RSA Policy Expo Grant Scheme - Call for Applications
The Association seeks a leading and impactful role for its community, to inform and influence policy and practice in creative and ambitious ways. The aim is to support Expos addressing issues that are important, current and having an impact on society. These Expos will investigate how the communities of regional studies, regional science, urban studies and related fields can respond to new societal challenges and opportunities.
Value: up to £15,000 (c. $19,000; c. €16,800)
Application Deadline: 20th April 2021
More details and the application form are available here: https://www.regionalstudies.org/funding/policy-expo-grant-scheme/
Please send your queries and your application to firstname.lastname@example.org
Applications are invited on the following themes:
The occurrence of pandemics such as COVID-19, Ebola, Swine Flu, and SARs have devastating health impacts. In addition, the social and economic effects of pandemics are equally profound and negative. These impacts are felt not only globally, or nationally, but at the regional level too.
Indeed, critically, and in the immediate responses to dealing with pandemics, governments and communities have turned to place-based solutions. These include, for example, the closing of borders, the restriction of local travel, an emphasis upon local foundational services (health/education) and on community and neighbourhood solutions to provide both support and an answer to the challenges of infection and economic disruption.
The scale and impact of pandemics often highlights that in times of acute crises, robust place-based policies are required to sustain individuals and the cities and regions in which they live. Questions here arise of the resilience of cities and regions, and the appropriate policy responses to mitigate the long-term scarring effects of pandemics and to restore local economic growth. Indeed, the impact of temporary measures (such as lockdown measures) to reduce infection rates could exacerbate existing regional imbalances, especially between regions more reliant upon manufacturing vis-à-vis regions whose economy is more financed based and can more easily adapt to home-working. There are also concerns about the provision of health and education services, especially where these are shifted to online delivery, and in regions where access to new digital technologies is limited.
More widely, lockdown measures are designed to initiate (temporary) behavioural changes in the context of work, technology and the environment. These, in turn, though have spatial impacts, for instance on mobility, urban centres and the environment. Yet, these temporary responses may also lay the foundations for a longer-term re-imagination of new working spaces, geo-spatial production lines, inter-regional connectedness and the effective use of technologies. Indeed, issues such as food security and the availability of medical supplies are becoming increasingly salient, and there is growing recognition that the future geography of production (such as a reliance upon Global Value Chains), may be very different.
This RSA Policy Expo Call seeks proposals that explore the spatial impact of pandemics, the resilience of regions and the appropriate regional policy responses.
Some key issues that could be addressed, but are not limited include:
- Assessing the socio-economic impacts of pandemics on regions, particularly in terms of its impact on health, education, local economies and regional imbalances.
- The comparative resilience of regions to pandemics and drawing lessons for mitigating the impact of future ‘health shocks’.
- Evaluating the co-ordination and impact of International, National and Regional Policy responses to pandemics and/or exploring policy options to revitalise regional economies post-pandemic.
- Managing regional foundational sectors (e.g. health/education) to sustain local services during and after pandemics.
- The short and long-term impact of pandemics for the geo-spatial context, especially with regards to new working spaces, regional and urban centres, mobility, global production chains and utility of new technology.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of the ‘Foundational Economy’ (FE) i.e. those sectors which provide the essential (and largely collective) goods and services that comprise everyday life. These include so-called ‘mundane’ service sectors such as health, education, social care, energy and food. In many regions – especially lagging regions – such activities have long comprised the major part of the local economy. Yet, conventional innovation policy has largely utilised a traditional Science and Technology model with an emphasis upon a narrow band of ‘high tech’ sectors, often to the detriment of foundational activities.
In recent years, policymakers at both national and supranational levels, have begun to identify grand societal challenges such as renewable energy, food security, climate change/clean growth, future of mobility, healthy ageing, and health response systems (EC, 2010). By definition, these societal challenges largely affect the foundational sectors. Addressing such challenges is likely to be a multi-dimensional process, which necessitates both technological and social innovation, and involving a wide set of stakeholders (firms, researchers, consumers/users and citizens) in co-producing new knowledge and experimentation with new ideas. While solutions to these challenges will have a global application, there are clear opportunities to undertake the research and experimentation process in an inclusive way at local and regional levels.
For instance, regional foundational activities can facilitate social innovation processes and act as a conduit for co-production. This may arise through experimental platforms and interdisciplinary living labs with researchers working in concert with private, public and third sector actors. Regional policy initiatives (e.g. UK Local industrial strategies) and key regional anchors (e.g. HE institutions/Healthcare providers) can play a key role in facilitating this process. In doing so, this may enable place-based policies (such as Smart Specialisation) to identify and support more opportunities in lagging regions.
This RSA Policy Expo Call seeks proposals that explore the growing importance of the Foundational Economy and social innovation within regional economies, and hitherto the role of regional policies to take advantage of these opportunities.
Some key issues that could be addressed, but are not limited include:
- How might place based policies (such as Smart Specialisation) support social innovation and enhance regional foundational sectors?
- The role of regional anchors in promoting social innovation, foundational sectors and addressing societal challenges.
- Comparative Case studies and policy lessons from regional initiatives to promote social innovation
- Evaluating social innovation – what metrics are useful or are required to ensure social innovation policies meet their objectives?
- The re-orientation of foundational sectors as the basis for inclusive regional growth
Technological change is reshaping local labour markets. Employment structures have polarised in many advanced countries, with growth in high-wage professional occupations alongside growth in low-wage jobs. At the same time, there is widespread concern about the rise of the Gig Economy – task-based employment, often mediated via digital platforms, which offers few of the benefits of a traditional employer-employee relationship. This has led to concerns about the hollowing out the labour market, algorithmic control of employment, and – particularly in the context of COVID-19 – concerns that the burden of economic and health risk is being placed on the worker rather than the firm.
These changes in the labour market have coincided with a widespread concern that the benefits of economic growth are not being shared equally. Inequality has been rising over the past 50 years, with recent growth being driven primarily by the top 1%. Growth has often been accompanied with a decline in the labour share. And wages have been stagnant for the median worker in many countries. The result has been increasing concern with the notion of ‘Inclusive Growth’, with local areas launching strategies aiming to change the pattern of growth in their local economies. The OECD has launched an ‘Inclusive Growth in Cities’ campaign and cities across the world, from Cape Town to Belfast, have launched strategies aimed at making growth inclusive.
Local policymakers have been rethinking how they support workers in this changing context. Technological change challenges traditional support for those in (e.g. Unions) and out (e.g. welfare-to-work) of the labour market, the structure and targeting of skill systems, and the way in which local policymakers think about labour market interventions such as transport. These changes are likely to be accelerated by COVID-19 which, early evidence suggests, is increasing the skill bias in the economy with job losses primarily focused on the low-wage labour market.
This RSA Policy Expo Call seeks proposals which consider these challenges and the implications of existing research for policy. Key issues which could be addressed include, but are not limited to:
- Mapping the changing world of work, how it varies geographically, and what different local policy responses might be
- Considering evidence on the geography of the gig economy and what that means for place-based policy
- Reviewing and evaluating place-based policies which seek to address low wage employment, such as skill upgrading
- Highlighting international best-practice in efforts to address labour market change, such as the New York Career Pathways model
- Comparative evidence on policy responses to local labour market change