Local infrastructure bodies should become “a mini Google” for their local area, a conference for community charities heard yesterday.
Andrew O’Brien told delegates at the Future Forward conference, organised by local infrastructure body Navca, that “Brexit is an opportunity for you to reassert yourselves as hubs of local knowledge and experience”.
He said there is a “knowledge-confidence cycle” in which the public sector need infrastructure bodies for knowledge, but then gain confidence and cut back on support. Then they make mistakes and get less confident again, before turning back to local infrastructure bodies to replace lost knowledge.
O’Brien said that we have seen “peaks and troughs in the cycle repeat over many decades”, but “the last ten years have been a bit of a trough for us”.
He said that this was down to "new governments coming in with new ideas, new technology, and a sense that we can do without traditional local infrastructure".
“Brexit has destroyed all of those assumptions," he said. "There is an opportunity for us as a sector to really think about what knowledge we possess about our local communities, and how do we turn them into sustainable business models.
“There is an opportunity for every single local infrastructure body to become a mini Google for in its own its local area. You know things that nobody else is going to be in a positon to know. You are trusted by your local communities and that means you have a great ability to gather information that the private sector and the public sector just simply won’t be able to do.”
O’Brien called on local infrastructure bodies to think about what they know about their local area, and look to see if they know enough, and then find out how much that knowledge is worth.