Categories
education public policy reflection

How can universities be civic-minded?

A host of universities now claim to be ‘civic’. But what does that really mean, and how can we tell?  Over the past year, I have been part of a team at Sheffield Hallam University working to answer these questions. We have been exploring the idea of a ‘civic index’, following on from the Civic University Commission’s […]

Categories
change cities community town centres

The demise of the high street: Britain’s new de-industrialisation

The changes in the retail character of our town and city centres may be as sweeping and significant in their way as the effects of de-industrialisation in the 1970s and 1980s, and similarly irreversible.  If proof were needed that the shopping-centred high street of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is disappearing, the £517m pre-tax loss posted by […]

Categories
cities greenspace nature Uncategorized

Why the mundane is magical, and how we can keep it that way

Governments like ambitious plans. They love to talk in terms of billions of pounds and ‘moonshot’ aspirations. The shiny and spectacular make better headlines than the everyday labour of caring for what we already have. But that everyday work of caring is foundational to our quality of life, as new research on urban green spaces underlines. The […]

Categories
cities greenspace

How much more evidence do we need to invest in green spaces?

We know green spaces are good for us. The evidence is overwhelming. So why don’t we invest in what we know to be healthy and helpful, when we can find £522 million to subsidise people who want a meal out?  In case there’s any doubt about the evidence, earlier this year a team at Sheffield Hallam University […]

Categories
cities power public policy social justice

Hope in a time of crisis

Today, in the middle of an accelerating crisis, some of us are publishing a book about hope. You could call it unfortunate timing. You could also call it the best time. The crisis is obvious but merits a quick scan. First, we’re caught in a global pandemic that, outside the bubble of British media attention, […]

Categories
change climate crisis community social justice

Can resilience give us a future?

What can we do in the face of two overarching crises: a crisis of climate change and biodiversity loss, and a crisis of social injustice characterised by the systematic removal of support from places and communities?  For two days last week I was part of a group that discussed, debated and shared stories with an […]

Categories
community greenspace nature

The rhythms of a park

How best to value a siskin, blackcap or whitethroat? Their wealth, the wealth they distribute or embody, is imperceptible unless you recognise that half-seen movement or half-heard song as part of what makes you alive, more in tune with the world, perhaps – part of a music you mostly only catch in snatches.  The music […]

Categories
change cities nature place

Sand martins, saints and speculators

  Kelham Island is a tale of regeneration, of an industrial landscape now buzzing with human life. Last year it won the Academy of Urbanism’s Great Neighbourhood award. In the last decade property prices have increased by a quarter. New flats are going up and new restaurants are opening. This is the dominant story. If […]

Categories
community creativity nature public policy sustainability

Why we need imagination in the face of ethical inaction

When Greta Thurnberg addressed members of Parliament a couple of weeks ago, she didn’t mince her words. ‘You don’t listen to the science because you are only interested in the answers that will allow you to carry on as if nothing has happened,’ she told them. It’s easy to see how that conclusion could be […]

Categories
change community New Start archive public policy

Hindsight, hubris and hope

Twenty years ago today the first issue of New Start magazine was published, with a mission described as ‘bringing together the partners in community renewal’. I and two colleagues set it up and recruited a team of writers, advertising and production staff to fill what we saw as both an evidence and a commercial gap: […]