Co-producing for the Future Wellbeing of Welsh Towns

By Rebekah Menzies, Policy and Development Officer, Carnegie UK Trust

Wales is a world-leader when it comes to co-production. It’s at the heart of the (also world-leading) Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, and the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014, among many other examples.

Co-production is also very much at the heart of the Carnegie UK Trust’s work. Our literature on the Enabling State recognises that traditional ‘top down’ approaches to public service delivery and design can no longer solve the complex social problems that we face as a society. Instead, the state needs to play a more facilitative and enabling role which empowers individuals and communities to have more control over their personal wellbeing and our collective wellbeing as a society.

Co-production was a key theme that emerged from a series of discussions we convened in Wales earlier this year, in partnership with WCVA. As part of our work on ‘Turnaround Towns’, we brought together key towns stakeholders in two Welsh towns – Merthyr Tydfil and Llandudno Junction – to discuss the challenges and opportunities for towns in Wales. Our new report sets out the key themes that emerged from our discussions, and provides recommendations for Welsh and local government, the business and voluntary sectors, and individuals and communities with an interest in the wellbeing of their towns.

Participants at both discussions focused on the need for individuals and communities to have a real and meaningful role in the development and governance of their towns over the long-term. While there were exampled shared of success, this is largely the exception, not the norm. Much of the discussion lamented broken models of engagement – where powerless communities are ‘consulted’ on decisions that have already been made, and changes are ‘done to communities,’ rather than with and for.

The importance of working across sectors for the success of towns in Wales was another focus of discussions. Participants stressed the need for public, voluntary and private sectors to work together – with local communities – to make towns in Wales a success. Cross-sectoral working is a key part of the Well-being of Future Generations legislation, encouraged by two of the ‘five ways of working’: Collaboration (with any other person (or different parts of the public body itself) that could help the body to meet its well-being objectives); and involvement (involving people with an interest in achieving the well-being goals, and ensuring that those people reflect the diversity of the area which the body serves).

The report sets out a number of recommendations that support greater co-production across Welsh towns, including:

  • Local government should empower local people to take a leading role in their town. Working with partners in other sectors with specific skill sets, local authorities should lead on developing programmes for community members to build the confidence, skills and capacity to engage with, create and own the solutions for their town, and grow dispersed community leadership and collective action.
  • The voluntary sector and businesses should proactively look for opportunities to work with ‘unusual friends.’ There could be scope to develop a model that brings together the needs of communities and voluntary organisations with specific skills and resources from other sectors, particularly the business sector, for the benefit of towns.
  • Welsh Government should lead the behaviour and culture change required to make the Well-being of Future Generations legislation a success. The Future Generations commissioner has recognised this stating, “Delivering the Act is a challenge that will require the strongest leadership to make the most of the opportunities for change it offers.” There is an opportunity for Welsh Government, working with the Office of the Future Generations Commissioner, to lead by example and model the behaviours and culture change required by the Act, and ultimately achieve improved wellbeing outcomes for individuals and communities across Wales.

The challenge now is to move from rhetoric to reality and ensure that co-production becomes normalised across Wales, to support the wellbeing of local places and local people.

Along with WCVA, the Trust welcomes engagement with towns stakeholders in Wales to support the recommendations identified in this report. The report is also available to download here in Welsh.

As a direct consequence of the ‘Supporting local places and local people: Opportunities and challenges for Welsh towns’ report, the Carnegie UK Trust and Welsh Government will work together to address the critical need to improve the data and evidence base available about Welsh towns.

A new data platform, ‘Understanding Welsh Places’ (UWP) will collate data-driven insights that will inform national and local policy decisions and help communities to better understand how they can reach their potential. The project will result in a mobile, interactive tool that anyone can use to draw data-driven conclusions about their town and how it compares with others. A Consortium of partners in Wales will develop the project, coordinated by the Institute of Welsh Affairs (IWA). The new tool will build on learning from a successful platform in Scotland, Understanding Scottish Places www.usp.scot.

 

 

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