It’s Your Swansea

It’s Your Swansea

Last week we hosted our It’s Your Swansea Conference. Let’s have a look back on an incredible day showcasing everything that’s great about Swansea and hearing from the people, organisations and businesses who are making change happen.

Swansea Arena playing host to our It’s Your Swansea Conference, 7th March 2024 (Pic: Innovation Photography)

The conference opened with exciting announcements and updates from key local partners, exploring how Swansea is addressing the challenges of our time and embracing opportunities in 2024.

Cllr Andrea Lewis, Joint Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Service Transformation at Swansea Council, gave an exclusive insight into the schemes that will make Swansea an even better place  to live, work and socialise. She said “Swansea is a real city of opportunity. These are exciting times.”

These opportunities include a major new high tech sustainable office development at 71/72 Kingsway, linked to the “living building” at Picton Yard, one of the greenest buildings in Wales; the transformation of a former BHS store into a new community hub; redeveloping the Civic Centre site for leisure and hospitality; redeveloping old buildings such as the Palace Theatre and Albert Hall; transforming Castle Square to be greener and more welcoming; and much more!

Perhaps the most exciting thing is the £4bn renewable energy project, potentially including a tidal lagoon, a battery farm to store renewable energy generated, a floating solar panel facility, an oceanic and climate change research centre, eco-homes anchored in the water, and a hyperscale data centre.

Cherrie Bija is CEO of Faith in Families, who have been providing skills and opportunities such as free breakfast and sports for kids for the last twenty five years.

Faith in Families have been approached by Amazon with opportunity to run a warehouse which was something they had never done before. They take Amazon’s surplus goods and give them to people, such as shirts for interviews. In fact they can provide pretty much everything you need for a home. Parents aren’t buying things like toothpaste because of cost of living crisis, so Faith in Families can provide them with dignity. 

They have launched Cwtch Mawr, Wales’ first multibank, which aims to identify and help forty thousand familes this year. Giving them brand new items says to them “You’re worth it, we believe in you”. Forty thousand items were given out on two days over Christmas. They put coats out and said “Please take a coat because we need the space”. It was several days before people were actually taking them, but they gave out fifty coats, as well as things  like brand new football boots for children. They can provide all the things that turn houses into homes.

Serena Jones is Executive Director of Operations at Coastal Housing Group, who provide safe, affordable, quality homes that meet sustainability targets. She said they are “working hard to address the deepest housing crisis I’ve seen in thirty years. The systemic challenges are real and biting, but it’s good the Welsh Government understand link between housing and climate change.” She believes “Sustainability is also about people.”

Coastal Housing have installed hybrid heating systems in their properties leading to a 70% reduction in energy bills, volumetric water cylinders resulting in a 38% energy decrease (which can be overriden for hot water if needed), solar PV with sensors to see their impact, and apps to monitor carbon monoxide and general indoor air quality.

Professor Ian Walsh, is Provost (Swansea & Cardiff) at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, which is currently ranked as the top university in the UK for active graduate businesses. It was a fascinating update. Did you know work at the university has transformed the way we repair windscreens on cars? UWTSD”s latest building, the Innovation Matrix, will be as close as possible to net zero, but can’t get there completely because of the computers. It already has about a 70% occupancy and will be opening in June, providing an ecosystem where businesses can thrive.

We heard from young people who are seizing the opportunities on offer here in Swansea, and inspiring others to do the same.

Amy Tanker has volunteered with a number of organisations. As a Psychology & Criminology Student at Swansea University, she was particularly keen to volunteer with Families and Friends of Prisoners Swansea. Not all prisons have family services like this, so volunteering with them meant she had social policy research opportunities and was able to get an internship.

Saadia Abubaker, Founder of Saadia Speaks, wants to empower the next generation of leaders. Born in Sudan, she moved to Swansea age two. Growing up, she experienced a lot of racism, but seized all the opportunities she could. She joined the Youth Sports Trust to encourage more girls like her to do sports, and now uses the same approach to build her brand. She said “People are not always supportive of my ideas, but if one organisation says no to me another will say yes.” She asked “Will you join me in inspiring the next generation of leaders?”

Fatima Lopes said “I grown up here my whole life. In school I couldn’t wait to leave because I didn’t know the opportunities that were here.” She said working as Student Union President at Gower College Swansea has made her aware of of those opportunities, and she will be going to Swansea University.

