Baroness Glenys Thornton outlines a new community initiative to tackle inequality in Wales.
At The Young Foundation we believe that all communities, whatever their challenges, are brimming with people full of ideas, motivation and potential. We know from the work we have been delivering in communities across Wales and in other parts of the UK, that if this potential is recognised, celebrated and supported, in the form of new ideas, networks, collaborations and relationships between people and institutions, communities themselves can provide the answers to the question of how to build a fairer future.
This goes beyond simply making communities proud of what they are and what they do. We think the evidence in the communities across Wales is overwhelming. Where ideas, innovations and large scale programmes to strengthen communities have not made impact in the past, it is because they have failed to resonate and connect with the lives and aspirations of the communities whose residents are their intended beneficiaries. We therefore believe that actions which emerge from local people coming together around shared goals represent better, more sustainable bets for those funders, investors and commissioners with the money and resources to support social innovation and enterprise in Wales.
For the past nine months, funded by the Welsh Government, we have been working on Amplify Cymru, an initiative in three communities in the north, south and west – Aberystwyth, Connah’s Quay and Port Talbot – to bring people in these towns together around a shared narrative of what their places are and could be in the future.
This has been achieved through research conducted by and with local people who know these places, believe in them and want more for them. In the three places these narratives have become the basis of a collective discussion about what actions local people are already taking to transform their local communities, and what more they can do together.
We have supported people with these new ideas in the localities to develop them into practical propositions which we have showcased locally, and, at our event taking place on Tuesday 18th October in Port Talbot, to an audience of funders, policy-makers and people from communities drawn from across the country.
Our hope for Port Talbot, Connah’s Quay and Aberystwyth is that our work in this first year can make a local impact through the positive narratives we have shaped with local people, and through the practical actions and innovations which we have helped to develop.
Our hope for Wales more widely is that a strong strategic partnership can be established underpinned by a shared commitment to supporting community actions which connect with the insights of local people. We think this is in the interests of everybody in Wales.
Amplify Cymru has been running for less than a year and we know that we have not got everything right. Nor do we claim to have all the answers. However these past nine months have strengthened our conviction, that we are right to believe in the potential of Welsh communities. There are passionate, committed people working right now to make their places fairer for all, and many more who, with the right support could make contributions that really transform lives. These voices need to be heard, and these efforts need to be recognised, celebrated and supported.
The challenge to Welsh institutions and leaders, those with resources and influence, is to pool resources and to change what they do in order to facilitate and support action at the local level. We understand the level of challenge this presents to current ways of thinking. We also think it is an opportunity which cannot be missed if we want more equal, vibrant and healthy communities.
Shifting the dial on inequality in Wales is a long-term goal for which the prize is potentially huge. It will be felt in economic regeneration, better health and well-being for all people and better educational outcomes for all children. It will be evidenced by a fairer distribution of resources, and of recognition and representation across Welsh society.
Our part in delivering this prize has been limited in time and scope, and has faced many challenges. We are nevertheless convinced of the need for approaches like ours to deliver this prize. We look forward to a bright future for transformed communities across Wales, and being a part of making that happen.