Andy Wood, Managing Partner, Grant Thornton Yorkshire

Andy Wood, Managing Partner, Grant Thornton Yorkshire

Why we need to collaborate to ensure inclusive growth for all our futures

Every success begins as an idea. But an idea alone doesn’t always equate to success. To thrive an idea requires action and it's collaborative action that truly brings an idea to life.

The Leeds City Region is home to some of the most dynamic thinkers, creative doers and inspiring businesses in the UK. That’s one of the reasons why Leeds is one of the fastest growing cities.

From the £165m Victoria Gate to the game-changing regeneration of the South Bank, we’re on the brink of something truly remarkable. Add to this the 2023 Capital of Culture Bid, an approved further £64m of local growth funding and a determined City Council, and you can see that Leeds is a thriving place to be. And one which is not short of ideas.

Our private, public and third sectors all offer further significant growth opportunities. But are we realising what these opportunities hold as a collective City Region?  Are we connecting and sharing ideas to ensure that the region is reaching its full potential, especially in the context of Brexit?

Grant Thornton’s Vibrant Economy Index shows that there are many positive things about the Leeds City Region, but also suggests that we still have a way to go.  

The research tracks factors that enable businesses, communities and individuals to thrive, measuring how towns and cities compare on indicators from prosperity to health, wellbeing and happiness, inclusion and equality. The good news is that the Leeds City Region scores highly for economic prosperity, dynamism and opportunity. This means that it is producing wealth, jobs and also developing an entrepreneurial and innovative culture that will all help to drive future growth.

However, it also reveals that Leeds scores below the national average (100) in the inclusion and equality indicator (94.66), with unemployment inequality based on ethnicity at the second highest level in the City Region. Leeds also has the highest level of young people not in education, employment or training (NEETS). We could be missing out on some of the region’s talent simply because we’re failing to connect with them.

We all need to recognise the immediate challenge in ensuring that everyone living and working in Leeds can share in its strong economic prosperity and realise its true potential, as we continue along the path of rapid transformation.

We must make the Leeds City Region a home where all sectors connect to create inclusive growth.

The question is, how? There are brilliant initiatives happening and thousands of ideas for change generated every day. We need to bring everything, everyone and every idea together. This is what we, along with 450 other leaders from across the City Region, will seek to do at Grant Thornton’s Live Lab event on 31 January.

It’s been inspiring to see the record levels of sign-up for the one-day summit which will be held at New Dock Hall. Led by Grant Thornton, business leaders, creative brains, community and education representatives, charities, and the public sector have all committed to a sleeves rolled-up day of innovation, inquiry and transformation.

We’ll be using an ‘appreciative inquiry’ methodology, an American import which engages stakeholders in ‘self-determined’ change by instigating new methods to generate fresh ideas and models for success. Essentially, we’ll be taking a step outside of the norm to reflect on the region’s strengths, share our ideas and collaboratively create a connected and vibrant future.

The Leeds Live Lab is the latest stage in Grant Thornton’s ongoing drive to shape a vibrant economy in the UK and follows the success of a series of similar events held across the country in 2016. The initiative kicked-off in Sheffield last May, when a Live Lab at the Millennium Garden created 21 ideas for creative and innovative growth which are currently being actioned and developed by the Sheffield City Region’s leaders across all sectors.

Our successful future will begin as a series of ideas. We need to work together to make our home a place where everyone connects to create inclusive growth, to play a key part in a vibrant national economy, ensuring opportunity for everyone.