30 years of the Initiative in Bristol

Today’s guest blog is from James Durie, Chief Executive of Bristol Chamber and & West of England Initiative.

James Durie

2018 marks thirty years since a group of civic minded business leaders came together to form the Bristol Initiative –which I am now the Chief Executive of.

The Initiative is unique in the UK. A network of civic, business and community leaders, united not by profit, politics or the achievement of personal ends, but the quest to make Bristol a better place for everyone.

Founded in 1988, the Initiative’s premise was (and still is) based on the notion that businesses don’t exist in a vacuum, rather they are part of the fabric of civic life, and therefore have a responsibility to preserve and protect it.

The Initiative started in testing times – in the aftermath of the St Paul’s riots. This was a flashpoint in our city’s history in which trust in the system and trust in the Local Authorities’ ability to provide people a better life had reached an all-time low.

People were angry. Angry at being excluded. Angry at being overlooked by mainstream society. And angry that no one seemed to care. The Initiative’s founders were angry too.

They were angry that the living standards enjoyed by residents in Clifton didn’t reach as far as St Paul’s. They were angry at a lost generation of Bristolians. They were angry that the council didn’t seem to care. They were angry that businesses felt powerless to do anything about it, and in response they formed the Initiative.

As successful businesspeople, they weren’t naïve enough to think that they could change the city’s fortunes overnight. The Initiative’s founders were acutely aware of the importance of engaging key city partners, from local government and civil society, and uniting them behind a shared vision for the city region.

This was sorely needed at the time because Bristol’s reputation was seen as a place where good ideas came to die, where vested interests, in-fighting and apathy got in the way of positive change and the common good.

In the immediate years after the Initiative was formed, a partnership between council and commerce began to emerge. A partnership I am delighted to say remains to this day.

While at first the Initiative’s projects were largely concentrated in south Bristol – one of the group’s earliest projects was to establish Hartcliffe Leisure in 1989 – over the past 30 years the Initiative’s impact has steadily grown across Bristol, Bath and the West of England, duly recognising the value of working together at both city and regional level.

For 30 years the Bristol, Bath and West of England Initiative has had a role, whether large or small, in inspiring and delivering a series of successes throughout the region, each time working in partnership with a range of other organisations.

One of the Initiative’s most notable achievements in its first few years was the role it played in securing approval for Bristol’s Harbourside development. A derelict and unloved patch of wasteland splitting the city in two, was turned around with the work of key city partners. Since then this part of Bristol has changed beyond all recognition, and I am immensely proud of the part we have played in this.

For all this, problems remain in our city.

While economic growth and prosperity have transformed neighbourhoods such as St Paul’s, Stokes Croft and Easton from no-go areas to some of the most desirable in the city (because of their local communities not in spite of them), we have a rising number of rough sleepers on our streets. Educational attainment among BAME children may be at the highest it’s ever been, yet air quality is worse now than it was during the industrial revolution.

We are one of the most liveable cities in the UK, but many people cannot afford their own homes. How can our young people set down roots and build their futures here? Where will civic leaders of tomorrow come from without stability at home?

The election of a city region ‘Metro Mayor’ in 2017 marked a new era in terms of devolution from Westminster and the capacity for civic and business leaders to make a difference at a local level on some of these issues.

Working with our city mayor Marvin Rees and our local and combined authority leaders, my colleagues and I are committed to following an agenda which seeks to get the very best out of the public and private sector working together for this city region. Working together to play an active role in the development of this city region for all.

As we reach our forth decade of work, we’re in better shape to meet the challenges of the future than ever. More than 600 people from more than 200+ organisations are active participants or members of the Initiative. We have some strong local leadership and an economy that is growing and aiming to outperform the rest and realise more of its potential.

In these uncertain times, we must continue to stand together as a city region and get behind a bold and inclusive vision for the future. So if like me you love Bristol, partner with us to help make the next thirty years in this city even more special than the last.

