Hard decisions and uncertainty: horizon scanning for local public services

Last September Ben shared 21 trends with us to provoke some thought in a year that had was proving to be very uncertain. As uncertainty persists we are about to release an update to the 21 trends – giving us a chance to reflect on the past and look to the future.

From 20 Sept. 2016

In the course of several recent future-focused projects we began creating a list of 21 major societal trends which public service leaders and those leading local economic development, should be watching.

They are inspired by our work supporting Milton Keynes’ landmark MKFutures2050 Commission, our research into the future of skills for the Government Office for Science, and the international training programme in horizon-scanning techniques we run with Stockholm-based Kairos Future.  All the trends we have selected are taken from published sources, and which in our view are robust and reliable. All interpretation is our own.

We presented our 21 trends at a recent webinar, along with research into the future of work and the workplace presented by Ulf Boman from Kairos Future.  A key theme in both presentations was the way that these trends interact and can affect each other, some in more localised settings, others on a national or even international scale.

You can watch a recording of the webinar here, which captures both presentations from the webinar along with the audio of Ulf and Tom speaking to their slides.

While the focus of many of the trends is primarily UK and northern Europe – there are exceptions to this such as the global trends in rural-urban migration.  Here, the changes are mainly on other continents, but the effects can be seen here in the UK labour market.   For example, urbanisation in other parts of the world is leading to rapid emerging-labour-market growth, which in turn drives outsourcing of certain ‘routine process’, and this in turn can draw jobs away from UK city centres.

The number of interlinkages is potentially very large in terms of the 21 trends: for example – between commuting, inner city air quality, and health outcomes for adults and children. In turn, these outcomes can be related to life expectancy and deprivation levels, or analysed according to occupations, which are pooling into high-and-low skill groups driving divergent outcomes within urban centres.

Many themes were considered when putting together the presentation, and a few which could have made it in – but did not – include:

The contested nature of public space, and the impact of development on contested spaces

Housing, house prices and land values

The first – contested public space – has a primarily local dimension and there is not ‘one model’ for Business Improvement Districts, which require individuated local analysis. While there is a clear trend of the emergence of BIDS, alongside falling Local Authority budgets for physical regeneration schemes, there is not any one trend of outcomes from this, and so was not included as a trend yet may remain a topic of interest for further exploration.

Housing, land values and ‘conversions’ of offices to flats tie together very strongly with many of the themes in the final presentation. To fully explore themes around housing would require analysis beyond one or two slides that could have been allocated to housing – thus housing issues will require separate and additional analysis, though we believe many of the broad implications for housing from the trends included will arise from the discussion of the 21 trends.

We hope that by highlighting the trends we have selected, that we can provoke further questions from those taking part in the presentation and discussion. All of the topics covered may warrant further investigation to draw out local area, city level, or sub-regional level trends and we look forward to working with participants and others to explore these themes and develop stronger local-area intelligence moving forwards.

If you would like to know more about these trends, our assessment of their implications for local public services and economic development, or if you want to find out about our training programme in horizon scanning techniques then just drop a line to ben.lee@sharedintelligence.net, or tom.perrigo@sharedintelligence.net

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