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PACE: The Place Leaders’ Programme blog

This blog page features regular updates about the Place Leaders’ Pioneering, Action-orientated, Creative and Entrepreneurial (PACE) programme created by ADEPT in partnership with Amey.

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PACE blog - thoughts on Advocating the Case for Place from Nigel Riglar

2024 Cohort – Session One – Advocating the case for Place 

The initial session of 2024’s PACE cohort explored ideas, issues and inspirations around advocating the case for place. Nigel Riglar, past President of ADEPT and Executive Director – Place at South Gloucestershire Council, gives his thoughts on the first session of the programme.

What attracted you to the PACE programme this year and were you involved with the 2023 cohort?

I was only really involved with the 2023 programme as part of the leadership team at ADEPT, and although I wasn’t part of the cohort, I followed the feedback and conversations that emerged from each session with interest. 

The discussions and thinking that transpired as a result of last year’s focus on behavioural insight inspired me to be part of this year’s programme, looking at making a stronger case for place. I felt that because of my career background I would be able to offer my experiences to the group and hopefully make a positive contribution.

Many of the participants in the 2023 programme have talked about the huge benefits of having time and space to think about these vital issues, would you agree?

Without doubt, the chance to step away even briefly, from the balancing act of your day-to-day responsibilities, to examine the impact and breadth of the role’s potential is hugely powerful. 

Seeing the bigger picture, especially looking into the future and exploring what a place director’s role may look like in five, ten or fifty years’ time, really helps you to understand the decisions and areas to focus on today to make that role, that community, that project viable long term.

What were your personal expectations for the first PACE session?

Genuinely, I was excited by the prospect of speaking to others in a similar role with the framework of a topic and a goal in mind. Listening to people share their experiences, stories and backgrounds as well as their unique perspectives on our shared wicked issues is always a privilege.

What were your key moments and important takeaways from the event?

Whenever we think about ‘takeaway moments’ from events, speeches, talks or conferences we can get stuck in imagining a new piece of hard data or factual content that has us scribbling numbers to remember onto a notepad. 

For me, the key moment and real takeaway from the first PACE session in 2024 was quite the opposite. It was a moment of stillness and quiet, as everyone put their pens down and really focused on what was being shared. 

The silence in the room as everyone listened and absorbed this experience of storytelling really showed me the vital importance of finding the authentic narrative in the work that we do in order to communicate it effectively. 

Do you feel you’ve already begun to apply new ways of thinking about place in your day-to-day work?

Absolutely and in quite interesting and surprising ways. I’ve already mentioned exploring the concept of what a place director’s role may look like in the future taking into consideration budget and organisational changes, climate impacts, changing populations and all the technological innovations that we can see on the horizon, as well as those we can’t yet imagine. 

I’ve found that after the initial PACE session I’ve spent time thinking more about what it means to be a ‘good ancestor’. In this case I don’t limit this to mean a family ancestor, although it’s obvious that in my role, the choices I make may impact my direct descendants.

I’ve been exploring what it means to be a good ancestor with a far wider perspective. What can I do today, that will make the tasks that someone in my role faces far easier to tackle in the future?

What changes can I make and inspire others to make that will create a space in years to come that supports our place services. Thinking in the longer term to establish better relationships with the idea of place now is essential.

There are things I can do now to lay the foundations for what people are going to need over the next five to fifty years. If we explore it correctly, we give ourselves the best chance to make the right decisions about hard infrastructure, green infrastructure, community growth and innovation to support people in the long-term. Whether that's the life of a contract which might be 10 years or the life of a building which might be 100 years.

Have you identified any ideas coming out of the 2024 PACE programme that you are going to introduce?

The thing that springs most to mind, is actually something I already do, but seeing it in action in that first PACE session really helped me to see how important it is and how helpful it can be.

I’m fascinated by people and have always asked new starters in the department about their backgrounds, hobbies and work history. In this way I get a much broader sense of the person, their skillset, what they can bring to the role and the team above and beyond the day-to-day requirements and responsibilities of the job. 

Seeing that played out through the PACE programme, with people holding very similar roles but from very different backgrounds and wildly different career pathways, showed me the value of thinking creatively and holistically about issues, problems and opportunities. 

How can we optimise our teams by using the diverse skills of each person creatively and collaboratively? We have just reshaped our department and putting teams together, working collaboratively, spotting talent to nurture and mapping out career pathways have been big parts of those conversations and decisions.

Recruitment and retention in local government is becoming increasingly important, making sure we find, attract and keep the right people with those vital new skills that we need as our communities evolve. Skills, team members and problem solving that help to ensure our decisions today make us good ancestors in the future.

You can read the output from session one here: Making a Stronger Case for Place - Advocating the Case for Place 


Nigel Riglar is a former President of ADEPT and Executive Director - Place for South Gloucestershire Council.

Further information

  • The joint venture is designed to provide thought leaders with the space to find strategic solutions that are Pioneering, Action-orientated, Creative and Entrepreneurial (PACE). Designed exclusively for place directors and senior leadership, two of the fundamental principles behind PACE is to influence the future of place-focused strategies and support place leaders in driving change. 
  • PACE - The Place Leaders Programme:
  • PACE Programme Session 1 output - Making a Stronger Case for Place - Advocating the Case for Place 
  • Amey:

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