Five: Microsolutions for megaproblems: what works in urban regeneration policy?


This chapter sets Connected Communities in the context of current thinking on local economic development in the ‘post-regeneration’ era. I briefly survey post-1997 state-led regeneration in the UK, tracing the shift in England from holistic neighbourhood-level social inclusion initiatives to economically-focused local growth programmes. Next, I highlight the various ‘shocks’ that have hit these regeneration models since 2007, and discuss where this leaves neighbourhood-level activity in particular. The theories of change invoked for such programmes suggest that their economic impacts will be small, but that interventions also have an important non-economic rationale. Getting a sense of ‘what works’ in urban regeneration is challenging, however, given the multifaceted nature of the programmes and underlying system complexity. The UK’s emerging experimentalist paradigm could generate a more convincing evidence base for neighbourhood-level urban regeneration, but there are real constraints to what localism and the ‘what works’ agenda can do, particularly under austerity.

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