LED Confidential Revealed

LED Confidential Revealed

Without doubt, one of my favourite activities in 2022/23 so far has been the launch of the podcast LED Confidential, with my co-host Mike Spicer of Policy Department. 

 Billed as “the podcast that tries to lift the lid on those intractable, enduring challenges facing those of us working in and on local economic development (LED) and placemaking today”, LED Confidential has three episodes under our belt, with a fourth about to be recorded. Now seems a reasonable moment to take stock on the journey so far.  

 In each LED Confidential episode, Mike and I spend 40-45 minutes discussing a headline issue with an invited guest. To date we have looked, in broad terms, at place identity and evidence – with Rebecca Riley, Associate Professor at West Midlands REDI; the institutions that seek to lead and manage LED – with Tom Stannard, Chief Executive of Salford City Council; and what effective place leadership looks like – with Jonathan Carr-West, Chief Executive of Local Government Information Unit (LGIU). Our impending fourth episode will address funding LED and placemaking, with a guest who again has a high profile and outstanding credentials in the sector. 

 Each discussion is framed by a series of provocative and, to us at least, thought provoking questions. ‘What is more important the (place’s) story or the evidence?’ in episode one; ‘What makes a place-based LED organisation great?’ in episode two; and ‘is economic development always ultimately about politics?’ in episode three. I have suggested a rather cheeky ‘Is there ever a case for NOT bidding for Government LED funding?’ for our impending episode. We’ll see if that survives the editorial process! 

 Of course, we recognise that there are no singular right answers to any of these provocations. But we believe resolving the issues underpinning them are amongst the most important undertakings of those as passionate about LED and placemaking as we are. Getting the narrative of place and the evidence supporting that narrative right; strengthening the institutions charged with putting that narrative into practice; and effectively leading the political choices that change requires all meet the podcast’s ‘intractable and enduring challenges’ criteria. Reflecting on how, too often these challenges are submerged in frenetic and exhausting bid-writing for the latest tranche of government largesse seems a relevant way to round off our first quartet of episodes. 

 As a co-host, LED Confidential has been enjoyable and stimulating throughout. I am thankful, to my co-host, Mike, to James Marriott of WeAreSoundMedia, who has not only produced the episodes, but has taught me a lot about the ‘magic arts’ of podcasting. And, of course, we are all grateful to each of our guests for giving up their time to make such perceptive contributions to each conversation. 

 To date, responses from listeners has been positive and supportive – and that is reassuring. Listeners who enjoy and value the episodes, and provide their feedback and suggestions for the future, is certainly one measure of success which will shape the podcast going forward. I will always appreciate constructive criticism – warts and all – so please keep it coming. 

 But I tend to think quantities of listeners and their relatively low-level engagement to be necessary but far from sufficient for our motivation in starting and ambitions for LED Confidential in the future. 

 The genesis of LED Confidential was rooted in Mike and my conviction that the LED and Placemaking ‘community of practice’ lacked the type of voice a podcast could catalyse. A neutral space where we can discuss those critical difficult issues to which there are no off-the-shelf, formulaic solutions and which do genuinely cause us sleepless nights. Over the second half of 2022, it would be great to hear your ideas both on the character of demand for this type of space and what more LED Confidential can do to enable and support it. 

 And finally, we wanted LED Confidential to play a modest but tangible role in what we are all in LED and placemaking for – better places with improving economic performance, social and environmental outcomes. All of us ultimately practise LED and placemaking in the hope we have a positive impact – and we need your help to answer the questions of how LED Confidential can contribute to that. 

 So, several requests to this blog’s readers. Please listen to LED Confidential, give us your feedback on current, and suggestions for future, episodes. And please consider how LED Confidential can build our community of practice and enable us to be more effective and impactful.  

 The analogy is not precise, but akin to the provocations that launch each LED Confidential episode, in framing the provocation for signing off this blog, one of the questions would be something like “What do we have to do to make LED Confidential go viral?” 

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