Shining a Spotlight on Infrastructure Resilience
14th September 2015
The Resilience Spotlight is an initiative of the Bristol Resilience Network, which is part of the Bristol Green Capital Partnership. Every month in 2015, we have invited nominations for someone in the city who demonstrates how we can work at a local level to develop Bristol’s capacity to respond to shocks and stresses.The theme for June’s resilience spotlight was infrastructure. We were looking for someone who can show us how to put in place improvements and innovation for the built environment and in the distribution of goods and services across the city.
Ted Fowler was nominated for the resilience spotlight due to his ongoing work with the Bristol to Bath Railway Path and his current role in the development of Backing our Bristol – an investment fund designed to give local people more of a stake in the development of the city.
Ted has had a varied career, from sheep farmer, labourer and postie, to County Councillor, Manager of Bristol Community Transport and an Economic Development Professional.
Ted moved to Bristol in the early 80s and quickly became aware of the innovative work of Cyclebag – now Sustrans – in developing a shared space for pedestrians and cyclists along a disused railway path. Over the last 30 years, the path has seen a huge growth in use and is now seen as significant arterial route for cyclists from near and far. Ted has worked with many user groups, from children and commuters to parents and people with disabilities, to help alleviate tensions between pedestrians and cyclists on the path.
Ted has also been influential in developing a project that aims to develop Bristol’s future resilience – the Bristol Bond. This initiative brings together local business people, universities, the city council and other interested stakeholders in developing an investment fund for public benefit. Rather than relying on government money, it is designed to attract private investment to support innovation and sustainable economic growth within the city. Originally conceived within Ted’s role in economic development at Bristol City Council, The Bristol Bond drew support from NESTA, private sector consultancies, credit unions and local businesspeople including John Pontin. Ted says: “Historically, Bristol has a reputation for citizen-led initiatives. We had lost confidence in what we can do, but we have now realised that by pulling together the appropriate resources locally, we don’t always have to look to for approval to Westminster.”
Ted and others are currently working with UWE, the Bristol Initiative, Bristol City Council and the Merchant Venturers, VOSCUR and others to develop a Community Interest Company (Great Western Regional Capital) to attract investment and test this model.
Ted notes that resilience in a city, however, is not just about the physical infrastructure in place, reflecting that “it’s also about connectivity, relationships and people’s commitment. A city’s resilience is dependent on community involvement in its development. The Bristol Bond team understands that and wants to ensure that a growing number of people in the city have a financial stake in the improvement of Bristol.”
He adds: “The success and resilience of a city also depends on the contribution of a variety of perspectives. Bristol is ideal for this – there is an incredible range of people – but we must ensure we listen to one another and that there are ways for people to contribute their thoughts.” To support this Ted has recently become Chair of the West Region of the Fellowship of the Royal Society of Arts, a major interdisciplinary think tanks and practitioner’s network. He is known for increasing awareness of local citizen’s potential traction on key issues facing our common futures by opening up the creativity of a wider range of people, Fellows and non Fellows, to engage more confidently and competently with each other and society’s big challenges.
“Resilience grows from the bottom up if it is enabled by good governance and foresight, Ted Fowler combines these in the work he is doing in the city by encouraging people to invest in their, and our, own futures – providing the mechanisms to do so”.
Kim Dowsett, Environment Agency
(This month’s theme is Water – to nominate someone who has helped to develop systems to assure supply in droughts, prevention of flooding or raising awareness and preparedness for these concerns, email email@example.com)