Creating the new normal

As part of its appeal to Glasgow City Council to take a different approach to post-pandemic planning, the signatories have highlighted research showing that growth-driven economies do not create wellbeing, and examples of cities globally that are adopting new ways of thinking about and planning the post-pandemic future:

"A significant and growing body of international evidence (Raworth, 2017; Trebeck 2019; Hickel 2018; European Commission Beyond GDP Project 2018; Living Well within Limits project, University of Leeds) is demonstrating that using economic growth as the main logic from which to organise our societies is incompatible with health and well-being and climate stability. It also articulates credible alternatives.
"For us, this means that the response to the crisis cannot come from the same thinking which has taken us to this point. We must use this moment to go beyond a return to a broken status quo and instead seek to radically remake this city into a place where all residents can thrive within planetary boundaries. Pioneering examples of how to respond are emerging;
  • Amsterdam is integrating a ‘donut model’ of economics, ecology and well-being into its city plan; Hawaii is adopting a Feminist Economic Recovery plan; 
  • Jackson, Mississippi, offers a vision built on co-operatives. 
  • Preston, using local procurement to benefit local suppliers
  • Havana (twinned with Glasgow) has successfully pursued an alternative economic model for years. 
There is also much good work already in Glasgow to build from. We have an opportunity to position itself at a leading edge of innovation in terms of governance, policy, regulation, participatory democracy, technology, and economy. We can only do this if we are prepared to challenge orthodoxy and act differently. 

Further, we note the establishment of separate groups for economic recovery, social recovery and sustainability. This is a siloed response to a systemic issue. As the COVID-19 crisis has made so visible - work, family, community, and our environment are fundamentally interdependent and must be considered as an integrated whole. A systemic approach demands working with these as one whole, so proposed changes in one area can be understood in relationship to impacts in the others.  

In addition, and we repeat, as long as the logic of economic growth is our city’s primary driver, as embedded in procurement, planning policy, housing and the type of jobs we create and value - then efforts to address social and environmental concerns will come second to economic growth considerations. This is amply borne out by GCC decisions over preceding years. 

Finally, we note that Glasgow City Council (GCC) already has a radical plan to transform the city’s economy to net-zero carbon by 2030. This was drawn up by GCC’s Climate Emergency Working Group in an open and democratic process that included contributions from local grassroots campaign groups: Get Glasgow Moving, Divest Strathclydeand XR Glasgow. The group’s recommendations were approved by GCC on 26 September 2019, with work due to be presented back to GCC’s  Environment, Sustainability & Carbon Reduction City Policy Committeeon Tuesday 28 April. This meeting was cancelled because of the coronavirus crisis, but the implementation plan should nearly be ready. It must now be published to become the starting point for economic recovery planning.

[1]Composition and Process

We recognise that the group membership represents considerable and important expertise. However, we highlight that the group composition leans heavily towards a very limited race, class and age demographic, and is not gender balanced. This falls far short of the incredible diversity of Glasgow in 2020. It is not acceptable that the economic future of this city, will only be imagined by an unrepresentative demographic who, despite best intentions and efforts to engage, cannot adequately reflect and understand the variety of lived experience that is needed. 

Further, the group represents a form of expertise in the city which is highly professionalised, with largely shared educational and cultural experiences. Such a group is highly likely to be subject to groupthink. This will not only exclude knowledge vital to understanding the issues, but also excludes novel ideas, proposals and solutions which sit outside the bounds of traditional expertise. The validity of resident experience and expertise must be considered as equally as important in a development as significant as this. We point to the Poverty Truth Commissionand the Climate Emergency Working Groupas example of this understanding. 

Most importantly, while we recognise efforts to widen membership and to make it more representative with the late additions of GCVS and Trade Unions, we believe that the use of a representative process is the fundamentally wrong approach for a challenge this significant. This is a moment to catalyse people’s ownership and involvement in what comes next, embedding local democracy into the very fabric of the Glasgow that is becoming.