She said “During Covid, I was in year 10 and 11, and this is when I’d normally do work experience, so I didn’t get this. Students are now more hesistant to embrace opportunities because of lockdown.”

She’d like a sector wide approach on business and schools linking together, similar to Cardiff Commitment. She said students are very passionate and this can be harnessed with clubs and societies. She’d like something similar for people in work. This should be combined with mental health support for people in work and education.

She chose to go down an academic route, but if she’d done an apprenticeship, believes she would have faced stigma and a lack of knowledge, and this needs to change.

In celebration of International Women’s Day, we also welcomed four women to share their stories of overcoming challenges and embracing opportunities in Swansea.

In school Alison Vickers, Managing Partner at Bevan Buckland, knew she wanted to be an accountant (or a detective). In 1986 she got a three month trial with Bevan Buckland, earning less than £400 a month. She rose up through the company and in 1996 joined the board of what was still a very traditional practice. One of her first acts was to end the ban on women wearing trousers! Bevan Buckland now employs a hundred and twenty people and are the biggest independent accountants in Wales. Alison said being based in Swansea hasn’t held them back. She’s learnt everything new is an opportunity, prepare well, and enjoy it!

Joy Ogeh-Hutfield, a Transformation Coach and Leadership Consultant, sees opportunity everywhere. She said “Sight is seeing things as they are, but vision is seeing how things should be. Having a vision means the city has something to give back to you. Gain more clarity by thinking about how your vision can bring change. My greatest joy helping clients understand their true authentic self. Invest in you, because if your cup is empty you have nothing to give. Enhance what you are and what you do.” She added “Teachers open the doors but you must enter by yourself.”

Eight years ago Amy Price, Director at The Social Butterfly Marketing, was a job jumper with bad mental health. She’d never learnt about self employment in school and was in in-work poverty. She said it was very strange attending her first networking event while still working in a call centre, it was “lonely being the youngest business woman in the room, but I’ve grown and I pick up awards in front of those people.” She feels she now lives a good life and doesn’t want to sacrifice more.

Her advice is “Stay in your own lane. Life is full of unique challenges, some days are harder than others, but just try your best.” She believes women are more resilient and risk adverse than men, and have a lot of side hustles but don’t see this as business. She said “I still have imposter syndrome and accept anxiety is a part of me. This year I finally felt I run proper business. I say yes to any opportunity Swansea presents to me and know this helps my mental health.”

Everything Kim Mamhende, Chief Officer of The CAE, does is about empowering people. For her it’s about change in the community, and underpinning that is equity and ensuring everyone has opportunity to do what they want.

She believes everyone has right to live their dreams, and the Welsh dream is achieving what you want without having to move, which is also being about equity and opportunity. She said “Opportunity is about creating. You can’t wait for a seat at the table sometimes you need to create your own table. Entrepreneurship is about adding value, creating your own opportunities and enacting positive change. It’s not always an easy journey.”

This year, we’re exploring even more of the region where we’ll be welcoming everyone to the following It’s Your… Events, so make sure to save the dates!

It’s Your Pembrokeshire, 8th May, Queens Hall Narberth

It’s Your Carmarthenshire, 11th July, Yr Egin

It’s Your Neath Port Talbot, 12th September, Blancos Hotel

Making (energy from) waves

Making (energy from) waves

We have a first class floating offshore wind industry ready to go in the region. It has seen the fastest growth in the Welsh marine energy sector, adding £11.6m to the economy last year, with the potential to generate £1bn over the next five years! It offers a once in a generation opportunity to build a new pioneering industry both for the region and the whole of the UK.

Blue Gem Wind is developing plans for Wales’ floating wind farm, called Erebus. It would be the third floating offshore wind farm in the UK, but the estimated 100MW generated is more than double the other projects. It will house seven 14MW turbines on floating platforms and provide enough low carbon energy to power ninety three thousand homes (Pic: Blue Gem)

While traditional offshore wind turbines are built into the seabed with fixed foundations, floating turbines sit on large floating steel structures which are then tethered to the seabed. This allows the turbines to be placed further out at sea in locations with higher winds, such as Pembrokeshire.

The Crown Estate has announced details of leasing opportunities that are expected to be the first round of developing floating offshore wind in the Celtic Sea. They will work to catalyse and accelerate the UK’s energy transition, and de-risk developments to speed up their deployment. Three Project Development Areas (PDAs) of roughly equal size are being proposed, each with a potential capacity of 1.5GW. This means the overall capacity for the leasing round will be 4.5GW, an increase from a possible 4GW from the four PDAs of varying sizes originally proposed. Overall this will generate enough clean energy capacity to power over four million homes.

