What is the legacy, what characterises the USE-IT! approach and makes it innovative?
Key element of USE-IT! is its place-based approach, which is also a key principle of the ‘New Leipzig Charter’ (currently been written with regards to the German EU Council Presidency in 2020). The success of the project depends heavily on the place-based partnership that has been formed specifically for the project purposes. It was a large partnership of diverse public, private and third sector organisations (which to a great extend had not worked together before and with rather few public institutions). They all have been very committed and brought in their specialized skills, knowledge and services. No organization had to reinvent itself and their work for the purposes of this project, but through the good connection and coordination of the organisations and their work, synergy was achieved and the collective results were greater than individual achievements would have been. So the cornerstone of the USE-IT! model is the partnership of anchor and large organisations working together with embedded neighbourhood organisations”. In addition to that, trust between the larger and the local based organisations is essential because it allows for new connections to be formed, which in result opens new opportunities and brings the understanding of the value of working together!
Another key element of the place-based approach is to focus on the existing local skills, knowledge and potentials in the neighbourhoods in the project area – and to unlock them with the help of the local partnership. This, with the approach to actively link larger investments in the project area with the skills and potentials of the local people and (social) enterprises to directly kick-off the socio-economic revitalisation of “places and people” (and not to “wait” for the trickle-down effect): increase employment prospects and business opportunities for local social enterprises and cooperatives. USE-IT! demonstrated that communities in economically disadvantaged neighbourhoods have endogenous assets that can be linked to larger investment projects and used for the socio-economic regeneration. But they have to be identified and unlocked! USE-IT! demonstrated that building a new hospital can bring much more to the communities than “just” hospital services. It can start a place-based urban regeneration, benefiting the local communities socially and economically.
Proper project coordination
Approaches like USE-IT!, that rely on the cooperation of larger partnerships, need a strong project management and steering group to coordinate and steer the stakeholders and their activities. For this, the project management / steering group must be provided with sufficient time resources and, in the best case, with access to funds (see mainstream into public policies and programmes).
Mainstream into public policies and programmes
The lessons from USE-IT! ought to be embedded in future policies and programmes of the Birmingham City Council to be mainstreamed. The Council has made a commitment to embed the USE-IT! approach in the East of Birmingham Inclusive Growth Strategy. This is a first step to a lasting legacy of the project – and should not be the last. The Commonwealth Games in 2022 in Birmingham will be another opportunity.
Another approach can be “Integrated funds”. The council could earmark funds from different departments combining them in one public fund, which can be used by complex and integrated projects that follow the USE-IT! principles. This reduces the effort for these projects to have to tap into many funding sources, and the measures can be implemented in a better coordinated and timely manner.
Last comment: The success of the USE-IT! approach is based on the strength of the 3rd sector in the UK, which is stronger and more professionally developed than in many other European countries. Nevertheless, it is to be hoped that also the public sector will become more active (again) and not degenerate into a mere coordinator due to austerity policy. The public sector should not only rely on private and third sector organisations.
For further information on the evaluation of the project and its transferability check these two reports: Final Evaluation Report / Project’s Transferability Study.