My day at the LARIA conference proved to be an inspiring and informative experience and was a great opportunity to get together and learn from fellow local area researchers from all over Britain.
One of the highlights of the day was a passionate speech from the Chief Executive of Coventry City Council and Honorary President of Laria; Martin Reeves concerning what local government research needs to deliver in 2014 and beyond. Martin explained that due to the vast changes in local government over the past few years, a new contract between the state and the citizen has been drawn up and new insight is needed to reveal how citizens are reacting to the changes in the way public services are delivered. Martin explained that intelligent insight needs to be used to have a positive effect on public health and inequality.
Additionally, Martin went on to assert that economic growth is important, but not at any cost, and that we need to look at the impact it is having on different sections of society and whether it can be sustained over a long period so that it has a positive impact on all communities and addresses inequalities.
Another highlight of the day for me was a workshop presented by Dr. Robin Pharoah of ESRO Ltd, which looked into how ethnographic research offers a deep insight into the lives of a community or group. Robin described how ethnography and local government has always been linked and how the complex populations of many areas have different needs. Robin talked about the need to move beyond statistics and to delve further into real lives in order to innovate and develop new services. It seems ethnography is a very powerful tool for innovation and a very useful way of understanding the complexities of local populations, which other research methods may not reveal.
Photo credit: LARIA Awards by Gerallt Evans-Hughes