England & Wales Democracy, devolution and governance, Welfare and equalities

Viewpoint: Creating a powerhouse that’s about people


What started as a Twitter discussion around the lack of female speakers at the Northern Powerhouse Conference in February rapidly became something much bigger, writes Tracy Fishwick.

We had clearly hit a nerve by starting a conversation on who the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ was designed to benefit. Our view is not that economic growth isn’t important – it is – but growth for who? It shouldn’t be the only focus of plans and discussions.

So in a matter of hours we decided we had to ‘Just Do It’ (or words along those lines) and make the most of the momentum that was with us. The Peoples Powerhouse began with a few of us, myself, Jo Miller, Chief Executive at Doncaster Council and Donna Hall, Chief Executive of Wigan Council. Quite quickly, other key influencers became involved including Barbara Spicer from Plus Dane Housing and regional and national bodies such as SOLACE, LGA and North West Employers. The aim now is to bring more diverse voices and experiences to help shape the next 12 months.

We deliberately chose Doncaster Football Stadium to host our first event as we wanted to very clearly say this is an inclusive and not an elitist conversation. We also wanted to ensure that it didn’t become all about Manchester, which can be all too easy on any discussion or agenda about the North.

Until earlier this year the Northern Powerhouse plans and narrative have focused more on transport, infrastructure and business than skills, jobs, the environment, happier and healthier people and communities. But numerous studies and regeneration programmes have shown that it does not follow that everyone in the community automatically benefits from economic growth. By focusing mainly on economic growth we will miss the opportunity to transform lives for the better in the North of England. That’s what we hope we can now bring to the debate and plans, helping make the Powerhouse even stronger.

The organisation I founded, Transform Lives based in Liverpool, aims to transform peoples’ lives and communities through coaching, training and consultancy. We have expertise in areas such as designing and mobilising volunteer and employment programmes, supporting people and groups with their health and wellbeing and delivering employability training through our Positive Workology modules.

We’re just one company and there are so many more organisations, groups and people with skills and expertise across the North that could really help bring about a Powerhouse that changes people’s lives for the better.

We aim to build a long term movement for change that supports good and inclusive growth in the North and our particular focus will be on how people are the key to growth. We want to include all sectors and sections of the community and this includes harnessing the combined skills and leverage of the public sector, voluntary, community, civic leaders and business.

We’ve been overwhelmed by the interest and offers of support. The enthusiasm people from all sorts of backgrounds have shown us has given us the confidence to go for it. We’re starting with the Doncaster event, but that’s certainly not the end of the conversation or the change we want to bring about. We hope you can join us on 12th July, and help work with us to shape a Peoples Powerhouse we all benefit from and are proud to be part of.

To get involved in the People’s Powerhouse email Tracy Fishwick at [email protected].

Register to attend the People’s Powerhouse event in Doncaster.

Tracy Fishwick is Managing Director of Transform Lives.