Jam and Justice: Co-producing Urban Governance for Social Innovation

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sheffield
Department Name: Urban Institute


Our cities are in crisis. There are real uncertainties about issues such as austerity, economic growth, diversity and sustainability. Most people are beginning to recognise that existing ways of working aren't delivering benefits for the people who need them most. Citizens and third sector organisations are often left out of the picture as formal urban partnerships spend their energies negotiating with central government. Local expertise, innovation and creativity have often not been seen as part of the answer to our urban crisis. But we can see that there are people and organisations taking action locally and coming up with different kinds of solutions.

Jam and Justice is a novel project that seeks to address wicked urban problems through collaborative working on messy solutions. 'Jam' is about trying to bring together different constituencies in the city to experiment and innovate to address our shared problems. 'Justice' is about re-connecting with those who have been disenfranchised and excluded from the search for solutions. We want to create an Action Research Cooperative - or 'ARC'. The ARC is a space which will allow a different way of thinking about how to work together to address 21st century urban challenges. Researchers know some of the answers, citizens have other ideas and solutions and insights, practitioners bring yet another perspective, and political leaders have visions for how they want things to be. The ARC will bring these different groups together to co-develop innovative approaches to address complex urban governance problems. The ARC is made by the people who take part in it: academics, politicians, practitioners, citizens and activists. Some of us will try and play more than one role, for example as practitioner researchers and academic-activists. We want to use the ARC to help us bridge the gap between knowledge and action and to shape the action which we can take together.

First, the ARC will set the principles for how we want to work together. Then we will initiate a series of 'learn and do' projects, which will generate the primary data needed to answer the research questions: what sorts of new ways to govern the city-region can help transform the debate? How can we include voices that have been neglected previously? Who can help mediate between different groups and interests? We will open up the opportunities to be part of the ARC not only through our projects, but also through a creative social engagement programme, including live debates, online communities, blogs and podcasts. We are going to tell people what we are up to right from the start, so they can follow, share and engage with our work. We will be holding a range of public and special interest events, where people can hear about and become part of the project.

So where is this all going to happen? We are going to start in a place we know, working with people who share a commitment to urban transformation. We will build the ARC in Greater Manchester, a place right on the cusp of change, as the first English city-region to be negotiating more devolution of powers from central government. Greater Manchester is a unique test-bed for our research interests, a city-region where we can further academic knowledge and deliver high policy and practitioner relevance. We have already identified key partners across the public, voluntary and community sector in Greater Manchester who want to work with us in the ARC. We will also network with national organisations and learn from what is happening around the world through fieldtrips to Chicago, Paris, Melbourne, Cape Town and Scotland. The ARC is a unique space for social innovation to co-produce, test and learn from new ways of governing cities. This will help us critically reflect on how to organise knowledge better to make positive urban transformations happen that are inclusive and equitable.

Planned Impact

Jam and Justice is a project with impact at its core: 'designed-in' not 'added-on'. The benefits of this research will be widely dispersed, but deeply felt within and beyond the life of the project. Our reflexive, co-productive research methodology will allow us to generate and reflect upon the project's impact and work to ensure its reach, influence and potential to generate change within both higher education and urban governance. This research offers an innovative and significant contribution to both these constituencies in modelling their individual and collaborative futures.
Specifically, the research will benefit: 1) the research participants, practitioner researchers, partner organisations and projects; 2) wider constituencies of practitioners, policy-makers and politicians, public institutions and other civil society organisations involved in urban governance and communities of activism, issue, interest and place in Greater Manchester and beyond. Our Pathways to Impact strategy is based on realising 3 primary impacts. Instrumental impacts will be on the Greater Manchester policy debates concerning devolution and citizen engagement, 2016-2019. Conceptual impacts will be in changing thinking on urban governance and the roles of different organisations in affecting urban change. Capacity-building impacts relate to the training of practitioner researchers, learning for academic researchers/post-doctoral researchers, new networks and engagement mechanisms.
These impacts will be realised through generating influence, reach and change with a range of beneficiary groups:
1) Research participants: the co-productive methodology generates spaces and opportunities for mutual learning, reflexivity and social innovation.
2) Practitioner researchers: networking and peer learning will support their practice and training opportunities to build specific capacities in undertaking research.
3) Partner organisations: enrolment in the research and the strengthening of existing structures, including our Co-I, GMCVO and the Local Authority support network, will support and catalyse social innovation and change in urban governance.
4) Project participants: each of our ten embedded comparative projects will be required to develop its own engagement and impact plan. Action learning sets will share, inspire and embed learning between these different projects.
5) Wider constituencies in Greater Manchester: new experiments in public engagement will ensure reach and connection with citizens and communities in Greater Manchester. Working with the University of Salford's social innovation ThinkLab and tested through a series of community focus groups, we will co-produce A Manifesto for Making Devolution Matter in Greater Manchester through a series of facilitated digital workshops.
6) Wider constituencies beyond: other UK and international actors in urban governance, civil society and academia will benefit from our experimentation and social innovation, learning and reflecting upon the potential for upscaling, diffusing, replicating or scaling-out. The interest generated and relationships built through our peer learning activities in the UK and internationally in Chicago, Paris, Melbourne, Cape Town and Edinburgh - and our relationship with the Mistra Urban Futures network in Cape Town, Kisumu and Gothenburg - will ensure impact.

These specific and wider constituencies in Greater Manchester and beyond can also learn from and be inspired by the project through our use of twitter to share 'bite sized' learning and reflections from the programme; our blogging, podcasting, live streaming of events and ARChive on Platform (www.ontheplatform.org.uk); and a series of briefing papers, infographics and press articles for, amongst others the Local Government Association, SOLACE, the Conversation, Huffington Post and Guardian.


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