22 June 2020

York Town Hall, Western AustraliaOne of the greatest challenges faced by governments and other officials in regional communities is implementing long term solutions to deliver better economic, social and environmental outcomes locally.

New research has found gaining the support of residents through good local leadership and place-based policy is critical for making long term improvements for communities across metropolitan and regional Australia.

Professor Andrew Beer from the University of South Australia, working with colleagues from RMIT University (Victoria), Charles University (Prague), Tampere University (Finland), and University of Bristol (UK), examined place-based policy around the world to determine the governmental processes that led to success or failure.

Place-based policies are tailored to the development needs of each city and region. They may be proactive, with a focus on innovation, or reactive to economic disruption.

However, governments struggle to meet the needs of specific places because of competing interests and the failure of the wider public to understand the complex challenges that need to be overcome.

By looking at examples of policies for local energy generation, marine innovation, horticulture and technology, the researchers found it was not the policy itself that led to its success or failure but the way it was implemented.

They found the active involvement of good local leaders in place-based policy design and implementation was critical to success, by connecting public administration with everyday local practices and knowledge.

Local leaders, including mayors and other non-governmental leaders, have ownership of the wellbeing of the places in which they live, have specific knowledge of the local area, and can use existing social networks to influence change by gaining the trust and support of residents.

They also help to provide a long-term perspective and the patience to work towards goals in the distant future to deliver substantial benefits to communities.

A full list of the contributions made by local leaders to place-based policy is summarised below.

Image source: Andrew Beer, Fiona McKenzie, Jiri Blažek, Markku Sotarauta and Sarah Ayres

Image Source: Andrew Beer, Fiona McKenzie, Jiri Blažek, Markku Sotarauta and Sarah Ayres

The research will be published later this year as part of the Policy Expo series of the Regional Studies Association.

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