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Worldwide, inequality between places is a major source of social anxiety and political disruption. The UK is an extreme case of this phenomenon: a highly centralised country which exhibits a surprisingly high level of geographic inequality. The current government has a bold political commitment to ‘level-up’ the country, which makes it a useful case study to consider the way forward internationally. But to make a meaningful impact, the strategy cannot focus only on new motorways and rail links: it will need to embrace the importance of social tools for transformation. Here, the role of responsible businesses, charities and community groups is key: no government can level-up alone.

If such ‘cross-sector partnerships’ are key to improving social outcomes, then how should governments nurture them? How much should the private sector be encouraged to help, and where does traditional democratic governance fit in? How can the multiple, intersecting layers of regional and local governments work with each other, and with the central government, to create the conditions for success?

How to level-up regions socially, as well as economically, is complex but essential. This two-part roundtable examined examples and engaged a line-up of leading thinkers on what the social aspect of levelling-up should mean. As one of Europe's most respected experts on regional and urban policy, Professor Philip McCann was an outstanding chair to guide us towards answers in a session that we hope offered some new perspectives on the question of how to level-up.

Listen to the audio recording of the session.