on the Espon ReSSI webage.
A video of all ESPON research project policy pitches can be found here.