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Local Government: 

Place-based Enterprise

The Fractal Nature of Leadership

Making a difference is about leadership. In fact life is leadership, it’s the choices you make in an ever changing world whether it relates to you as an individual, group, community, nation, it’s one of those fractal ideas that is relevant at every scale.

Guiding Policy for Local Government

The challenge is to transform leadership into policy that will provide desired outcomes. In the imperfect world of human organisations the poor and often contradictory outcomes of government policy is legendary.

It may well be appropriate to test new frameworks to deliver new outcomes. The Place-based Enterprise Manifesto for Local Government is a response to the search for better ways to build stronger communities. It is a framework developed to focus decisions and help develop more effective action plans.

A Place-based Enterprise Framework

To be effective in an ever changing world of information overload the focus needs to be sharp and simple. To leverage the ever decreasing resources for more effective outcomes the implementation needs to be strategic and networked.

Place-based Enterprise offers an action orientated framework based on the following four key ideas:

What matters locally is Community Lifestyle

How to guide change that protects lifestyle is a Governance role

Focus on change that increases Local Wealth

Use the fast track tool of Catalyst Infrastructure


Celebrating people in place…because that’s where life happens!

Town residents and surrounding communities highly value their lifestyle as an integral part of their identity. The places they frequent in their daily lives and the networks of relationships within those places create the heart and soul of local communities.

Anchored in Place

Community lifestyle is inherently anchored to place. This is insightful to understanding the communities concerns of change as well as providing the clues for how actions can be developed to strengthen places as change occurs. The focus on place provides a framework that engages the community and focuses the development of effective strategies for sustainable change.

Servicing the Evolving Place Needs of Communities

Local government is about protecting and enhancing local lifestyle. What may have begun as basic service provision to the community has refined itself in the modern era to rates, road and rubbish, sewerage and water, then picnic tables, barbeques, sporting fields and cultural centres and much more as the evolution continues in line with community's expectations.

Lifestyle Guardian

Being the guardian of the community is an important role of local government. It needs to be seen and act as the first level of local response to forces that affect the health and well being of the community. This role is not about keeping things the same as that is impossible. It is more about enhancing the best qualities of the living locally as things change.

Looking Outside

To be effective in delivering meaningful outcomes a new focus needs to be brought to the situation. Sustainable change will not be delivered by further fine tuning of the existing system. What is needed is a robust assessment of what the community will require to secure a strong, vibrant future and then an equally courageous and creative view of how this will be delivered.

This necessitates a focus on the following three fundamentals of community lifestyle:

Sensing Place – life as it happens Lifestyle is experiential and its quality is determined by the quality of your local interactions. Local events, networks and identity

Nurturing Place – keeping the best parts The environmental, social and economic balance of a locality determines the health of the place. It’s important to look after this dynamic system.

Shaping Place – guiding change for the better Change will happen with you or without you. The best way to secure your future is to help guide change so it creates a better place. It’s about building local capacity to exploit opportunity provided by change.

Fast Track Question:

When confronted with an opportunity for change ask yourself…

Will this strengthen local lifestyle?


Life is change …and you need to choose your future

The quest seems to be how best to deal with rapid change and deliver a high-quality lifestyle. This is no less important in local government than in ones own personal life. It may well be one of the challenges that unite us all in these turbulent times.

 Creating Better Places

In this quest, aspirations seem to define the task at hand. In the context of local government it can be no more succinctly defined as the need to create better places for people and business. The sobering realisation is that this fundamental aspiration is languishing in the lost opportunities of current practice and we seem unable to break the cycle.

 Facilitating Local Change

There is never really a shortage of money; funds will always be spent on something. The real question is whether we can get more out of existing budgets. Are we setting the right priorities for action? This question has no more power than at the local level. Leadership for local change is probably the toughest goal you could set yourself… Yet, if you can arise above the constraints of personal agendas it is probably one of the most uncontested areas in politics.

Listening thinkers

To champion local politics of the 21st Century you need to be listening, and thinking. Your policies and decisions need to be smart enough to deliver the promise! And the promise is a better life for your local community today and into the future.

Having the Ticker

The secret to success is that you need to care! This means you have the heart to commit to a quest of biblical proportions and be prepared to counter the seduction of your technical and professional sirens that provide their best answers yet fall short of the solutions you know are needed for your community.

Guiding the way

Leadership demands that you act as the catalyst, a funnel to outcomes. Guiding change that will strengthen the local framework and building a stronger place. The local government system uses professional and technical services to deliver the choices that you must select to build a strong vibrant community. This is why governance is the cornerstone to the sustainability of communities.