Mayor Marvin Rees is attending the Initiative 30th anniversary event at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre on 6th December 2018 to speak of the contribution the Initiative has made and is making to Bristol and the wider area and how we need to work together.

For more information on the work of the Initiative visit: https://www.businesswest.co.uk/initiative/west-of-england

Bristol & Bath Regional Capital third birthday

Edward-RowberryToday’s guest blog comes from Edward Rowberry, Chief Executive of Bristol and Bath Regional Capital, following their third birthday celebrations last night. 

For the last decade, cities across the globe have been performing a juggling act. On the one hand, the need for strong city leadership and services has been expanding: increasing social and environmental challenges require cities to act locally, nationally and internationally. On the other hand, funding for these activities has become more and more unstable and less secure. In response, the more innovative cities around the globe—where I count Bristol—have begun a shift from being primarily a service provider to becoming more of a service enabler.

There will always be services that only the public sector should provide. Yet there are others that could be part of the private or voluntary sector, supported by a city that is both a convener and a collaborator. In this context, the source of funding to do the work becomes paramount. Typically, we are only used to thinking about two forms of money: tax money that the state uses to perform services at a loss, and investment money that banks use to maximise profit. But there is another form of money emerging. This type seeks to create a positive social or environmental outcome while also creating a modest return that can go on and fund the next thing – a financial version of the circular economy.

When looked at through the lens of the city, this could be termed place-based investing. That is, using investment for the good of a particular place. In our case, Bristol and Bath Regional Capital CIC (BBRC) www.bab-rc.uk was created to use money for the benefit of our region: to see our local economy thrive financially, socially and environmentally.

Recently, we celebrated our third anniversary with our partners and fellow city innovators at Leigh Court. There, we released our first-ever impact report, detailing how we’ve been able to secure £27 million of place-based investment into the region so far. This included providing 161 new homes on the Dunmail school site in the area of Southmead, of which 34 were discounted for keyworkers and 27 were for ethically rented homes. We also helped raising £1 million to build 6 5-a-side football pitches for South Bristol Sports Centre for the community to enjoy. Some of our investments have been as small as £5,000 through our Community Innovation Fund pilot programme.

Through these successes we have also come to a realisation that so much more needs to be done. One of the things that I love about Bristol is its entrepreneurial and collaborative nature. This extends across the city, and is at the heart of City Funds, a new place-based investment fund due to be launched next April. The fund is unique globally in that it is a partnership between an impact investor (BBRC), a grant maker (Quartet Community Foundation), and a public body (Bristol City Council). This partnership will allow us to bring investment, grant, community assets, resource from business and knowledge together to create bespoke packages for change makers working towards the goals of the city. As far as I’m aware, there’s nothing like it in the world—a testament to Bristol’s creativity.

In the same vein, BBRC’s successful collaboration with Cheyne Capital Property Fund, United Communities and the Council on the Dunmail housing scheme has paved the way for an imminent second project. Endorsed by the Mayor at our anniversary gathering, we continue to work hard with public and private partners to create another much-needed mixed-tenure development in Bristol. We continue to pursue this co-designed and co-owned strategy because we know it works, especially here.

In my work, I speak to lots of people about money, and what money can achieve if it’s given the right constraints and the right motivation. And I’m proud of what we’ve been able to do with the money we’ve invested. But in these three years, what I’m most proud of is being part of a wider city culture that seeks to collaborate towards solutions. It’s this attitude that will drive the investment, and the city, of the future.

If you would like to find out more about BBRC click below to read our 2018 impact report.

BBRC Impact report 2018

Breakfast Clubs

Today’s blog comes from Cllr Anna Keen, Cabinet Member for Education and Skills

Cllr Anna Keen

Breakfast is often described as the most important meal of the day. We all know that if we want to be at our best at work or with our families, we need to start the day well. This includes eating a healthy meal, as well as starting the day as we mean to go on – by interacting with our friends, family and colleagues.

