…after all, you won’t get a grant to dig yourself out of a big hole unless you can prove that you’re in one to start with.
…in the county where I live, across the UK, Europe and the wider Western World there is an industry of “needs” analysis and bid writing. The way this industry works is roughly as follows; study the needs of an area or a particular community of interest, look for deficits, problems and fears, leave no stone unturned in your hunt to find as many serious socially destructive underlying issues as possible. If you can’t find anything then just think outside the box and invent a new social condition that has serious and as yet unproven consequences; perhaps over exposure to stunning landscapes leading to an inability to take urban living seriously, I and a number of my friends can speak from personal experience of having to live with this rare debilitating condition for many years.
Then once you have identified an attention grabbing list of serious issues (make sure these are issues that can never be properly addressed because you don’t want the funding to deal with these issues to end), then create a compelling bid based upon tackling these “needs”. The bid should paint a picture of grimness, the likes of which would look at home in the book of revelations…things are grim, grimmer than you can imagine, as grim as a grim thing from the planet grim (you get the gist) and then wrap up the bid with the promise that they will only get grimmer unless…unless you can have access to lots of money to deal with them.
Of course the obvious flaw in this plan is that things probably won’t get better, but those organisations that are involved in “regeneration” have learnt the art of simultaneously talking up what they do whilst also talking up the problems and talking down the areas that they are trying to help. When you think about it this is quite a balancing act; on the one hand they are saying, “look at us we have been doing a fantastic job solving complex problems” and on the other hand they are saying, “things are still really bad and we need more public money to solve the problems”. It’s a self perpetuating business model in which they create a market for their services by emphasising problems and then say they have the solutions to fix these problems; it’s a canny technique. And after all the Public Money is spent and the consultants are challenged on why things didn’t get better, the creative and experienced bid writer has a proven response to this minor objection and it goes like this; “things would have got a heck of a lot worse if no-one had intervened…and by the way we need to keep intervening to prevent an even greater set of problems occurring”. Who could argue with that?
But what does this constant process of finding faults do to us all, what are are we doing to our communities and the people in them when we continue to tell them they have serious problems, we force them to look for everything that they can think of that might be working against their dreams and aspirations, we encourage them to talk themselves into a hole, we get them to focus on their “deficiencies” and “issues” and in-turn we succeed in ensuring that the people in these communities become ever more in need of “assistance” and increasingly dependent on institutions…areas and communities are routinely grouped and ranked in tables based on where they sit on the index of multiple deprivation, like football teams in a division competing for the top-spot. Politicians have even created the phrase “hidden deprivation” to cover all those really bad things that must exist but as yet cannot be found within the existing classification; “it must be bad its just that we can’t see it”. If these communities were individuals, we would encourage them to stop fixating on the things that they don’t like and to work with the attributes they have, wouldn’t we?
So do you live in an area of multiple deprivation or a place of untapped assets? I know which one pays, and I know which one I’d rather be in…