With limited digital and food access becoming imminent realities for many people during the Covid-19 pandemic, changing what we prioritise in policy and practice is increasingly important. A recent paper by the IGP on rethinking livelihood security argues that to address the democratic deficit in policy-making notions of inclusion need to be expanded to include a wider range of voices, stakeholders and relationships. Doing this opens up new levers for action on shared prosperity at the local authority level.
Livelihood security depends on more than just work and income; empirical research with citizen scientists in east London found that procuring and maintaining a secure livelihood is an intersectional endeavour. It is not only affected by accessing secure income and affordable housing, but it is also impacted by access to services such as healthcare, childcare, education, transport and digital access as well as having a well-rounded and safe social environment to live in and participating in social and economic life. The ‘horizontal’ forms of inequality such as race, gender, disability, sexuality and class all impact our livelihood security and make up the varied landscape of the population.
Our lived experiences are shaped by a range of factors, and unfortunately policymaking has been looking at such factors in isolation; focusing on bettering the economy or housing without recognising the other factors that make these services unavailable or inaccessible. For instance, in 2017 employment in London was at all-time high, but in-work poverty was a real and prevalent issue in securing people’s livelihoods across the nation’s capital. With low wages and insecure jobs, the statistics fail to show us the real picture of the lives such statistics supposedly represent - growth in one area does not equate to growth in others.
This is why we’re calling for a re-definition of inclusion to address the democratic deficit, putting livelihood security at the centre of Covid-19 recovery planning.
Expanding our understanding of inclusion is an integral step in order to imbue national policy with local needs. Current inclusive practices have proven inadequate. When the model of inclusive practices is primarily focused on economic growth (providing better housing and more jobs for example) it fails to recognise the importance of other factors that impact peoples lived experiences. Hence why we want to expand the definition of inclusivity and inclusive practices to be based off of a model of participation, social responsibility and capacity-building. In doing so, we hope to include citizens in policy-making decisions by working with them as they share their experiences of the problems facing their local area.
The participation gap is similarly problematic. Inviting citizens to have an active and effective say in the policy that governs their lives is increasingly important. By engaging more people in policy design and delivery and recognising community needs we are expanding the conversation beyond governance to develop inclusive policies that work to close the participation gap.
Expanding notions of inclusion opens up three new levers for action on shared prosperity: ensuring inclusive practices in knowledge generation processes; providing and facilitating collaborative leadership; and ensuring that progress is being monitored and evaluated. These three levellers for action hope to impact and influence the ability of community engagement and policy making.
Our first leveller for action works to facilitate inclusion in the knowledge generation processes. Current structures fail to include local citizens’ experiences, instead using detached expert-led data which forgoes the important voice of citizens. By including citizens' experiences in policy decisions, policy can be more inclusive and impactful.
Our second leveller for action is to embark upon collaborative leadership. The collaborative melting pot of business, citizens, local governments and the third sector working together would ensure more inclusive and nuanced outcomes.
The third leveller for action is to ensure the evaluation and mentoring of such progressive and impressive work. Holding agencies to account and publicising performance data is imperative in creating a collaborative environment which endeavours to better the lived experience of citizens.
Whilst this definition of secure livelihoods is based off of the research in east London, it is clear that this isn’t an isolated experience. Communities across the UK, and globally, are experiencing the damaging effects of the pandemic on their ability to secure a livelihood.
Without recognising the intersection of services, income and opportunities for participation that impact peoples’ ability to get-by, we limit the ability to affect real change.
Image credit: Sarah Nisi
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