Northern Futures: policy to the people?

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Last month I took part in Northern Futures: a new project initiated by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, bringing people together for a new kind of debate about economic growth in the North. The Cabinet Office’s Policy Lab is supporting the project, encouraging people to submit ideas online, and on the ground through open ideas days across the region, enabling local people to influence national policy and practice.

On the 16th October, I ran an open ideas day in Sheffield with local businesses, government, creatives and academics – one of eight sessions, happening at the same time in different cities across the North of England. the challenge was how to boost economic growth in the North by 2030. The Open Ideas Days allowed experts and non-experts to come together to share ideas and develop solutions using a mixture of creative problem solving tools and design thinking methods.

It reminded me of running X Jam Gov with Simon Gough for Global Gov Jam – but this time on my own, and with only one day to help people come up with solutions, test concepts and make films of their ideas. It was an ambitious challenge, but a really rewarding opportunity to help people develop ideas with real tangible impact. We had great fun warming up by sketching future scenarios in 2030.

I was amazed by the energy, quick thinking and collaboration in the room, and the quality of output from the other seven rooms… There was real synergy between an idea from a Sheffield team and one from a Manchester team that really struck a chord – people were thinking along the same lines in different places at the same time… For more insight into the tools and ideas from all the Open Ideas sessions see the Policy Lab slideshare.

There is now a chance to vote on the ideas generated that could really make a difference and be taken forward. Over 177 ideas have already been submitted. On November 6th a selection of ideas will be presented to the Deputy Prime Minister and other decision makers at the Northern Futures Summit in Leeds.

Voting for ideas online is a positive step-change in open policy making and something I totally support, but only part of the picture I hope. If you can, do visit the Northern Futures website and vote for the most engaging ideas before November 5th.

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