During the 2016 elections in Bristol, we pledged to do all in our power to ensure that ‘no child goes to school hungry.’ Feeding Bristol, the charity I helped to start, has this as one of it’s key aims. As a mum and a teacher, I see first hand the benefits to a child’s attitude, behaviour, learning and overall wellbeing that eating a good breakfast makes to children.

Sadly, for many families in our city, simply feeding your children each day is a huge challenge. We believe that this is unacceptable and have therefore worked with the charity Fareshare to set up free or low-cost breakfast clubs in many of our schools. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, with several of our schools extending this to the whole family and using the early mornings to work on nutrition and cooking skills. It also helps our children get into school on time each day. We would like to see this offer extended to all our schools and last week, Fareshare invited our city’s business community to commit to sponsoring a club in a local school.

You can find out more about how to get involved here: http://faresharesouthwest.org.uk/


Bristol’s Festive Markets & Fair Saturday

As we move closer to the festive season, Bristol’s high streets, markets and shopping centres become decorated and lit up thanks to partners such as Destination Bristol and their Christmas switch on. It marks the start of Christmas shopping and a period of hard work for traders looking to do as much business as possible to offset leaner periods.

We are tuned in to the challenge facing our high streets due to the growing retail crisis. We have identified this as a priority and have launched work looking at Bristol’s High Streets and retail sector and created the City Centre Revitalisation Group.

We have welcomed the recent announcement of WECA funding of £10m to help our high streets and revive town centres. We have selected Bedminster as our trial, focusing in and around East Street. The criteria used for selecting the High Street was based on a number of factors including; vacancy rate, strategic importance, availability of opportunity for intervention/change and potential for positive impact on Bristol’s most deprived communities.

We expect there to be a number of other High Streets supported after Bedminster and we will further develop criteria. (The proposals will be agreed at the West of England Combined Authority committee meeting on 30th November).

At Christmas it is clear larger companies play a huge role in our economy, substantial revenues flow into Bristol through the big commercial organisations and they help drive our economic success. But I also want to pay tribute to the many small and independent traders operating in our city. Small businesses in the form of stall holders, shops, street food producers and concession holders are a vital part of our economy and street scene; they also form part of what’s uniquely ‘Bristol’ – our culture and style.

The appeal of small scale trading is clear at St Nicholas Market. Our award-winning Corn Exchange market, with its famous traders’ “nails” standing on Corn Street, is buzzing with activity most days but at Christmas comes into its own. 60 stalls are in the covered section and from Wednesday 12 December special themed markets will operate outside – ‘Vegan and Wellbeing’, ‘Farmers and Producers’ and ‘Christmas Street Food’. St Nick’s is celebrating 275 years of trading this year and will be open every day from Sunday 18 November to Christmas Eve.

It’s that culture/commerce balance that is the focus of Fair Saturday, an initiative I’m proud to support – it seeks to promote cultural activity and empathy as a balance to global commerce.

Fair Saturday is a perfect fit for Bristol as an outward facing, global city proud of both its cultural offer and the engagement of its citizens. It is a city that strives for fairness in the context of the challenges and opportunities facing us. So this weekend, Bristol leads the way again by hosting the first official Fair Saturday in England. Originating in Bilbao, Spain, Fair Saturday is part of a global movement that aims to be a creative response to Black Friday. Alongside 100 cities worldwide, Bristol artists, performers, communities and social causes are coming together to create and reflect on what it means to be a fair society, while supporting social causes in the process.

More than 40 activities have registered and are taking place across the city. From the UK’s only (and Bristol-based) fully integrated orchestra, Paraorchestra & Friends performing at Motion night club on Friday 23 November, to 91 Ways celebrating and raising awareness of Bristol’s rich cultural diversity with ACH Housing and Tribe of Doris arts collective, these events demonstrate Bristol culture, and its social conscience, in action. Fair Saturday is a great example of our wide-ranging, inclusive cultural offer and I am pleased that there is something for everybody in the city to participate in if they want to.

