Public Sector Focus

31.03.20

Business support: lessons learned from our start-up and productivity project

Source: PSE Feb/Mar

Dr Melanie Smans is Economic Development Manager at South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Councils

 

The South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Councils Business and Innovation Strategy Action Plan 2016-2020 highlights the importance of providing support to people who wish to start a business or be more productive.

Of the more than 15,000 small and medium-sized businesses in the districts, just over a third are sole traders. Part of the councils’ role is to support the local start-up business culture, increase small businesses’ resilience to economic shocks, and foster increased productivity.

From March 2018-October 2019, the councils’ economic development team delivered the Stronger Economy – Start-Up project. A series of week-long, free, pop-up business schools were held to stimulate the local economy which suffered due to economic shocks (including the fall-out of the Honda car plant closure announcement) and areas ranked in the 40% least deprived nationally.

The aims of each event were to increase the confidence and wellbeing of participants, assist people to start or grow a business without spending any money, provide an ongoing peer support network for start-ups, and increase awareness of the support available by the district councils’ economic development team and ultimately build a relationship with the team.

At the end of each week over 33% of participants had started a business, with one resulting in 48% starting a business. After each event participants reported being more confident, happier, and better skilled to start and grow their own business. Participants were encouraged to set up a networking group. All groups have continued and not only provide a supply chain and customer network but an important peer support network.

Although the project was resource-intensive, the economic impact (in terms of return on investment for the council) and social impact make it worthwhile. The three key lessons from our work are:

  1. Think like a business owner, not a bureaucrat

Scholars generally agree that entrepreneurs are opportunity-seeking, risk adverse and innovative. To foster entrepreneurship, councils can deliver initiatives that allow people to first gain the confidence to seek opportunities to start and grow a business, and then gain the skills to act on them. The simplest way is to provide events or networking opportunities in varied locations that are open to neighbouring districts. This is fundamental as businesses do not operate along local authority boundaries. This ‘open door’ approach encourages businesses to access supply chains, customers and networks outside of their village/parish/district/county.

  1. Networks and partnership working are essential

The economic development team has built positive and productive relationships with housing associations, job centres, schools, chambers of commerce, and training providers. These partnerships provided funding, resources and networks. Accessing local networks was key to increasing awareness of the team, gaining credibility, and encouraging people to attend who may be apprehensive about participating.

  1. Take a big picture approach

Focusing interventions just on one area of deprivation or the primary area impacted by an economic shock limits the opportunities available to businesses and may not be an efficient use of council resources. The project encompassed both districts, the deprivation and the economic shock, which maximised the impact of the councils’ interventions.

We are pleased that the Institute of Economic Development, the UK’s leading independent professional body for economic development and regeneration practitioners, awarded the project the Greatest Economic Impact award for 2019 and hope it inspires other councils to take a grass-roots, holistic approach to economic development.

Comments

There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

 

public sector executive tv

more videos >

latest public sector news

Multi-million pound projects in Grimsby given green light

29/05/2020Multi-million pound projects in Grimsby given green light

North East Lincolnshire Councillors approved plans yesterday (May 28) that will see a total of £4.967m invested into two major highway proj... more >
East Midlands £2.6bn transport plan to boost HS2 links at Toton

29/05/2020East Midlands £2.6bn transport plan to boost HS2 links at Toton

The East Midlands region has been promised a huge economic boost with a £2.7bn multimodal transport plan published this week (May 28). ... more >
Kirklees Council agrees £3.4m investment into schools

29/05/2020Kirklees Council agrees £3.4m investment into schools

Schools in Kirklees are set to benefit from a £3.4m investment, agreed by the cabinet members yesterday (May 28). The funding will rep... more >

editor's comment

25/10/2017Take a moment to celebrate

Devolution, restructuring and widespread service reform: from a journalist’s perspective, it’s never been a more exciting time to report on the public sector. That’s why I could not be more thrilled to be taking over the reins at PSE at this key juncture. There could not be a feature that more perfectly encapsulates this... read more >

last word

Prevention: Investing for the future

Prevention: Investing for the future

Rob Whiteman, CEO at the Chartered Institute of Public Finance (CIPFA), discusses the benefits of long-term preventative investment. Rising demand, reducing resource – this has been th... more > more last word articles >

the raven's daily blog

What came first, the bad customer or the bad customer service?

17/03/2020What came first, the bad customer or the bad customer service?

Source: PSE Feb/March 20 Stephen Bahooshy, Senior Commissioning Manager and Nicky Selwyn, Carer and Service User Group Chair, Croydon Council.   Here it is, that age old question: What came first, the bad customer or the bad customer service? (Or maybe we just made that up, whatever). But it’s true though, right? We w... more >
read more blog posts from 'the raven' >

comment

Peter Kyle MP: It’s time to say thank you this Public Service Day

21/06/2019Peter Kyle MP: It’s time to say thank you this Public Service Day

Taking time to say thank you is one of the hidden pillars of a society. Being on the receiving end of some “thanks” can make communit... more >
How community-led initiatives can help save the housing shortage

19/06/2019How community-led initiatives can help save the housing shortage

Tom Chance, director at the National Community Land Trust Network, argues that community-led initiatives are a productive way of helping to solve... more >
Aberdeen's green transport fleet attracting international attention

19/06/2019Aberdeen's green transport fleet attracting international attention

Aberdeen City Council’s hydrogen spokesperson, councillor Philip Bell, highlights the Granite City’s determination to play a leading ... more >
A fifth of public sector workers have never received a thank you from the people they serve

13/06/2019A fifth of public sector workers have never received a thank you from the people they serve

A fifth of the country’s public sector workers say they have NEVER received a ‘thank you’ for doing their job as Public Service... more >

interviews

Artificial intelligence: the devil is in the data

17/12/2018Artificial intelligence: the devil is in the data

It’s no secret that the public sector and its service providers need to invest in technology to help make better use of their resources. Bu... more >
Digital innovation in the public sector: The future is now

17/12/2018Digital innovation in the public sector: The future is now

One of the public sector’s key technology partners has recently welcomed a new member to its team. Matt Spencer, O2’s head of public ... more >
New Dorset Councils CEO on the creation of a new unitary: ‘This is going to be the right decision for Dorset’

05/11/2018New Dorset Councils CEO on the creation of a new unitary: ‘This is going to be the right decision for Dorset’

The new chief executive of one of the new unitary authorities in Dorset has outlined his approach to culture and work with employees, arguing tha... more >
Keeping the momentum of the Northern Powerhouse

15/10/2018Keeping the momentum of the Northern Powerhouse

On 6 September, the biggest decision-makers of the north joined forces to celebrate and debate how to drive innovation and improvement through th... more >