Step 5: Drafting the local economic assessment
This section will help you through the process of drafting, testing and refining the local economic assessment (LEA). It will help you identify who you should talk to and the methods of presenting your LEA and gathering feedback.
- Top tips
- Key questions to ask in drafting the LEA
- Plan the assessment and establish core team
- Start early
- Style and format
- Make partners' contributions explicit
- Useful links to resources
- Establish the drafting team and allocate roles and responsibilities.
- Set out the process for producing the draft in a clear project plan with milestones and timelines.
- Ensure clear objectives for the LEA have been set and regularly check that the draft is addressing them.
- Identify a small group of internal and external stakeholders to ask for feedback on the draft.
- Agree with key internal and external stakeholders that they are prepared to formally sign-off the LEA.
- Plan the details of your consultation approach and the breadth of consultation with the public: consider methods including surveys, peer review panels, workshops.
- Keep the structure simple and be concise.
- Concentrate on getting the argument right: using bullet points and headings will help.
- Be visual: good images are worth thousands of words.
- 'Before and after' images are particularly good for conveying proposed changes.
- Using short quotes or ‘sound bites' from people can be very powerful.
- Make sure you credit everyone accurately.
Key questions to ask in drafting the LEA
- Does your analysis of the evidence enable us to tell your 'story of place'?
- Can you easily describe what is going on in your area and the global, national, regional and local forces driving it?
- Have you described your economic geography so that it makes sense?
- Can you show future trends and developments?
- How can we best describe our economy and, more broadly, the economic wellbeing of our area in terms of:
- spatial and economic variations: economic sub-areas, rural, urban, coastal geography
- the key characteristics of those areas in terms of: demography, skills, employment, enterprise
- the drivers for change for each of those factors in each area
- the relative importance in each area of supplementary contexts around: inclusion, environment, housing, planning and connectivity?
- Who is your audience and what methods do you need to use to consult on the LEA with different audiences?
- How are you relating your conclusions and analysis to other documents produced by the local authority and its partners to support your planning and policy activities?
Plan the assessment and stablish core team
Setting out a project plan for drafting the LEA that sets out milestones and timelines will help add structure to the drafting process. Timelines and milestones will also help the team leader manage the drafting process.
Designate an editor-in-chief, whose task will be edit and produce the draft and final assessment.
Identify several 'critical readers', both internal and external, who can bring their perspectives and insights into the assessment.
Waiting until the very end of the assessment to start drafting the final document is not recommended.
Writing the LEA may take considerably longer than anticipated. Drafting as the assessment proceeds will ensure that important insights are not missed, particularly if team members change during the process.
Starting the drafting process early will also allow time for refining the story line and help to shape the evidence gathering and analysis work.
Start by writing a simple narrative about how your area works economically, looking at its sub-areas and cross-boundary links. This will help develop a plan for how you might organise the evidence you need.
Regularly refer to the LEA objectives and its audience to make sure that the assessment is not straying from its original scope and purpose. Write them in the foreword and check for yourself that the report will address them.
Refer to Step 1: Vision, purpose and scope
There are two sets of people who will form the audience for the LEA: those who will read it (need to get your messages across) and those who will use it (to inform and enhance their work). Too often documents fail because they fall between the two groups, in the end catering for neither. Does your LEA structure and content meet both sets of needs? Look at the stakeholder mapping guidance.
Style and format
It is important that you review existing documents and structures in your council to ensure that you adopt the ‘house style'. The LEA will need to resonate with the sustainable community strategy (SCS), local development framework (LDF) and local area assessment (LAA). It will need to fit in with the corporate image of your council and its publications.
Relate the style of the assessment to your audience(s). Use a range of media - words, pictures, charts and so on. Any graphics and pictures should be meaningful, used to clarify and enhance the text, not merely to break up the page. Make images local: it adds to the appeal as well as the credibility and make graphics interesting. Use the analysis to make a point or get a message across and not just because the figures or graphs are available.
There are several formats in which the assessment could be released. For example, you could have an executive summary report with technical appendices available on the web, issues reports, detailed report in hard copy, and so on. The different formats to be used need to be clearly identified at the outset and should relate to the different audiences for the LEA, for example, councillors, businesses, council officers.
Make partners' contributions explicit
To build ownership and buy-in from stakeholders, consider asking different partners to provide contributions to the draft. For example, you could ask businesses, possibly through the Chamber of Commerce, to provide comment and analysis on the current market and business climate. See the practice guide on consultation
Useful links to resources
3 May 2012