Made in Sheffield – more than just a brand.

Made in Sheffield – more than just a brand.

The Star has launched a business promotion campaign, “Made in Sheffield” to promote the excellence of its various products ranging from sauce and steel to technology and aerospace. Great idea, but the people of Sheffield need more.

For Sheffield, the “friendly” city, to become Sheffield the friendly productive city, we need a moral and material infrastructure of good citizenship, governance and well-run services to complement the industrial investment The Star describes. And so do the businesses. It is a two-way street. The Council provides the platform for industry and industry pays fair wages, good conditions and secure jobs, and its taxes.

As Jane Jacobs would say: “It is an interdependent system”.

There is a good British precedent for this, as I have mentioned before, i.e. Sir Joseph Chamberlain’s tenure as mayor of Birmingham in the 1860’s and 70’s when it became known as the best governed city in the industrial world. He was both a successful industrialist and civic visionary under whose leadership rates were actually reduced while there was significant investment in services, health and education, which greatly improved. And all around the great city the other centres prospered too.


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A good business person and great political leader is a rare combination; but they can make great allies if they have shared goals.

A good contemporary model is the state of Vermont in the USA. It has about the same population as Sheffield and its senator is the doughty Bernie Sanders, who would have won the presidency of the USA, had the Democrats had the sense to have elected him.

Bernie Sanders cut his political teeth as the mayor of Vermont’s largest city, Burlington, which is actually only the same size as Ecclesfield. But it really punches above its weight. It has the highest living wage rate in the USA at £8.20 an hour for council contracts (the UK is £7.20), and the lowest unemployment rate – half the national average at 3.4%.

Bernie’s vision was for more affordable housing, locally owned SMEs, greater community engagement in planning, and job development, realised through practical planning strategies that reinforced these goals. This inevitably meant confronting developers who did not get this vision, something Bernie is very good at, personally and politically.

Bernie eventually won over one of the richest and most influential developers, Tony Pomerleau, and he helped Bernie transform Burlington. Here is a summary of some of the achievements: The city’s largest housing development is now resident-owned; its largest supermarket is a consumer-owned cooperative; one of its largest private employers is worker-owned; and most of its people-oriented waterfront is publicly owned. The publicly owned Burlington Electric Department (Utility) recently announced that Burlington is the first USA city of any decent size to run entirely on renewable electricity.

Not bad for an eight year tenure of a socialist politician under the right wing presidency of Ronald Reagan!

The secret? Constancy of Purpose, as Dr Deming would say, plus solidarity with the working and middle classes, and subsidiarity in decision-making, as the Pope would say. Bernie was also collaborative (on his terms) and won over many of the businesses because of Burlington’s stable environment and high propensity to spend.

Another thing, there is no mention of outsourcing; just plain contracting, at living wage levels, not lowest cost. “You don’t want people working 40 hours a week and living in poverty,” says Sanders. “We understand when you put disposable income in the hands of working people, they will spend that money in their communities, and that creates more jobs”. Hence the high propensity to spend; a gift to local industry.

Bernie Sanders understands what it takes to create stable communities. It is no accident that Vermont became the safest state in the Union with him as senator. But, as we found out last year on Monday 22nd, this is the last thing that Islamic fundamentalists want, when Manchester, that bright, breezy, successful city, endured a terrible tragedy.

The following Thursday, as I walked across to the Catholic Cathedral to Mass, the siren for the 11 o’clock one minute silence sounded for Manchester. Fargate in the City Centre froze. The minute passed. A young girl comforted her weeping mother as we all the recalled the enormity of the crime. Two policemen stood quietly by their vehicle, their rifles across their chests, and I mentally thanked them for their vigilance and low profile.

Then I became really angry. These services, the police, the social and council workers, have suffered cut after cut by the remorseless Treasury, implemented by Theresa May, the then Home Secretary, despite protests and warnings from every quarter – as had the fire and ambulance services, and the doctors and nurses who worked tirelessly to treat the victims.


Floral tributes to the victims of the attack in St Ann’s Square in Manchester city centre

The very fabric of our security and well-being is being threatened, just to balance the books – which they have significantly failed to do!! The Home Secretary clearly cared less for her citizens than for achieving Osborne’s arbitrary fiscal targets. What a lack of moral imagination. She is now Prime Minister!!

This is the equivalent of company directors caring more about their shareholders than their staff or customers and running the business down to increase the share price. Great companies like Unilever, John Lewis and Honda reject this distortion, as did great Prime Ministers like Attlee, who, with no money in the Treasury, still set up the NHS, National Insurance and increased social housing.

What a contrast.

Businesses and communities need a new government, one that really does care for its people, and provides the funds for its councils to meet their citizens’ basic needs.

