As declared by Dr Dominique Hes in 2017, there is quite simply “no sustainability without community engagement”.
The topic of how organisations bring their staff and customers ’with them’ on cultural and transformative journeys is never far away, but how councils, regions and governments secure buy-in, support and behavioural changes from their citizens and societies, is less-commonly discussed.
Of the many things that make me proud to work at Capita, I’m most proud of the incredible things we do that make positive impacts on people’s lives. One of the areas our organisation is known for is government services. That might not sound immediately very exciting, but when you scratch beneath the surface and see how the work we do impacts UK citizens every day, it’s a huge motivator and instiller of pride and collective purpose.
For me, our work in the field of clean air is testament to our commitment to delivering better outcomes for citizens. In London, we’ve helped reduce nitrogen dioxide within the ULEZ boundary by 44% - undoubtedly improving, lengthening and saving countless lives in the capital. Our work has only just begun, and with clean air zones being introduced in Manchester, Birmingham, Bath and Bristol in the coming 18 months, we’re keen to apply our expertise to make a difference to millions more.
Over the last few years, we’ve undergone a transformation to put our clients and people at the heart of our operations. As a result we’re a very different business to the one I joined a little over 3 years ago. There are so many people more qualified than I to talk about that, but I’ve been looking a little at how our government clients can also secure engagement, support, and buy-in from society for the hugely consequential and impactful decisions they take.
In his research report, Dr Hes states that community engagement is a prerequisite for achieving sustainability, and there’s been a recent swell in emphasising community engagement to achieve sustainability goals. This was also highlighted in the UN’s Agenda for Sustainable Development, within which most of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) rely and depend upon community support and participation.
Effective health programmes are usually implemented by government authorities that have some discretion and are downwardly accountable. Some autonomy in decision-making, the ability to respond locally, and being fully accountable to their communities are key aspects of successful programmes.
As the UK comes out of this unprecedented and horrific pandemic, changing citizen behaviour and generating governmental support has never been so visible, difficult, or important.
Take the North West as an example. It has, like most other regions, suffered deeply over the last year. In PwC’s Good Growth for Cities Report 2021, we see that economic recoveries this year are expected to range between 4.8% and 5.4% for most cities in the region. The area’s highest take-up rate of the furlough scheme is found in Salford and Manchester authorities, which had 9.0% and 9.5% of its workers respectively on the scheme on 31 October 2020. My point? Getting societal buy-in will be tough. There is a healing job to be done, and many have had their fill of government schemes and strategies. They have, of course, worked well for and protected many…but not all.
Again, looking at new UK clean air zones (CAZ), securing citizen and commercial buy-in will be fundamental to success. These zones require extensive planning, and citizens and employers must be confident that initial inconveniences or negatives are offset by the advantages for them and their communities. It’s the duty of local governments and regional authorities to communicate and negotiate effectively in order to secure support from its people. At Capita, we work with central and local government authorities every day to not only deliver better outcomes for citizens, but to truly create change.
One way we do this is through our grants management expertise. We have established class-leading experience and know-how in this space, and have created our own GrantIS solution to ensure citizens can quickly, easily and effortlessly take advantage of governmental grants and support schemes. Ensuring that individuals, businesses and communities have open, meaningful and transparent access to grants and funding is undoubtedly one of the most fundamental ways that local authorities can change perceptions of projects from happening ’to us’ to happening ’for us, with us, and for the benefit of all of us’.
In all things ‘health’ and especially when setting up regional clean air zones, citizens must be fully behind the desired outcome – of living in a sustainable region with clean air that fosters business development and wider economic growth. To be so, they first need to be informed and have the answers to all of their questions readily and easily accessible.