Place Profiles: Localizing Understandings of Disadvantage
The everyday economy team at UCL have been investigating the perspective of civil society actors in England, and the longer-term project of economic resilience where the goal is to engage with local knowledge of places for co-produced policies. This working paper on place-profiles is an important iteration. It is a response to contested framings of some places as ‘left-behind,’ in light of the tendency towards ‘othering’ in inequality metrics. It seeks to review the construction of ideas of disadvantage and means to broaden approaches to economic strategy through co-production.
The study presented here adds to a wider debate about how places are understood, and the value of co-produced approaches to profiles. It demonstrates the politics of knowledge of inequalities in economic development, and the complexity of establishing more place-sensitive policy responses. It explores the possibility of using local data on economic factors, as an opportunity for developing place-based understandings. The study focuses on ‘small area’ sets of data and means of interrogation. Using three localities in England that have contested narratives of changes in development, it demonstrates existing public data and stakeholder interpretations of prototype ‘place profiles.’ This ‘localization’ provides a point of deliberation about constructing policy narratives with local stakeholders. The analysis focuses on the challenges associated with localized quantitative metrics, and how data can co-shape understandings of potential socio-economic problems and solutions.
Findings suggest that local concerns are not observable through the data, but that contestations of metrics can bring to light alternative stories of ‘change’ in development through discussion with local stakeholders. On the one hand, reducing the scale of quantitative data is not sufficient and co-production is needed to draw out local interpretations. On the other, the very act of localizing data is highly contentious, and may further alienate local stakeholders foreclosing co-production of knowledge for strategy-making. This reinforces the value of qualitative, embedded work by stakeholders and flexibility in strategy making processes.