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The Regional Democracy Think Tank for West Yorkshire

Some reading for the end of 2016

At the end of last year, we collected together some of the pieces of writing that had got Same Skies members thinking that year. Many of these articles and blogs are still worth a look and given how much people seem to appreciate that list, we have decided to do the same again for the end of 2016.

As ideas of nations, regions and working together across borders became increasingly part of people's conversations in 2016, we looked back at two very prescient articles. In 2011 John Baxendale looked specifically at the North.And in 2014, Debora McKenzie wrote in the New Scientist about the role of nation states across history and their future relationship with regions and international co-operation. These thoughts also reminded us of the Necessary Group, a creative attempt at a positive regional identity for our friends in the North West.

So often the Big Issue in the North has been a great source of news from and ideas about places in the North. Here Hannah Mitchell Foundation member William Bolton proposed we work from the bottom up to create a 'Northern Umbrella'.

Ultimately this is all about our #RegionalDemocracy, our future as a community of humans. Here Frances Bee had some interesting thoughts on what a successful human community could look like.

But what is #RegionalDemocracy for? What do we want to do differently with the responsibility we take for our own futures? Throughout the year, we have published great ideas from people around West Yorkshire. One of these proposed trialing a Citizens' Income in West Yorkshire.  We watched with interest as devolution in Scotland enabled it to move beyond a sanctions based approach to tackling poverty and local authorities in Glasgow and Fife announced plans to trial forms of Basic Income.

Meanwhile former Same Skies blogger Penny Wangari-Jones made a powerful film with advice for people in West Yorkshire about how we could actively stand up against racism, including direct and immediate support for its victims.

We also found some thought provoking ideas for our future in other places:

  • A partnership in the Borders suggested how we could harness the power of the wind for a greater social good.

  • The model of local energy co-operatives in Germany made a lot of people consider if they could be part of our future here.

  • The Lucas Plan suggested a possible model for addressing the needs of local economies in the West Yorkshire currently dependent on the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia and elsewhere.

  • Blogger James Walsh proposed an alternative vision for the Northern Powerhouse... the Northern Greenhouse.

These ideas are all about #RegionalDemocracy, about us taking responsibility for actively making good things happen in our region. But that doesn't mean we can or want to be completely oblivious to the wider social, political and economic context and how those who currently hold power over us are seeing the future.

David Marlow looked at this year's referendum on the UK's membership of the EU and considered how the "strength & requirements of London's narrative distort top-down attempts" at positive change. Whilst Philip McCann gave a very clear summary of what he called the 'UK's regional economic problem' and Craig Berry argued hopefully that it might be "possible to go with the grain of existing devolution deals while broadening out their scope".

The perceived opportunities and dangers for local authorities in negotiating 'deals' with central government were given particularly useful background in this piece about the 'Strange Death of Municipal England' whilst Alex Harrowell gave a detailed and fascinating overview of struggles for power in one of our cities that he knows very well, Bradford.

What about you? Is there anything you have read over the last year that has really got you thinking about #RegionalDemocracy and your hopes for our shared future?

Best wishes for 2017 from all at Same Skies.

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