Five Tips to promote a Place-based Enterprise Framework

Facilitate a robust vision for a sustainable local future

Encourage passion, patience and persistence

Ensure the community sets the values and owns the vision

Support organisational change and creative thinking

Promote flat structures with accountability

Fast Track Question:

When confronted with an opportunity for change ask yourself…

Ask Why? …be sure the answer supports your community’s vision.


The cornerstone of a sustainable community

Commerce drives the vitality of Town Centres and local communities. The cornerstone to a vibrant sustainable community is the strength of its business sector.

Local Wealth Supports Community Lifestyle

Local wealth is created by the provision of local lifestyle services AND sustainable employment. Cultural activity and community services are only sustainable if the local community is busily engaged in profitable commerce. Basically, local business needs to be making profits anything less is the sign of a community in decline.

Lifestyle Services

The focus to secure and enhance the quality life for locals is a key platform for local government. Traditionally this has been expressed through the roads, rates and rubbish mantra. Generally, communities expect amenity services as a focus for local government.

Sustainable Employment

Local wealth is also about quality jobs for locals. It is about supporting local entrepreneurs and ensuring new business provides the best possible opportunities for local employment benefit. Not just a job, but employment that secures a future and strengthens the community.

Promoting Local Wealth

Local wealth development promotes a robust economy supporting and leveraging local physical, cultural and environmental assets. In times of change the focus must be on supporting strong local employment. The critical leadership role is to help communities tap into new enterprises to grow local wealth.

The Economic Value of Local Identity

Due to the emergence of the Experience Economy, where consumers know value the quality and authenticity of places, struggling Towns and communities have new opportunities to protect their lifestyle and expand local employment.

The Strategic Value of Place

The character and rhythm of places so cherished by the local community now is of strategic value to any serious action plan for sustainable change. Strategic action plans can facilitate local wealth by providing an integrated framework to leverage the private sector investment to generate local wealth.

New Business is Not about Expanding Old Business

Communities and commerce are always in transition, sometimes slowly but more often these days it is much faster. Supporting old style enterprises will not help the necessary transition to new enterprise activity. There must be a significant focus on facilitating new business which is also different from business expansion initiatives.

Fast Track Question:

When confronted with an opportunity for change ask yourself…

How is it contributing to the development of local wealth?


Hard and soft tools for local wealth generation:

The provision of public infrastructure should be seen as the best fast track tool to encourage and promote local enterprise initiatives.

Old Structures Deliver Old Outcomes

The specialist areas of traditional local government professional services should not determine the management structure or agenda. Roads, sewerage, water, land use etc are too crude to determine the success of community infrastructure provision. Only an integrated approach to implementation of public infrastructure will deliver better environmental, social and economic outcomes.

Enterprise and Lifestyle Infrastructure

The provision of service infrastructure should always be seen as a means to an end not an end in itself. The provision of better local transportation, water, energy and health infrastructure should be seen in the context of improving local enterprise and lifestyle outcomes rather than just technical standards.

 Design Matters!

The shape of the urban environment is an important social, economic and environmental catalyst. The more the initiatives are broken down into specialist delivery areas the more disconnected they become from the community vision. It is important to add linkages to infrastructure activity so stronger and more vibrant communities are encouraged.

A Synergy of Hard and Soft Infrastructures

The attributes of hard and soft infrastructures need to be understood in order to leverage the most out of infrastructure budgets and individual projects. The ultimate community activity is a human one, it is about people. But, unless the right physical places are created as a catalyst for activity, sustainable lifestyles and employment will not evolve.

Cascading Infrastructures

There is a connected sliding scale of capital infrastructure projects that support local enterprise activity. At the macro scale the project is strategic, specialised and has little opportunity for direct local input, eg; a structure plan or a major piece of physical infrastructure.? At the micro scale it may be the provision of a business facilitator who works face to face with people in a town centre. At this scale most of the activity is soft happening within the framework of hard spaces.

Catalyst Clusters

To break the stigma of decline there needs to be a significant input at the front end of a redirection initiative. This often requires significant new public infrastructure to be delivered in order to rebuild confidence in the private sector that this place is not a risky place to invest. To signal such a local shift and retain community ownership there needs to be a cluster of community and enterprise initiatives delivered in a compressed and overlapping timeframe.

Fast Track Question:

When confronted with an opportunity for change ask yourself…

How is this project strengthening our triple bottom line?

Is there a simple way to stay on track?

If you’re keen to access the long term community benefits of place-based enterprise in the chaos of daily activity, then you may wish to consider regularly reviewing your local government programs to see how well you are going.

In a nut shell, does your policy direction support the following five strategic Place-based enterprise activities by:

Promoting new thinking for new outcomes

Providing seed funding for innovation and risk taking

Identifying the catalyst infrastructure for new business development

Ensuring current infrastructure projects contribute to local sustainability

Developing networks of place-based projects as the foundation of strengthening local identity

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