What is inclusive growth and can it be quantified and modelled to help policymakers make economic development decisions that include social dimensions, and aim to benefit more tiers of society and place, addressing structural and spatial inequalities?

For our upcoming event at the Alan Turing Institute and UCL KXBase on 13 October, we are inviting key thinkers and doers in the field for a set of talks exploring the topic, as well as data scientists, policymakers, think tanks and social entrepreneurs to come together and explore solutions, with the aim of exploring analytical ideas and outputs, funded by the Urban Dynamics Lab and co-designed with policy professionals.


+ Prof Alan Penn – The Bartlett, UCL Urban Dynamics Lab
+ Prof Mariana Mazzucato – UCL Institute for Innovation & Public Purpose
+ Chris Murray – Core Cities
+ Prof Ruth Lupton – Inclusive Growth Analytics Unit, University of Manchester
+ Indy Johar – Impact Hub

Please click here to download the complete programme (pdf).


Ideas of Inclusive Growth

Inclusive Growth is a concept derived from international development discourse in terms of macro-level interventions (OECD, WEF, World Bank, IMF) and also found in Europe 2020 literature. It has garnered increased attention in think tanks, academia, and to some extent, local and central government in the UK: through the APPG for Inclusive Growth, the Inclusive Growth Monitor with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the University of Manchester and the University of Sheffield, the RSA’s Inclusive Growth Commission, to name the most prominent.

The context in which the term ‘inclusive’ is predominantly used in UK policy discourse implies a focus on issues around

  1. Social inclusivity (i.e. different tiers of society),
  2. Spatial inclusivity (i.e. from central to decentralised; segregated and disadvantaged spatially at different scales) and
  3. Policy focus (i.e. linking of social and economic),

(New Economy Manchester/RSA, 2016)

The RSA Inclusive Growth Commission’s final report (2017) in particular focuses on the convergence of social and economic policy, listing as examples the following strategies:

  1. Investing in social infrastructure (education, skills and employability support, mental health, affordable childcare),
  2. Physical infrastructure (connecting people to economic assets and opportunities (via housing, transport, digital),
  3. Inclusive, place-based industrial strategies (long-term commitments to key sectors, clusters and technologies, including in low paid sectors)
  4. Business-led productivity and quality jobs (firms moving up value chain, creating quality jobs (fairly paid, scope for progression and autonomy, family friendly and flexible))
  5. Macro-environment (creating a culture of enterprise, inclusive legal/ financial institutions (eg regional banking), labour market regulation).

The University of Manchester’s Inclusive Growth Analysis Unit, together with The University of Sheffield and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has developed the Inclusive Growth Monitor, a set of indicators for annual measurement across Core Cities and LEPs that include income, living costs, labour market inclusion as part of the ‘economic inclusion’ component, and output growth, employment and human capital as part of the ‘prosperity’ component, and then gives dimension scores for both components in relation to each other to create economic inclusion profiles for LEPs, as well as a report on normalised change between 2010-2015 for LEPs and Core Cities. In addition, reports with case studies on specific policy interventions and recommendations for cities have been published by JRF, as well as research briefings and analysis by the Inclusive Growth Analysis Unit.

In the UK, LEPs and/or Combined Authorities are currently in the process of implementing the first iteration of their Strategic Economic Plans for local development and economic growth, following their city and devolution deals. Inclusive growth is referred to in more aspirational terms in some of the Combined Authorities’ Strategic Economic Plans (i.e. Tees Valley: under ‘Sustainable growth and economic equity’, as linked to DEFRA’s Sustainable Development Principles; Leeds City Region: also termed ‘good growth’ and related to the indicators of ‘growth and productivity’, ‘employment’, ‘earnings’, ‘skills’, and ‘environmental sustainability’, Greater Manchester Combined Authority), Core Cities documentation, such as the Core Cities recent Green Paper ‘Invest, Reform, Trust, A Core Cities Green Paper For A Stronger, Fairer Britain’, which sets out strategies under the headings of ‘1. People: place-based policies for Inclusive Growth, 2. Economy and Labour Markets: supporting enterprise, jobs and skills, 3. Infrastructure: building good-quality places for strong communities’, and with a particular focus on ‘Implementing place-based policies responsive to the distinctive needs of each city and neighbourhood, alongside investment that drives Inclusive Growth’.

Elsewhere across the Global North and within Europe (i.e. in particular in terms of employment and labour policy networks such as the European Anti Poverty Network), the concept and its interpretation and implementation is subject to very different geographic configurations in governance, regional and local identities, economic and political context, and fiscal and policy devolution.

The recent OECD publication ‘Making cites work for all’ (2016) in particular takes a focus on inclusive growth, addressing this from a number of different perspectives in a city context, namely institutional fragmentation and its relation to spatial segregation, but also suggests that there is a correlation between the level of land-use planning restrictions and availability and affordability of housing, for instance, and often a dichotomy between macro-level structural policy and lower level spatial planning policy that both affect productivity and social policy variables locally.

Other takes on the notion of ‘Inclusive Growth’ are represented for instance by Mariana Mazzucato’s work on innovation and inequality, suggesting policy that acknowledges and fosters a more equitable re-investment and distribution of corporate returns to all contributors to innovation, and ‘promote a different set of economic performance indicators that reflect increases in productivity, investments in innovation, and long run growth potential.’

Indy Johar, Co-Founder of 00 Architecture and a number of Impact Hubs, is undertaking work towards indicators to measure a more people-centered notion of Inclusive Growth, namely one of the ‘citizen capacity’ of places and societies, focusing not only on well-being, but also on how embedded, in control, engaged citizens of a place are in creating ‘growth’ or ‘prosperity’, ultimately founded in systems change towards a more distributed, decentralised and human centred society.

In policy circles doubt is often expressed about how to model, measure and deliver ‘inclusive growth’, even if the underlying philosophy is promoted by senior officials, and in part, policy proposals and programmes. These concepts still remain relatively undefined and with varying definitions and sets of indicators and scales, underlying  theories, and particularly lacking in the interrelated areas of spatial planning and infrastructure, which are often positioned as prominent elements and drivers of economic development strategies of varying importance, depending on the economic and political framework these policies are developed within. The role of place in policy intervention, particularly in the area of socio-economic development has again taken different forms in World Bank, European Union and country-specific approaches, with varying underlying ideas of ‘inclusivity’ and place-specific (as opposed to place-neutral) initiatives (Barca; McCann; Rodríguez-Pose, 2012; What works, 2016).

The factors outlined above are some of the areas that might be worth exploring and discussing when considering what the ‘inclusive growth’ concept might mean, and how it could relate to analytical approaches, both quantitative and qualitative.

For our explorations and in relation to the sources above, we have focused on the following four themes:

1. Accessibility and spatial inequality

2. Segregation, diversity and cohesion

3. Citizen capacity

4. Inclusive innovation



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