The markets are also supporting Fair Saturday on 24 November with a special artist’s performance within the St Nicholas market complex. I urge everyone to drop by and support your local independent traders this season.
How to find out more:
Fair Saturday Bristol events are taking place throughout Saturday 24th November in venues and locations across the city, including museums, markets, cultural venues, cafes and night clubs. There’s something for everyone, whatever your age or interest. Follow #FairSaturday on social media.

All events are listed and located on the Fair Saturday app which can be downloaded to smart phones here.

Printed trail maps will also be available from Friday at Colston Hall Foyer, Spike Island, Central Library, Vestibules at City Hall, and Hamilton House.

Fair Saturday programme for Bristol:https://app.fairsaturday.org/listaeventos2018/Bristol

Visit Bristol’s Christmas markets and attractions in detail.


International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls 2018

This Sunday (25 November) marks the United Nations (UN) International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls. It is vital that the day is used to highlight the scale of an issue that is too often hidden. Globally, 1 in 3 women and girls experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, most frequently by an intimate partner.

On our part, Bristol City Council is in the process of reviewing its domestic violence and sexual abuse strategy. But this is not an issue we can address in silos. In Bristol we are working collectively with a range of partners, including Avon & Somerset Police, NextLink, SARSAS, BAVA, and Women’s Aid to tackle domestic violence and sexual abuse against women. It is clear that a life course approach needs to be adopted, addressing the ways in which children are impacted by domestic violence and sexual abuse, and the intergenerational dimensions of this. I’m proud that Bristol is the only Core City with a Cabinet Member for Women, in the excellent Councillor Helen Godwin. Helen is addressing domestic violence across generations by leading on a city-wide campaign to make Bristol an Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Aware city, which will be launched at a conference in January 2019. You can read more about ACEs and why breaking the cycle of harmful behaviours here. Helen and I recently visited One25 , a charity specialising in enabling women to break free from street sex-work, addiction and other life-controlling issues and build new, independent lives. What struck me the most was how vulnerable the women One25 work with are to violence. Their Pause programme, funded by Bristol City Council, works to halt the cycle of adversity by supporting women to keep children in their care and move on as parents.

To truly tackle the devastating impacts of domestic violence and abuse, we need to think long term. In 2015, a new UN global development agenda was accepted by all countries and is applicable to all. Through its 17 goals, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, an agenda for global action for the next 15 years, addresses the three dimensions of sustainable development: the economic, social, and environmental. The Agenda recognises gender equality and the empowerment of women as a key priority, pledging that “no one will be left behind”. Goal 5 of the agenda aims to “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” and includes specific targets to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls. I see the sustainable development goals, including that of gender equality, as central to delivering a city in which nobody is left behind. This is why we are working to embed them in our One City Plan, which sets out our ambitions for the city with a clear action plan for how to achieve them to 2050. It is evident that there is a long way to go to achieve gender equality, but I am glad that Bristol is at the forefront of this.

‘Big Offer Big Ask’ with the Mayor’s Office

I have asked my team to meet with the organisations and individuals who have big ideas for Bristol and its people. I want to make sure everyone who has a good idea has a chance to be heard.

My vision is for a city where nobody is left behind, and I am always keen to hear people’s ideas and solutions to help us achieve this collectively. We are making space for people with a big ‘offer’ for the city to ‘ask’ for the support to deliver it, either from Bristol City Council or other city partners.

The sessions will be an opportunity for people to table their ideas, plans and projects and potentially get support to see how they can be taken forward by the city.  The discussions will be professional and constructive – they’re about sharing ideas and solutions, rather than specific complaints or cases.

How to get involved:

If you have an “offer” to make the city and want to explore it with my team, write to Mayor.Office@bristol.gov.uk summarising your idea in no more than 300 words. The deadline is the 30th of November, with the session taking place in mid-December. Once reviewed, my team will shortlist and invite individuals and representatives to a session to discuss their idea in more detail.

Your submission should show that the project is positive for the city, deliverable and something my office can influence. I look forward to hearing your ideas and solutions.