The Crown Estate says the leasing round will be used to drive broader social and economic value. This includes requiring developers to set out specific commitments to ports, as well as establishing binding commitments on wider issues such as enhancing skills, addressing environmental impacts, and delivering community benefits.

Ultimately the Crown Estate believes there is the potential to generate 20GW of energy from floating offshore wind in the Celtic Sea.

Marine renewables are crucial in combatting climate change and achieving a diverse and reliable energy mix for current and future generations. And the Welsh Government has said floating offshore wind farms will create thousands of high quality, long-term jobs. It is quickly becoming a proven technology with the potential to deliver sustainable sources of energy and enable us to make the transition to net zero. It generates more power per megawatt than any other renewable source, and the UK’s unique wind resource and shallow seas mean it has been the central technology in plans to end our reliance on fossil fuels.

However plans for the first floating wind farm in the region stalled after no developers bid at a crucial government auction.

There were bids for onshore solar, wind and geothermal schemes as well as tidal however these generate on a lower scale to giant offshore wind farms.

Blue Gem Wind is developing plans for Wales’ floating wind farm, called Erebus, which they say would create ten thousand jobs. It did not bid for a contract because they said the government was not providing enough support through its “contracts for difference” scheme in which it steps in if the market price for electricity falls below the agreed level.

Erebus, due to be commissioned in 2026 and built twenty five miles off the coast of Pembrokeshire, would have seen the region kickstart the floating offshore wind industry. It would be the third floating offshore wind farm in the UK, but the estimated 100MW generated is more than double the other projects. It will house seven 14MW turbines on floating platforms and provide enough low carbon energy to power ninety three thousand homes. The project will provide jobs for biologists, ornithologists, ecologists, geologists, skippers, boat crew, port staff, crane operators, divers, engineers, welders, electricians, technicians, logisticians, administrators and project managers.

The UK Government has since said it will increase the contracts for difference from £44 per MWh to £73 in the next annual auction.

And of course, Erebus isn’t the only floating offshore wind projects planned for the region.

Floventis Energy’s Llŷr 1 and 2 developments will power about two hundred thousand homes with 200MW of clean energy once operational by 2027-28. With an operational life of twenty five years, each of the Llŷr projects will have six to eight turbines, all of which will produce over 12MW.

And Gwynt Glas (a joint venture between EDF Renewables UK and DP Energy), RWE, and a collaboration between Hiraeth Energy and Magnora are all aiming to secure at least 1GW of installed capacity, to be developed throughout the 2020s.

A key aspect of Hiraeth Energy and Magnora’s initial project, Môr Glas, is community ownership. The aim is to establish a wealth fund providing returns for Welsh communities. This is inspired by fossil fuel funds in oil rich countries, such as the £1tn fund from oil and gas revenues generating returns of nearly 6% a year for the people of Norway.

Ports are expected to play a key role in the manufacture and storage of the numerous components needed for floating offshore wind farms, including foundation assembly, cabling and placing the turbines on top of the floating foundations. The ports must be relatively close to project sites so that the turbines can be floated out to their final locations.

The massive turbines float on a thirty metre high base the size of a football pitch. On top of that is a turbine over three hundred metres tall, that’s as tall as the Eiffel Tower! Because they’ll require a lot of materials, Port Talbot is seen as a perfect location because it’s next to the steelworks.

Milford Haven is likely to be a centre for early phase testing, fabricating anchors and anchor chains for floating wind platforms, high speed transfer vehicles and robotics.

Port Talbot and Milford Haven are part of the Celtic Freeport, which will help create tens of thousands of new, high quality jobs in the green industries of the future. The Welsh Government hopes freeports will focus on low carbon technologies, such as floating offshore wind, hydrogen, carbon capture, utilisation, and storage and biofuels.

Of course we don’t always know when the wind will be blowing, but the tides are always predictable!

Tidal stream generators draw energy from water currents in much the same way as wind turbines draw energy from air currents.

Four turbine developers linked to Morlais in Anglesey, were awarded contracts for difference. The Marine Energy Test Area in Pembrokeshire, the only pre-consented, pre-commercial test facility of its kind in Wales, recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Morlais to address common challenges, encourage business and research collaboration, and exchange knowledge and best practices.

