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“Connect and collaborate”: Early Career Network launched by Institute of Economic Development

Reporter: Stacy Clarke

The Institute of Economic Development (IED), the UK’s leading independent professional body representing economic development and regeneration practitioners working for local and regional communities, has launched its Early Career Network: a dedicated platform to enable those in the early stages of their economic development careers to connect and collaborate.

The network’s mission is to create a pool of resources to help members’ progress their careers and build their knowledge of the opportunities available within the economic development industry via networking events, accessible channels of communication, and other activities including talks with experts on economic development.

As well as a dedicated on LinkedIn group, meetings will typically run on a monthly basis and take place online. These meetings will be accessible via a link shared exclusively to members in the network’s WhatsApp group chat, and include:

  • ‘Talks with experts’ – a series of interview-style sessions with speakers from the economic development sector, as suggested by members of the network.
  • Spotlight sessions – where members of the network take time out of the meeting to explain and describe what their day-to-day roles consist of, as well as sharing industry and events information. This will allow for networking and further understanding of the opportunities within the sector.
  • Bi-weekly admin meetings – run by a core group of five volunteer members, these meetings will take place to enable the ongoing running of the network and for members to touch base if they would like to. This group, which will rotate, will also own communications platforms and publish content.

Micaela Benvenuto, an Economic Development Consultant at Mickledore, is one of the volunteer members driving the network.

“We are really excited to launch the Early Career Network, which brings a valuable opportunity to connect with others in the early stages of their economic development career, and already we have 40 members,” she said. “Not only will members gain on-the-ground industry insights from other members, they will be able to expand their professional network which could lead to new business partnerships and/or potential career opportunities. Members can also build their personal brands and professional credibility by being a part of a network affiliated with a well-renowned organisation such as the IED.

“From my perspective, it is helping me to explore different areas of economic development and connect with peers of the sector to understand how we can better partner up to intervene in ways that may produce positive outcomes.”

The network is open to anyone who is a member of the IED and in their early stages of their economic development career or aspiring to join the sector, including students. Those who do not hold an IED membership but are interested in joining the network are encouraged to communicate with admin@ied.co.uk and attend one of the network’s meetings and/or be co-opted into the group for an agreed period of time.

Claire Hill, Economic Growth Officer at West Lindsey Council, told GPSJ: Having worked across the private, not-for-profit and public sectors, I have arrived in economic development later than others. The professional networks I have already established are outside of this area of work. The Early Career Network therefore seemed an ideal opportunity to connect with others in a similar position, and further my understanding of the wider work happening in this field.”

“I am excited by the opportunities this network brings, especially in terms of learning from my industry peers and staying up-to-date with the latest developments,” added Martin Owen, Planning/Regeneration Consultant at BE Group.

IED Executive Director Nigel Wilcock commented: “The Early Career Network is a fantastic initiative to unite professionals in the early stages of their career across the economic development sector. It is built very much on the principle of co-creation between members of the network, and we are excited by its potential to inform and inspire the progression of up-and-coming economic development professionals.”

More information about the Early Career Network, and its membership, can be found here.

With nearly 1,400 IED members overall, professionals are drawn from the public sector (local authorities, universities and government departments) and the private sector (consultancies supporting economic development in its widest sense). For higher education the IED offers student membership for full or part-time students working towards a qualification in a relevant discipline but who are not in employment.

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