On Site Bristol Apprenticeship Awards

One of the key pledges I set when I was elected was: deliver work experience and apprenticeships for every young person. This evening, at the ‘On Site’ annual awards me and my Cabinet Member for Education & Skills, Anna Keen, will be celebrating the achievements of apprentices and employers who are helping us fulfil that pledge.

Every year On Site supports over 300 apprentices, helping them into career opportunities in the construction industry. They work with over 200 employers, ranging from small local enterprises to major national housebuilders. On Site runs a schools outreach programme which promotes construction careers in over 40 local schools and colleges.

Bristol is growing, and new buildings are going up all the time. Over the coming decades we need to build thousands of new homes to support the region’s growth. The work On Site is doing is therefore crucial to opening up the employment and apprenticeship opportunities for local people. Apprenticeships and construction job opportunities are hugely valuable ways to develop sustainable careers. The On Site recruitment process enables candidates to access opportunities based on their potential, not just traditional qualifications, and their success rates are fantastic with 92% achieving their qualifications and moving into sustainable careers.

It is vital then that we celebrate the work of organisations like On Site and how successful they have been in helping local people to access jobs, training and opportunities jobs in construction. One thing that On Site does particularly well is open up opportunities for traditionally under-represented groups in the construction industry. Darren Perkins, Bristol City Council Apprenticeship Manager said: “At On Site Bristol we are working hard with local schools, businesses and our partners to tackle the male dominated image of construction in order to encourage more women to consider a career within the local industry. Construction is a major pillar of the UK’s economy, employing around 2.1 million people. But women make up just 11% of this industry. We are continuing to work on ideas to champion diversity and inclusion within the industry.”

These awards give us the chance to take a moment to reflect on the achievements of our talented young apprentices and I’d like to congratulate all our winners and nominees. The On Site Bristol team play an important role in creating these opportunities, inspiring apprentices and nurturing their talent. This is brilliant for our local industries as many of our past winners have gone on to start their own companies and take on apprentices of their own. As a Learning City we are always looking to create more opportunities for people to learn and I’d also like to thank the many employers offering quality apprenticeships to help make Bristol a more equal place to live and work.

For people who are interested On Site will be running an Open Evening on Wednesday 28th November at the Create Centre, Smeaton Road, Bristol, BS1 6XN, between 17:00 and 19:30. If you are interested in a career in the construction industry and are leaving education after year 11, 12 or 13 you should go along.

You can ring 0117 3521960 or visit www.onsitebristol.co.uk for more details.

Bristol Equality Charter

Today joined around 200 people at the Bristol M Shed for a standing room only event to launch the Bristol Equality Charter.

The Bristol Equality Charter is unique to our city. Although we have many documents about equality, this one attempts to bring everything together in one place.

Key to the potential of the Charter is the fact that it’s something that has been written by over 20 Bristol based organisations from across the public, voluntary community and private sectors. And more are signing up. Bristol City Council area founding member, but it’s owned by the city.

The development of the charter has led to the formation of a new Bristol Equality Network.

A group of individuals representing the equalities agenda within their organisations. The network will meet regularly to support new organisations that sign up to the charter, and share information and good practice.

I shared a number of reflections on a couple of the challenges facing us in this work. First is to rescue Equalities from being an after thought once all the “serious” work has been done. While many would agree to the importance of equality and inclusion, it actually lands as a check on existing strategy and policy after the fact, rather than a driver and shaper of policy and strategy at its point of origin.

Second, its essential we don’t allow the different equalities “strands” to be played against each other like Top Trumps. It has sometimes been the case that when someone talks about race, someone raises class or vice versa. Or when someone raises gender someone raises disability or vice versa. It has sometimes been the case that equalities has become a race to the bottom for who has the worst story. We need to get to a position of collective respect where we simply realise that they are all true and that many people live at the intersection of multiple equalities stories.

I also shared the considerable opportunities. The 2010 book “The Spirit Level” argued that more equal societies almost always do better on a whole range of indicators a from economy development to health and education. As a result they argue we have reached the end of what growth alone can do for us as a policy tool. The key lever is now delivering equality.

