The Big Debate: Develop solutions online to city’s problems, says Charles Leadbeater
Birmingham’s problems like youth unemployment, low education levels and social inclusion could be a catalyst to drive its creative economy, according to innovation expert Charles Leadbeater.
On a panel at yesterday’s The Big Debate at the ICC, the author of the book We-think and authority on innovation strategy challenged the city to look at the its social problems and develop innovative solutions to them online which it can then share with rest of the world.
He said: “The West Midlands has some significant educational problems, with things like NEETS and social inclusion. You should look for interesting problems where you can create new and valuable solutions. Get Birmingham known for resolving problems. It’s possible that Birmingham could lead the way in the next internet – the internet of stuff and things.”
At the event, which sought to answer the question “can the West Midland creative industries revolutionise the UK economy?”, Mr Leadbeater pointed to places like Portland, Oregon, home of open-source computing, and Finland, birthplace of Linux and Nokia – places that had come up with world-changing ideas despite their relatively small size.
“These were homes for people who had big and expansive ideas and played with them in inexpensive ways. If you do one thing – be ambitious and really aim high. Find interesting, big problems that lots of other people have and try to attack those. That will be the route to find things which start to attract people.”
Mr Leadbeater said cities like Birmingham should provide “a home for pirates” if they wanted to reap the economic rewards of the digital revolution. He challenged the city to embrace risk-takers if it wanted to find the new business models that would drive the future creative economy.
“Places where new technology creates new business models and new forms of organisation are homes for pirates. If you really want the West Midlands to lead you have to be the most hospitable home for pirates. We will only do it by enabling people who are quite risky.
“If you want to be at the head of an innovative wave you have to have social networks that bring people together but connect with outsiders who will refresh but also challenge what you are doing.”