Tidal lagoons are power stations that generates electricity from the natural rise and fall of the tides.

A large volume of water is captured behind a fabricated structure which is then released to drive turbines. Tidal lagoons are a more efficient way of producing energy than traditional offshore wind farms, and their operating life is estimated to be about four times longer.

Mark Drakeford has said he wants to “make Wales a world centre for emerging tidal technology”. At least three research projects, announced next spring, will be receiving £750,000 in funding to help address the barriers preventing the development of tidal lagoon technology.

A tidal lagoon could also form part of the £4bn Swansea Port Development Project, formerly Blue Eden, in SA1. The plans, which will encompass the best in sustainable technology, could also include floating and onshore solar facilities, a hyperscale data centre powered by renewable energy, an oceanic and climate change research centre, eco-homes anchored in the water, a district heating system, a green energy transport hub with a hydrogen manufacturing station, and a facility manufacturing batteries to store renewable energy for worldwide distribution. It would also act as a catalyst for further innovation in renewable technology.

Tomorrow we’re hosting a major regional conference and exhibition, bringing together projects, businesses, organisations and key stakeholders in South West Wales’ green economy, together with people of all ages and from all walks of life, for an unmissable day of connecting, showcasing and knowledge sharing, with the goal of getting everyone working together for a resilient, sustainable future for the region. Book your FREE tickets here.

Serco’s Restart Scheme and One Stop partner up to fill crucial job vacancies for the national retailer

Serco’s Restart Scheme and One Stop partner up to fill crucial job vacancies for the national retailer

Hannah Monaghan, from Serco’s Restart Scheme Employer Engagement Team in Wales, and Campbell Hutchison, People Partner for One Stop, a retail convenience store chain and subsidiary of Tesco, with over 900 shops in the UK, have been working together to solve One Stop’s recruitment challenges since the late summer of 2022.

Campbell Hutchison and Hannah Monaghan (Pic: Serco UK)

One Stop were facing a number of challenges, especially in South Wales, where there were a significant number of vacancies in the market, but they were unable to attract and retain good job candidates. One Stop were also struggling with staff engagement and a higher than usual turnover of staff due to the on-going recruitment struggles taking up resources.

Hannah stepped in to support on behalf of Serco’s Restart Scheme and has successfully placed 10 people into Customer Assistant roles for One Stop in Wales, with the individuals settling in well to the business.

Serco are in a unique position with the Restart Scheme as the programme’s purpose is to help those in long-term unemployment to develop their skills and confidence to find long-term, meaningful employment. Serco has been chosen by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to deliver the fully funded Restart Scheme in Wales, meaning local businesses can benefit too by having access to a pool of fully supported candidates at no cost.

Campbell Hutchinson said:

“People that we recruited via the Restart Scheme have been better engaged as they have built a relationship with the restart Scheme team and are more likely to stay. We have more faith in the process than direct applications.

Working with Serco and the Restart Scheme has been brilliant. Before I contacted them, I had a Store Manager who was taken out of his current role to focus on recruitment. The process wasn’t working and had become disjointed. The Store Managers had become stuck on a hamster wheel of recruiting and recruiting and then they weren’t engaging with the new starters. There was no candidate care, and they were taking on anyone and these individuals weren’t committed to the roles. We started having to close stores due to a lack of staff as we don’t allow lone working in shops.

What Hannah and the Restart Scheme brought is stability and structure to the recruitment process. And the financial gain was that we managed to keep more people in stores, more of the time. When we look at our absences, we reduced absences from 6.5% in South Wales to 3.5%, even as low as 2% at one point. We both learned by working together as the candidate might tell Hannah one story and tell us another, so having the good relationship between us, helps us to get the whole story!”

Hannah Monaghan said:

“Campbell and I have built a good working relationship where we catch up weekly. We talk about the applicants that have applied that week and the progress they are making. We also use the opportunity to talk about the candidates that are in work and if there are any problems to tackle, we discuss it and agree a course of action if required. We both know the people who are in the roles and by having regular catch ups, we continue a streamlined process with One Stop.

Attending a managers’ meeting where I met 28 members of staff was really useful as it was good for them to know more about the Restart Scheme and that we are here to help. There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes that employers don’t necessarily know what we do. So, it was informative for them to get an insight into how we promote their vacancies, pre-screen their candidates, how we make sure the qualifying criteria is ticked off before candidates even get to the application stage. What we have achieved so far is just a sign of the good things to come with One Stop over years to come.”

