Shaping Britain’s future: FGF’s plans for 2024

I was supposed to write this blog last November, so please let me start with an apology for taking so long to set out the substance of our plans for FGF. In reality, if I had written this blog last November, there wouldn’t have been much to point to other than our aspiration to shape a ‘comprehensive and contemporary new operating model for the way the country works.’

Now, four months since we launched, and thanks to the incredibly hard work of the growing FGF team, I’d like to walk you through our five workstreams; the projected outputs sitting underneath these; and hopefully show how they all click together.

The graphic above sets out what we’re all about. We start with Mission Critical, the first of our two flagship workstreams, investigating and proposing how mission-driven government might work across the UK. Our first report, Mission Critical 01, will be out this summer, setting out our emerging thoughts on ‘missions’ as both a theory and, crucially, practice of statecraft. This first report is being produced in partnership with the Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose (IIPP) at University College London (UCL) and is being prepared by a team that includes Cllr Georgia Gould, Leader of the London Borough of Camden, and Mariana Mazzucato, Professor in the Economics of Innovation and Public Value at UCL and the Founding Director of IIPP.

This will be supplemented by further papers looking at achieving missions in partnership with the private sector (encompassing businesses and trade unions); with civil society; and through deepening democracy. We’re also scoping a major project with Public Digital, looking at the potential for technological and data-driven innovation in the design, application and delivery of local and regional public services.

This is the perfect segue into our second flagship workstream: Impactful Devolution. Work on this has been ongoing since FGF was first in development and I’m pleased to finally announce that Impactful Devolution 01, our framework for economic devolution and ten-year plan for the renewal of local and regional government, will be published after the local elections in May. This report is being prepared in partnership with Metro Dynamics, written by MD’s Ben Lucas and Elizabeth Hopkins and edited by FGF’s Claire Spencer. Impactful Devolution 01 will pick up the arguments set out in Place-Based Public Service Budgets, the New Local ‘new thinking’ paper, written by John Denham and Jessica Studdert, that we were happy to support in January.

Supporting outputs will cover the devolution of employment support and of skills; single pot funding; and net-zero adaptation, retrofit and resilience, and we have cross-workstream projects on the evolution of local and regional accountability frameworks and the constitutional rewiring needed to underpin it all. 

Our third workstream, called Into Power, looks at how both politicians and officials prepare for government, navigate the passage of power from one party to another, and plan for an effective first period in office. The first paper in this series, Into Power 01: Lessons from Australia and the United States, written by Tom Collinge and Adam Terry and released last month, looks at comparative transitional processes in Australia and the US and what progressive political parties in the UK might learn from them. (You can watch the launch event on the FGF YouTube channel.)

Next month sees the launch of Into Power 02: Lessons from 2010, focusing on the most recent transition from opposition into government in the UK, when David Cameron’s Conservatives took the reins from Labour. Written by author and commentator Phil Tinline, the paper features reflections from a number of former Tory ministers, advisers, and civil servants. We’re currently scoping a companion paper, looking at the Lib Dems’ journey into – and out of – the Coalition Government, and will also be publishing a paper on public and political appointments later on this year. 

Our fourth workstream – Rebuilding the Nation – is pioneering new thinking about how we might inject more money into the system during a period of straitened public finances, principally through new models of public-private investment. FGF’s very first publications last year were part of this workstream – Rebuilding the Nation 01: Progressive principles for effective investment and Rebuilding the Nation 02: Pension reform that delivers for savers and the economy, both by former Wall Street executive Andrew Dyson and former Treasury, now Labour Together, staffer JP Spencer. 

April will see the release of Rebuilding the Nation 03: Financing the Future? by Global Counsel’s Matt Bevington. Matt has examined the history of public-private partnerships (PPPs) in the UK – and makes recommendations for how a new generation of PPPs might be part of the policy mix for a government looking to pump investment into the degraded public sphere. Further to this, we’re in discussion with several partners regarding potential projects including the role of private equity in scaling up; infrastructure investment; and long-term reform to public financing. 

Our final workstream will look at how we promote Systems Change in specific areas of knotty policy and delivery. Our first output will take a deep dive into the migration system and the second, currently under scope, will look at housing and planning delivery. 

There are other projects and events in the pipeline (including something really cool with our friends at the UCL Policy Lab), but this is more than enough to be getting on with! (You can see the full family tree graphic of FGF output here.)

If you’ve got any questions, suggestions or want to partner with or sponsor any of our work, drop me a line. The work of the forum has proved to be much more exciting, and wide-ranging, than I had dared hope last year. We have an opportunity to change the way this country works. Let me know if you want to join us and make it happen. 

PS. A number of people have asked me what’s the score with the distinctive titling and numbering of our various workstreams and outputs. None of you have guessed the answer so I thought I’d let you in on the secret. As a somewhat sensitive and introverted only child in the eighties and nineties, I spent a lot of time reading American comic books and studying (though never actually playing) role-playing games (think DC, Marvel, Dungeons & Dragons, Warhammer 40k etc etc). These heavily graphic mediums were distinguished by structured branding and linear sequencing – both of which I’m happy to perpetuate at FGF (although minus capes or random monsters). 

Nathan Yeowell is the Executive Director and founder of The Future Governance Forum, He is a member of Torfaen County Borough Council and Chair of the Greater Gwent Pension Fund.