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Build Back Better: Who Is Going To Build What?


What does ‘building back better’ really mean? Who is going to build what? The principles behind this campaign for our post-COVID recovery in the U.K. are clear enough: our social and economic model should not regress to business as usual; austerity cannot be the driver for our economic recovery; local leadership is critical to our collective turnaround.

Few would argue with the first two points; the third still raises eyebrows by those with a national perspective. And yet the evidence is all around us that more collaboration and local partnerships are needed, not fewer. Although it is understandable that a centralised approach has been taken during the coronavirus pandemic, it is tragically clear that top-down leadership is necessary but not sufficient unless local leaders are more empowered.

In the words of Andy Burnham, Greater Manchester Mayor, “Rather than lessons learnt, there is a real danger that the recovery will be similarly top-down which would be a huge mistake. The recovery must be a collaborative and inclusive effort that draws on the strengths of all parts of the country, all political parties and all sectors of the economy.”

Everything we do to make our financial recovery greener will address both immediate economic and climate crises at once. Before assessing the relative merits of infrastructure programmes, stimulus packages and devolved budgets to help drive this recovery, let’s clarify what it is that we want to build back better. In one word? Resilience.

Resilience encompasses human and natural systems. Objectively, building resilience is measured in terms of climate safety – by the actions we take nationally and locally to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Subjectively, it is measured in terms of social cohesion – in the level of trust and degree of fairness between people in the towns and cities where they live. Built from within, by communities. Climate safety and social cohesion are two sides of the same coin: one cannot exist without the other.

It should come as no surprise that the answer to the question about who is going to build this resilience is all kinds of people – both leaders and those who lead – from all walks of life and across all levels in our society. Not only do we want to build back better, but the act itself of building must be also done better if we are to achieve a longer lasting recovery.

Originally published on LinkedIn on May 26th, 2020.

Photo by Jose Antonio Gallego Vázquez on Unsplash.

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