When asked what Campbell would say to any business thinking about using the Restart Scheme, he said:

“Go to the Restart Scheme as early as possible. Invite their staff to your company team meetings so they can put a face to a name and your team can understand what the Restart Scheme is and what the process will be.

Candidates don’t grow on trees, and we are continuously recruiting and have new stores opening in South Wales. Hannah highlighted to us that the biggest challenges for recruitment for one of the new stores is accessibility as it’s not served by public transport very well. There’s no parking which we hadn’t thought of so we are currently working through how we can resolve this. This was invaluable advice. I would recommend using the Restart Scheme. We feel like we are working with experts, and they can bring a different skillset to the recruitment process. Let’s keep working the way we do and thank you for all of your help”.

To know more about the employers and businesses that have benefitted from fully funded support from the Serco Restart Scheme, and to find out what recruitment support is available to you, email or visit

Serco Restart Scheme

Supporting Local

Supporting Local

At 4theRegion we’ve always been passionate about supporting local.

Swansea City Centre Conference 2023 Photos

When we spend our money with big businesses, most of it leaves our local economy and lines the pockets of distant shareholders. When we spend our money with a local small business, it creates benefits for local people, and recirculates in our economy, where it has a much more positive social impact.

Perhaps the most important thing for supporting independent retail in Swansea is for more of us to make the effort to support local whenever we can. How can people, businesses and organisations across Swansea collaborate to promote the cause of our local businesses?

This is why “Supporting Local” is the theme for our Swansea Conference. Last year we hosted the first major conference at the newly opened Swansea Arena, and we’re so excited to be back there once again on March 29th!

We’ll have a regeneration update from Rob Stewart, leader of Swansea Council, and major partners, about all the exciting development projects currently underway and coming soon. This’ll include news of the successful Leveling Up bid that will see significant investments in the Lower Swansea Valley and an update from Urban Splash, the development partner on the Seafront and other strategic sites across Swansea.

Swansea Council has said it wants as much work from regeneration projects go to Welsh businesses as possible. And it was good to see a regional firm like Ministry of Furniture be one of the first businesses to benefit from a project to redevelop Oxford Street’s former BHS and What! store into a new city centre community hub. Ministry of Furniture has been appointed to design the furniture and fixtures scheme, working on the contract with the council and main contractors Kier Construction. Ministry of Furniture worked for the council on the most recent fit out of the Civic Centre, largely with remanufactured furniture. As a boost to the circular economy, they aim to move the majority of that apparatus to the new hub.

Many people across our communities are struggling to afford healthy food for their families, an unacceptable situation that’s been compounded by the cost of living crisis. So what needs to happen to make healthy, affordable and locally produced food available to everyone in Swansea? How can we connect people to where their food comes from, and how to grow and cook it?

GRAFT is a garden and workshop, based at the National Waterfront Museum, working with local communities, schools and adult learners to grow food, preserve seeds, keep bees, and learn cooking skills in a clay oven. Volunteers are invited to join an intergenerational curriculum of outdoor learning, wellbeing and making connected to food. All of the garden’s infrastructure has been built by the team and participants who are learning woodwork and metalwork skills, alongside horticulture.

Farmers across our region face a huge number of challenges in a vulnerable and uncertain sector. The farming industry needs to substantially change to address the climate and nature emergencies, but farmers often feel unfairly blamed or misunderstood by people in towns and cities. How can proactively engage with local farmers to understand their challenges and how they can be better supported? Creating links between farms and local communities and customers is essential to relocalising our food supply chains and creating a resilient food system for Swansea.

Public sector procurement is often recognised as a key lever for change, with the potential to provide a steady and reliable market for locally produced food and drink. The Welsh Government has launched a new initiative meant to encourage more local spending on food by the NHS, schools and local government. But change isn’t happening fast enough. What are the challenges around putting more local food on the public plate – in hospitals, schools and other settings – and how can we overcome them?

At the Swansea Conference, Bwyd Abertawe, a local community based food partnership, will be launching the Swansea Food Charter, as part of their effort to get everyone working together towards making Swansea to become a Sustainable Food Place, where healthy, local and  affordable food is available to everyone, promoting the wellbeing of people and the planet.

