The Future Might Finally Be Local
Is this an opportunity to rebuild the fabric of local?
The Coronavirus pandemic has changed many things. Some will be lasting changes and some shorter term. Our challenge will be to discern the difference. Plot the right future course.
One of the changes that looks more permanent is that our future could become more local - again.
This might seem counter intuitive in the digital, global world that we live in. After all, with the Internet almost everything is just one click away.
But local matters.
Local is our relationships. Local is our neighbours. Local has been our workplace, our family and our home schooling these last six months. Local became a vital support network through this challenging year. One we will not forget. And one we might have to lean on again as future Covid waves and new pandemics bear down on us.
Local has all too often personified the shops we watched disappearing. The parks that we had little time for, the gym that we generally neglected. Local represented the pubs we hurried past on the way back from work and the community centre and groups we steered clear of in the hurly burly of commuter life. With too much of our time spent in train and bus stations or the local petrol station.
Local is the church we have stopped going to. Local is the politics we have become disillusioned by.
But local seems to matter again. Lockdown made local our physical space. Everything else was digital. And even as schools and work places are reopening you get the feeling that this grand reacquaintance with things local might continue.
After all, many of us will be continuing to work from home in some form. As a result we will likely care more about the local shops, cafes, hair salons, gyms, venues and activities. Employers are looking at new office structures which take into account the huge switch to home working. Smaller head offices might give way to a larger chain of regional drop-in offices.
We remain weary of public transport and travelling further afield. We walk and cycle more. We appreciate shops we can walk to and cafes around the corner.
The local economy has taken on a new meaning and local employment has become a wider source of opportunity and debate given that the more mobile younger workers are struggling to find jobs. University and college students might opt for courses closer to home to save on tuition and to protect themselves from future lockdowns or restrictions.
Improvement in broadband coverage means that home workers can work anywhere making out of city destinations more appealing.
Thanks to lockdown we have developed a larger number of local relationships and interests. Local government is being reborn by necessity as the combined pressure of the pandemic and the economic downturn weigh on us.
It may be that lockdown has taught us that digital is not enough. We need physical as well. And that means local.
After all, we have spent much of this year reacquainting ourselves with family, neighbours, parks, gardens, teachers, shops and pharmacies. We have been visiting local beauty spots, hotspots and attractions.
A sizeable amount of us have enjoyed a staycation this summer. Some for the very first time. Many have commented on how pleasurable it was not to lose a day each end of the holiday packed in planes, trains and automobiles. We were reminded of how beautiful and relaxing our surroundings can be.
It does not matter how big or global your business is there is a future for local - again. And as we put digital first we should try to reimagine what local means to our strategy, our customers, our brand, employees, offices and suppliers.
For the future is digital and experiential. And experiential for now is frequently local.
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