Finally Channel 4 chose Bristol in major part because of our genuine commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion. It’s in this sense that its become an asset, profit that values and a commitment to a better society and good growth can win the inward investment we need to take Bristol forward.

Living Wage Employer Accreditation

This week we, Bristol City Council, were accredited as a Living Wage Employer.

This is a huge achievement for us. I am immensely proud. It is yet another 2016 manifesto pledge delivered.

The council now joins more than 220 South West employers officially committed to paying the living wage. The announcement comes at the same time that the Living Wage rate is increased by 25p to £9 an hour in line with rising living costs.


The Living Wage is an independently set hourly rate of pay for everyone over 18, calculated according to the basic costs of living, and is higher than the current minimum wage for those aged over 25 set by the Government.

It is right that work is properly compensated and wages enable people to live a full live with dignity. The fact that the National Minimum Wage has not kept up with the rise in the cost of living means hundreds of thousands of people in the South West do not earn enough to cover the basics of living.  A fifth of jobs in the region still pay less than the ‘real’ living wage.

We hope to lead by example in promoting employee economic and social wellbeing for our workers; we hope that other large employers in the region follow suit and do the right thing. A living wage is good for workers and the economy (because people spend more) and the public purse (because the public sector isn’t subsidising poverty wage packets).

Now we have opened the conversation about making Bristol a real living wage city. This could include a Bristol-specific living wage (probably somewhere between the national real living wage and the London weighting).

A Rising Tide

This week is the ‘Festival of Economics’, hosted by the Bristol Cultural Development Partnership. The festival hosts speakers and events to provoke thought and debate about economics and what that means for people and their everyday lives.

Some tried to peddle a belief economic growth would ‘trickle down’ in a way that would benefit everyone, often using the phrase “a rising tide lifts all boats”. Supporters of this theory argued that growth, measured by Gross Domestic Product, GDP, the overall value added by economic activity, regardless of how it was generated, would reach all parts of the economy and everyone would be better off.

That theory is widely criticised and here in Bristol, experience has shown us it’s more complicated than that. Using the same measure, GDP (or at a city level, Gross Value Added, GVA), Bristol has seen exceptional economic growth over several decades. But that growth hasn’t been benefitting everyone. Many neighbourhoods have fallen further behind others. Concentrations of persistent disadvantage have remained in pretty much the same places and inequality is on the rise.

Basic measures of economic activity, such as employment, earnings and skills, are mirrored by the effects on people’s lives such as health, housing and crime, in demonstrating the fundamental inequalities in our city.


It is clear that growing an economy in such a lopsided way was hugely inefficient. Not only were the costs of these inequalities and disadvantage (the welfare costs, the health costs, etc.) acting as a brake on prosperity, but we were missing out on the potential of those people who were being effectively excluded from contributing to the economy, the life and the wellbeing of the city. It is now widely accepted that inequality and exclusion weaken economic growth, waste resources and limit sustainability.

We are committed to introducing policies and activities to support more inclusive economic growth. Growth that enables all to participate as well as benefit.   Growth that is more fairly shared across the city and is more sustainable so that it is for the long-term. This means that we can directly address inequalities, help each individual to maximise their potential and to make more responsible use of resources.

Our Inclusive & Sustainable Economic Growth Strategy, co-produced with many people and organisations throughout the city, has a vision “to enable all the people of Bristol to create a sustainable, inclusive and growing economy from which all will benefit”. We see inclusion as a driver of economic growth, through a diverse workforce and economic structure that promotes creativity, innovation and the productivity that delivers prosperity.

People are the key element in the ‘triple bottom line’ of profit, people and planet that must be the purpose of the local economy. We have set out our thinking in a strategy and we are now asking for views on the actions to achieve the objectives. Consultation on the Inclusive & Sustainable Economic Growth Action Plan will begin this month, with the intention that our planning will be inclusive and so better equipped to deliver for everyone.