At 4theRegion we believe that the creative industries present a huge opportunity for jobs, entrepreneurship, regeneration and wellbeing across Swansea. By investing in creativity we can breathe new life into our high streets and town centres. How can we make sure there are opportunities here in Swansea for people to develop rewarding careers, and build successful businesses, in the creative, digital, arts and cultural sectors?

People in Swansea have an amazing mindset and willingness to help each other out. Elysium have over 100 studios they can rent out across 4 buildings in Swansea. They started off in messy art painting and now have photography studios, TV broadcasters and other creative industries using the space. If you look at creative projects in other cities, there are lots of disparate studios that are always competing. We don’t seem to have that as much in Swansea. Of course, not everyone knows what’s here! How can we better promote and connect all the good stuff that’s happening, to strengthen the sector and engage more people in the arts?

How can we make sure that Swansea retains (and develops) a vibrant and diverse mix of independent retailers, in the face of huge competition from big name brands and online shopping? To survive and thrive as an independent retail business, entrepreneurs need to adopt innovative strategies that set them apart from the global competition. So how can local businesses in Swansea embrace technology?

Russell Greenslade, Chief Executive of Swansea BID, has said the majority of the independent businesses Swansea BID has supported in opening in the city centre in the past 18 months have a very strong digital channel presence.

He said “The strength of the independent business is being nimble enough to respond to trends and situations with instant decision capability. They can be better placed to find their niche, innovate, have more power over profitability, provide a personalised experience, and be their own boss.

“As businesses, we operate in different and more challenging environments since bouncing back from a global pandemic and now the cost-of-living crisis. The challenges include staying relevant as customers evolve, embracing online shopping and harnessing the power of digital to help overcome challenges. Using technology to analyse our customer data, we can adapt accordingly to put customers first and use digital, data, technology and the intelligence they provide to improve the experience and anticipate customer needs enabling business growth.”

The Swansea Conference & Exhibition is going to be an unmissable day. If you haven’t yet booked your free ticket, please take a moment to do it now! There’ll be over 120 exhibition stands showcasing local businesses and community organisations, interactive exhibitions from the universities, Oriel Science, and Plantasia, opportunities to meet local companies, and a Youth Voice area celebrating some amazing young people. Find out about local job opportunities, meet new suppliers, pick up lots of free goodies, and feel proud of the people and organisations that make Swansea great! There’s something for everyone!

Acting today for a better tomorrow

Acting today for a better tomorrow

Nothing is more important than leaving the world in a better place than we found it for future generations. How can we ensure our children have full bellies and curious minds? How can we care for and share with others? How can we ensure we count the earth beneath our feet and in faraway lands as our equals?

No longer should we focus on growth, instead focus on thriving, wellbeing and resilience in communities. The battleground for next ten years is not harder faster life but more balance and better connections (Pic: Brennan Tolman)

In 2015 Wales introduced the Well-being of Future Generations Act, becoming the first country in the world to legislate in the interests of future generations. This inspired countries such as Canada, Ireland, Scotland and Gibraltar to introduce similar legislation. It also inspired the creation of the UN Special Envoy for Future Generations, with Nikhil Seth, the then UN Assistant Secretary General, saying “What Wales is doing today, the world will do tomorrow.”

The Well-being of Future Generations Act places a legal responsibility for policy makers to create inter-connected solutions to improve cultural, social, economic and environmental wellbeing, via seven goals, including ambitions for a healthier, more equal, and environmentally resilient society, and a wellbeing economy. Notably, the goal for a “prosperous Wales” doesn’t mention GDP, and instead defines growth in terms of “an innovative, productive and low carbon society which recognises the limits of the global environment”, with an emphasis on “decent work”.

The term in office of Wales’ (and the world’s) first Future Generations Commissioner, Sophie Howe, came to an end on January 31st. Derek Walker, currently also CEO of Cwmpas, replaces her, and we look forward to having the opportunity of working with him in his new role. Just before leaving office, Sophie Howe published her Future Generations Changemaker 100, which she described as “a list of some of the extraordinary people that my team and I have been inspired by over the seven years since I took up post”. 4theRegion are on the list (we’re number 4)! We’re so honoured to be on a changemakers list with Micheal Sheen!

At 4theRegion, we believe strong relationships and inclusive networks are essential if South West Wales is to respond positively to the challenges we’re all facing. Co-creation, collaboration and inclusion have shone through as key priorities in the implementation of the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act – and that’s what we are all about!

