This research has influenced policymaking and practice in the region and further afield. It has also promoted and supported innovation in several of the anchor organisations participating in the original research.
Evidence informed policy development
Leeds Beckett University is at the forefront of a policy experiment in Leeds. Leeds City Council has formed a group of a dozen large organisations rooted in the city, an anchor network of universities, colleges, health and hospital trusts, and major utilities. The aim is to increase the positive impact these organisations have on the city, and to provide more support to those suffering disadvantage. These anchors employ one in seven of the Leeds workforce, and spend more than £2bn every year on goods and services. The Leeds Anchor Network is chaired by the Vice Chancellor of Leeds Beckett University and is encouraging innovation to increase the amount of money circulating in the city economy through targeting local spend and supporting the development of sustainable local supply chains.
The Anchors Network is part of a wider inclusive strategy in the city of Leeds to support economic growth that is more fairly distributed across society and creates opportunities for all. Our underpinning research on the use of evidence in policymaking and the role that anchor institutions play has informed policy development within and beyond the Inclusive Growth Strategy adopted by the city of Leeds and has influenced the City Region Inclusive Growth Strategy, the Wakefield Council Inclusive Growth Strategy and policy scoping activity in Calderdale (R1.). The Welsh Government has used the research to consider the development of a framework to promote shared value and an approach to evaluation that encourages learning and sustainable development (WCPP, 2017). One of the authors of the underpinning research (Professor David Devins) has informed further policy scoping work undertaken by NHS England and is acknowledged by the World Health Organisation in a report that brings forward new evidence, practical methods and opportunities to show how the health sector is essential to a stable, functioning economy (Boyce and Brown, 2019).
Evidence-informed innovation amongst anchor institutions in the city region
Research outputs realised in the course of the action research project included the identification of almost 50 good practices associated with procurement and employment initiatives to support inclusive growth and alleviate poverty. The sharing of this knowledge amongst participants created a platform to support innovation and provided a foundation for impact in participating organisations.
A growing recognition that procurement can be one of the best ways of connecting economic growth to alleviate poverty and encourage inclusive economies emerged during the action research project. Representatives of the local authority procurement teams worked collaboratively during and after the project, sharing information and knowledge, acting as ambassadors for change in their organisations and influencing £150m procurement spend in the West Yorkshire Combined Authority. Within one of the university anchors, the procurement team embraced the opportunity to embed sustainability (social value, economic and environmental) into all procurement activity. The analysis and subsequent actions have seen the university move from about a quarter to almost 60% of discretionary spend in the city, 70% of which is now with small- and medium-sized businesses, with 20% in the most deprived areas of Leeds. The university now monitors and reports on this spend and continually improves measurement and reporting on impact.
The action research also resulted in the co-production of a framework to support the development of ‘good jobs’ in the supply chain. The Employment Manager (C7.) at Leeds City Council described the framework as the clearest explanation of what is meant by the term ‘good jobs’ that he had seen. The action research process encouraged planning and the development and implementation of inclusive human resource management and development practices in each anchor organisation. The impact is exemplified by one of the local authorities employing more than 15,000 staff who undertook impact assessments, collated evidence in the organisation, which showed a marked difference in the policies and practices impacting on low-paid staff and built the case for innovation and change. This was shared with other local authorities in the region who adopted and adapted these policies and practices relevant to their operating contexts. Further innovative learning and development services have been developed to promote fringe benefits to minimise the risk of in-work poverty. A pilot project to develop financial literacy has seen 400 staff members participate with 95% reporting that they would take positive action related to their personal finances. The Council estimates that every £1 spent on financial inclusion generates £8.40 for the regional economy.