2 march 2021, any time, any place

Back when we wrote the strategy on which a decade of successful policymaking in manchester was built, most chapters flowed easily: housing had people and initiatives ready to go, the environment was a dynamic growth area, transport was equally laden with long-term strategic vision and shovel-ready projects, skills bursting at the seams, governance and international as ever my party pieces, and the economic golden thread of agglomeration that bound it all together had been woven by genuinely world leading academics such as henry overman, ed glaeser and diane coyle. The runt of the litter though, was "sense of place", where the policy waifs, strays and bright ideas that didn't fit elsewhere washed up. This may seem odd for a place as vibrant and brashly confident in its identity, but when each of greater manchester's component parts weighed in, there were far more different parts than the whole. We did not want anodyne platitudes riffing on sustainable clusters, diverse competitive ecosystems fighting inequality with ladders of opportunity and safe, healthy and happy spaces, let alone a post-industrial revolution climate change greenwash (manchester: we started it, now we'll finish it). Strategy is important though, words make worlds. There is no economic development magic dust to sprinkle, but radical, coherent, strategic place-making can work, and is needed especially now as the speed of change increases exponentially. Today a barista, unheard of back then, is a more popular career than a barrister. With tribal and communal identities, place-based and not, more salient than ever, tying together the citizens of here, everywhere and nowhere, whether or not they want to be anchored, is a critical success factor for any place, as is attracting people to move there, charging and changing those places with new lifeblood. Ultimately, places are made by people.