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Levelling-up your business case by investigating place-based impact

Joy Shepheard-Walwyn
4 May 2022

Planning for place-based impact to support the government’s Levelling Up strategy remains challenging due to a lack of practical guidance. This article explores how to approach place-based impact in your business case.

In February 2022, the government published its long anticipated ‘Levelling Up White Paper.’ This outlines its strategy to deliver on the promises it made in the 2019 General Election to spread opportunity more equally across the UK. The white paper emphasises the importance of place-based impact and incorporates 12 levelling up pledges, as defined by the Department for Levelling up, Housing and Communities.
Given that levelling up is a key government priority, government departments and agencies should include forward planning for place-based impact in business cases.

In addition to the government’s levelling up strategy, revisions to Green Book guidance in 2020 raised the profile of planning for place-based local impact in business cases. However, incentives to focus on macro level benefits are still evident, as economies of scale can lead to improved net present value, increasing the likelihood of investment. This means that large-scale initiatives continue to attract large scale benefits and are a focal point for business case authors. Furthermore, the continued focus on financial benefits within business cases means that planning for local outcomes that cannot easily be monetised are treated as less of a priority.

There is a perception that business case authors need to be experts in the place affected by the investment and that it is otherwise difficult to conduct place-based planning and analysis. The new white paper does not address this point because it does not provide adequate practical guidance about how levelling up can be delivered through place-based analysis.

This article provides an approach to planning for place-based impact in your business case.

First, define what place-based impact means in the context of the investment.

  • Page 91 of the Green Book provides a broad definition of ‘place-based analysis’. This is challenging to apply because it lacks practical application. It is often more useful to define ‘place-based’ by the people affected and the places they occupy, in relation to the subject matter of the business case. The size and scale of place-based impact should be relative to the business case itself, for example a low value business case is unlikely to significantly impact outcomes across a region and therefore would be better placed to focus on community interventions. Place-based impact should focus on achieving outcomes that improve the quality of life for people within the bounds of the place.

Understand and set your intentions for place-based impact in the Strategic Case

  • The next step is to clarify the scope of the place for your business case and to agree why it is the right place of focus. Every business case will, to varying degrees, be able to demonstrate place-based impact within its defined bounds.
    Key considerations to identify place-based impact:
    • What is the natural scale of impact – is it a location or a type of place? Is it a community, town, city or region? Green Book guidance stipulates that you may define place-based impact both by the type of place (i.e. rural or urban) and by a location.
    • Is there a natural fit of a place impacted either positively or negatively by the proposal? You should consider this from an economic, social, and environmental perspective. For example:
      • Economically, could there be positive or negative impacts on employment, productivity, or birth, deaths and prosperity of local businesses?
      • Socially, could there be positive or negative impacts on social mobility, educational attainment, health and wellbeing outcomes or inclusivity?
      • Environmentally, could there be positive or negative impacts on greenhouse gas emissions, public transport usage, waste creation or conservation of natural environments?
  • Once the place of interest has been defined, begin to research existing place-based ambitions and initiatives. This may relate to local public service provision, such as housing, health, social care and other local government initiatives. It could also be central government funding grants such as the Towns Fund or targeted education initiatives. Then, consider the biggest opportunities for coordinated impact within the parameters of the proposed investment by exploring whether it can directly support or complement existing ambitions or initiatives. When place-based impact is focused on fewer impact areas; this will allow the delivery team to make targeted interventions, making success more likely.

Define and baseline the outcomes you want to achieve in the Economic Case

  • Once the area and objectives of place-based impact have been defined, outcomes can be established within the broader benefits definition. These outcomes should be mapped to impact – what will change because of the place-based initiatives or interventions?
    Sometimes, outcomes are confused with outputs. Developing a theory of change to support the benefits realisation strategy is useful for drawing the distinction. These frameworks also help the business case author to plan backwards from their stated impact and identify required interventions. They will also help to ensure that these benefits are not deprioritised if they cannot be easily monetised, as they will define a clear route to realisation. The benefits realisation strategy should also detail the accountabilities that will exist to ensure successful delivery of the target outputs and impacts.

Set clear lines of accountability and identify supporting partnerships in the Management Case

  • Working in partnership with local services well-versed in delivering sustainable place-based impact is key to successful delivery of outcomes. Often these organisations will be able to provide value through additional context, existing links into communities, lessons learned and data. Partnerships could be formed with local NGOs, local authorities, charities or academic organisations. Robust co-ordination is essential and it is important to set out who the delivery team will partner with to deliver place-based outcomes and to define the scope of responsibilities for each agency.

Place-based impact should be clear throughout your business case

  • The business case should refer to place-based intentions wherever relevant, based on the substance and ambition of the proposed investment. For example, if the ambition is based around the local economy, place-based impact should be evident in the procurement strategy. This could include defining a target percentage of delivery contracts awarded to local or SME organisations; stipulating that parts of larger contracts are awarded to local supply chains; facilitating ‘meet the buyer’ events for local businesses or ensuring that suppliers report on their local social value impact.

Including place-based impact in your business cases will support the levelling up ambitions of the current government, increase the likelihood of government buy-in and support better investment outcomes across the UK. By planning for place-based impact early, projects are more likely to deliver a greater positive impact.

Want to find out more?

Capgemini Invent are currently developing Business Cases across the Public Sector and can support in developing all five sections of your business case, incorporating key cross-government strategic objectives.

For further information, contact