Wales has a deep tradition for community initiatives, from developing the early model for the NHS to today’s booming social enterprise industry. But can community participation be the driver of local economic change?
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We believe a new era of citizen engagement is needed; we need to address the problems that a large, cumbersome state has been a component of, however well meaning its rhetoric may be. In Wales, in particular, we need input from those outside traditional party politics; we need greater civil society.
Wales’ new economic development will be more akin to a successful coral reef. A coral reef thrives when its individual coral polyps are left to develop in their own way. We need to allow each of our communities to be the best it can be, and not some limp copycat of somewhere else. We encourage our children not to compare themselves with others, and yet with our communities, for too long, we’ve tried to be things we’re not.
Rejecting the ‘managed decline’ approach to post-industrial areas, Dr Mark Lang and Professor David Adamson developed the Deep Place study as a route map to sustainable communities.
There are no shortages of social initiatives across south Wales, with locals giving their time and energy to help improve the places they live in, drawing on the country’s strong community traditions. Here are ten of the best:
The Wales economy is certainly tricky, with former coalfield communities and very rural areas, skills shortages and ill-health. More than anywhere else, they need to rethink the way that regeneration will happen. They have been wedded to big, ineffective regeneration for too long, and it’s time to try something else.
In practice this means a whole-town, joined-up approach to regeneration involving public, private and third sectors as well as individual residents businesses and traders. The regeneration of Barry is more about adding value so that progress is sustainable and at the same time truly cements its place in the region.
Making ‘true venture capital’ available to small scale enterprises and voluntary organisations would completely alter the playing field