We are fast entering the last few months of the year. The Mosaic Partnership will be celebrating its 10th anniversary in December, and I recently spoke about this at a Talking Towns event, reflecting on successes and the learning over the last decade.
Ten years in Place Management across the UK and Internationally has afforded me the opportunity to be involved in a variety of large and small projects and the pleasure to see them grow and develop. In the UK particularly we have championed and developed Business Improvement Districts. With many of our client locations in their 3rd term now, we can perhaps say that the foundations have been strongly set. However it has always been my belief that whilst BIDs provide stability, sustained investment and the ability to business plan in a coherent way, and in a manner that many of us who started in this industry, with voluntary funding, could only have dreamed about. It is still rightly a component in a much bigger ‘Place’ jigsaw – and really, it is this much larger focus on Place Management that can make a real and lasting difference to a location.
It has also been uplifting to see, over that time, the move to marry the more ‘operational’ and ‘facilities’ led approach of initiatives like BIDs combined with a longer term focus on assets and infrastructure. It is important that BIDs like the New West End Company, Cardiff and Belfast play a major role in the physical developments in their area. There is also the opportunity, perhaps more so for smaller places to get involved through concepts such as Town Centre Investment Management (TCIM).
I recently had the opportunity to speak at the Future Cities Lab in Singapore, a collaboration between the National University of Singapore and numerous European institutions – where Place specialists come together on a regular basis to try and understand how things will look in 20-30 years time. I talked about ‘The Management of a Place’. A successful Place which is not just about commerce but one that provides for comfort, health and well being, social interaction, a sense of community, arts and culture and pride amongst other things. A simple enough concept but incredibly complex to get right and this provoked some insightful and positive discussion with the group.
Our motto is ‘People Transforming Places’ and for me, over my 20 years in this industry and the 10 years of The Mosaic Partnership, I have increasingly and passionately come to believe that high calibre and bold leadership is perhaps the most important component in getting things done.
Looking across the pond at our American colleagues and others I have met in places such as Singapore and South Africa, I see them exercising greater leadership skills, authority and influence. It still feels to me that Place Management in the UK, and the people that work in it struggle somewhat to shake off the ‘cinderella’ status in the urban regeneration hierarchy. Organisations such as the Institute of Place Management have recognized this for a while and should be supported and commended for their efforts to address it. With our traditional British reserve around this type of issue, I think our industry organisations have overall been complacent in the development of leadership potential and capacity, with the focus more on supporting new people and places and consequently initiatives that have a ‘recycled’ feel to them. There is an amazing amount of innovation and talent in our industry, and to be able to highlight and develop that in a much more cohesive and structured way is hugely important for the future of our industry. I believe our leaders should be at the forefront of challenging the status quo.
At a time when there seems to be a fundamental shift in how places are developed and invested in, wholesale cutbacks and reorganization of local government and uncertainty in national politics and its direction, it seems that ‘local leadership’ in its many forms, will be required even more. I very much hope that our industry and organisations like ourselves will play their part in providing and delivering those people and therefore the places that we all should strive to have.