The beginning and end of 4theRegion is young people. Younger generations are our future, so how can we equip young people across South West Wales with the skills and mindset to thrive?

How do we ensure every child gets to hear all the opportunities available to them?

We could get inspirational young professionals, who are more relatable, to speak them. We can encourage businesses to give young people an opportunity to volunteer, which is more beneficial to a day in school.

We should also consider the pressure of the question of “What do you want to do when you grow up?” and perhaps reframe it to be “What kind of person do you want to be when you grow up?” Do this next time you speak to a young person – placing the focus on the opportunity to build a happy, healthy and fulfilling future. Self belief, resilience and curiosity are key attributes that enable young people to seize opportunities and discover their own path.

Wales now has a new purpose driven curriculum, designed for well rounded, innovative citizens. It includes mental health education and eco-literacy, while encouraging young people to follow creative pursuits. We’re also moving away from traditional exams and moving towards learning for learning’s sake.

And how could we improve wellbeing for those who’ve entered the workforce?

A Senedd Committee has said Wales should make “serious moves” to introduce a four day working week. Wales has some of the longest working hours in Europe. Whereas, in Iceland 86% of workers work a four day week. A four day working week means you work reduced hours with no loss of pay. It’s argued it could improve mental health as shorter hours reduce the risk of stress, anxiety and burnout. It could reduce our carbon footprint by reducing commuting. It could have a positive effect on gender equality, as four day week pilots suggest women report the largest increases in wellbeing. It also appears to boost productivity. Countries where people work the least number of hours are actually more productive on an hourly basis.

The four day week debate also scratches the surface of an ongoing discussion among economists. GDP has long been used as the ultimate measure of a nation’s progress, often with the effect of seeing policymakers chase growth at any cost.

Of course it’s very easy to point to the headline grabbing changes. But we think often what’s more effective for cultural transformation are the small things (that are actually really big things).

We’re talking about the movement for real change within our communities. A conversation at a primary school, food bank, community garden or upcycling café is often more meaningful than an address to the UN or a keynote speech at a business event. These are the conversations that make a difference at a local level, sow seeds for the future, and that create a network of wellbeing roots in our very soil. They are the conversations that inspire hope in a world that could do with a little more hope. And that’s because these small moments build to become a powerful force for change from the core.

Research acknowledges that wellbeing means different things to different people and is best understood using methods that pay attention to how wellbeing is done by people, moment by moment.

No longer should we focus on growth, instead focus on thriving, wellbeing and resilience in communities. The battleground for next ten years is not harder faster life but more balance and better connections. And we need people who are in poverty involved in the discussion of the direction of travel for economics and wellbeing. Doing to people never works. This needs to be hyperlocal, because we can’t wait for large corporations and governments. As we do this we will make mistakes but we need to learn from each other to see what happens next.

It’s basically based on empowerment. Where people need empowerment, give them the resources, bits of help and guidance as and when necessary, but basically put them in charge. And that changes the dynamic, and makes people not hopeless and know they’ve got something they can do. Which is great!

Ask yourself how much can you do in your own community and become self-reliant? See who the connectors are. In different communities different people and organisations play that role. Make connections with people who are like minded. This can mean community hubs, engagement with outdoors, community engagement, local engagement (we’re passionate about this at 4theRegion, and want to see more deliberative democracy, people’s assembly, sense of agency around our own communities), and arts and crafts. What are businesses doing to support the humanity of the workforce?

A wellbeing economy demands truly transformative change. Yes, at a policy level, but that thinking has to have a place to live. It needs to live in schools, cafes, homes, shops, banks, in business, and in everyday life. In a wellbeing economy, we believe physical and mental wellbeing will be a fundamental measure of its success. It seems straightforward that if more people feel healthier in mind and body, communities thrive and the economy benefits.

Is it possible that Wales, supported by the Well-being of Future Generations Act, can lead the charge globally? We think so. Join Wellbeing Economy Wales at 7pm this evening to discuss what we need to change to make the wellbeing economy a driver of societal behaviour, not a trickle down consequence of coerced, second hand investment.

Oh and our third annual Swansea City Centre Conference takes place on March 29th. It’s set to be an incredible day, showcasing everything that’s great about Swansea and hearing from the people, organisations and businesses who are making change happen. It’s open to all, and YOU are invited!