Can localism operate at scale?
A report by NESTA in 2010 introduced the idea of ‘mass localism’. Reflecting on the experience of NESTA’s Big Green Challenge (a £1 million prize for community-led responses to climate change) the report considered the challenge of scale and localism. It argued that approaching localism from the perspective of centralism, trying to ‘scale-up’ effective local solutions to other communities without the local ownership that makes them effective, limits the potential for local solutions to achieve impact in a sustainable way. The result is a vicious circle of misdirected investment in localism which perpetuates a lack of confidence in local solutions.
The alternative is ‘mass localism’: instead of assuming that the best solutions need to be determined, prescribed, driven or ‘authorised’ from the centre, policymakers should create more opportunities for communities to develop and deliver their own solutions and to learn from each other. It is not enough to assume that scaling back government bureaucracy and control will allow local innovation to flourish. Mass localism requires government to adopt the following principles: promoting a clear outcome; presuming community capacity; valuing advice and challenge; removing barriers; rewarding achievement.