Event: Soviet Healthcare: Are Governments Bringing it into the NHS?

This event is free to attend, just reserve your place here:

Soviet Healthcare Via Targets: Are Governments Bringing it into the NHS?

In association with Sheffield Save Our NHS.

Dr Peter Campbell will present two sessions on ‘Soviet Healthcare: Are Governments Bringing it into the NHS?’ exploring the threat of target-driven management. Originally a GP, Dr Campbell now helps create and lead health projects in ex-Soviet countries, and has been featured on platforms such as TEDx. He is a principal lecturer at Universities in Heidelberg and Berlin. Each session includes breakout and strategy groups, protest songs on NHS themes, and an exhibition on the ubiquitousness of PFI.

This event is one of a number of events at the Festival of Debate on the theme of Democracy & Activism. Events in this strand have kindly been sponsored by Abbeydale Brewery.

Date Wedesday 25th April 2018 :Two sessions: 14:00-16:30 and 19:00-21:30.

Location: Roco Creative Co-op, 338-346, Glossop Road, Sheffield, S10 2HW.

Brexit: Negotiation Disaster


A formidable negotiation challenge with economic consequences now

In order to best understand the whole process Brexit needs to be looked at through the lens of negotiation. This is what drew me into my work at understanding organisations nearly 40 years ago, and was the basis of my successful book, Beyond Negotiation.

When I emigrated to England in 1970 I had recently emerged from the life-changing experience of having become a powerless white man in a new black-run republic, Zambia, where previously I had led the unthinkingly superior existence of a colonial. I was made to realise that I could not always get my own way anymore just because I was white. This is known in Business School jargon as a paradigm shift. Actually it was more like falling off a cliff, scrabbling for handholds all the way down – very, very humbling. Luckily, I had two very wise and kind black colleagues, who showed me the ropes, i.e. how to engage properly with the now empowered black population. I then had the two happiest years of my life in Africa, able to share in the vibrant Zambian social and mining life.   


Our research revealed two very important behaviours that skilled negotiators use that no-one had identified before. The first was to determine the extent of Common Ground, without which the negotiation will not be successful. The second was to be able to disagree on important issues, but never to personally attack the other party. Threats, in particular were a No-No.

When I took the research into the field of industry in 1981 to analyse the economic benefits of win/win negotiations it became clear that there was a correlation with profitability. For example, Xerox in Japan (a country that really understands cooperation) made 7 cents more on each dollar net than Xerox USA (a country that emphasises competition).

Here is the key message: We must build trust, and there is only one way to do so – by negotiating successful implementations step by arduous step – not by clever agreements that turn out to be impossible to implement. Nothing destroys trust as quickly as implementations that fail.

(A negotiation is not a debate – with a winner and a loser, so I suggest we keep Oxbridge- educated politicians out of it.)

Strategically, it is vital to start building trust early. This requires a great planning team to back you up and to identify the Common Ground. Not surprisingly our data showed that 80% of the negotiation failures were a result of poor planning. The best negotiator in the world cannot get a win/win if the planning and preparation is bad. There has not been little evidence of intelligent planning in Brexit so far. That has to be our biggest concern.

Where does that leave the UK with Brexit? I am not optimistic. In the first place, British politicians have a history of poor negotiations. They have two bad habits. The first very bad habit they (and other English people) have is to behave as though they are not taking the other party seriously. The Falklands were as much a result of the Argentinians being offended by the UK not acknowledging their history and taking their claims seriously, as it was by their bellicosity.

The other is taking a win/lose stance from the beginning. This is what Teresa May has already done, saying the EU would find her a “bloody difficult woman”! She has already used threats, i.e. the tit-for-tat of security against economic issues, and treatment of EU nationals in the UK versus the British in Europe. Hopeless, absolutely hopeless! She appears to suffer from an utter lack of (social) imagination. The very thing she fired George Osborn for!

Pity the civil servants who have to unravel this Gordian knot knitted by politicians who demonstrate no understanding of the reality of good negotiations. where the first impulse has always to be to look for Common Ground, which in Brexit is: how do we resolve this huge problem for the UK and EU together? It then becomes a joint problem-solving exercise where everyone must collaborate.

What makes this opening gambit particularly unhelpful is that the UK is in the weakest of weak positions, politically, economically, ethically. We are the ones who have walked away from a union of 27 other neighbours because our previous PM was too incompetent and arrogant to play the long game. It took the USA and Vietnam 5 years to negotiate a peace treaty on just one issue, peaceful co-existence. What will it cost the UK to “demerge” when there are literally hundreds of clauses, and how much uncertainty will that create for businesses and the economy and loss of productivity?

Maybe, as the Quakers would say: “Let us pause for reflection.” – then plan properly for a win/win agreement.