Measuring a Wellbeing Economy in Wales

Measuring a Wellbeing Economy in Wales

Wellbeing Economy Wales is embarking on a volunteer-led project to create the Wales Wellbeing Economy Index – a visualisation of relevant and meaningful data that frames the wellbeing economy in a way that everyone can understand.  It’s part of a wider mission to broaden the understanding of (and engagement in) the idea of wellbeing economics in Wales. 

The intention is to create a set of indicators that measure and track the progress of the wellbeing economy at a local, constituency or regional level; and which is updated regularly, eg quarterly, so that it is useful and relatable for people.

At tonight’s monthly discussion forum, Stephen Priestnall from Wellbeing Economy Wales provided an introductory overview to the project, which is in its very early stages.  The team is inviting input, insight and involvement from the wider community across Wales – anyone who shares an interest in measuring, tracking and visualising “wellbeing economics” at a local or regional level, or who might have datasets or expertise to contribute.  Opening the project up for early feedback and reflection is part of WEW’s commitment to co-production and partnership working, and the team was incredibly grateful to all those who took an interest in the work and contributed their thoughts.

The current proposal is to seek data that measures five components of a wellbeing economy:

# Sustainable Private GDP
# Economic Cooperation
# Social & cultural wellbeing
# Environmental Wellbeing
# Value of public services provided

Participants queried who the measurements were intended for, and whether they would be useful, meaningful or engaging at a local or oganisational level, to inform decision-making or the focusing of changemaking work at the level of local communities.  The discussion also explored the difference between measuring “wellbeing” (like, for example, mental and physical wellbeing, which is perhaps subjective, qualitative, and hard to measure) versus measuring “wellbeing economics” – which is something we are all seeking to define and understand more clearly here in Wales!

Watch the recording – click here to view the full discussion via Zoom

Stephanie Howarth, Chief Statistician at the Welsh Government, also spoke at the meeting, and provided an overview of how Wellbeing is already being measured and tracked in Wales, through Wales’ Wellbeing Indicator Framework – a set of 46 indicators mapped to the seven wellbeing goals of the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act.  Steph explained that the indicators in Wales were intended to “measure progress towards the Wales we want”, and to be:

# Short & Manageable;
# Coherent and fit well with other indicators;
# A measure for the whole of Wales;
# Resonant with the public

Making data meaningful for the public is agreed as the key challenge, and one of the ways Wales has sought to achieve this is through naming it’s indicators in ways that make sense to people – for example statistics relating simply to “healthy babies” rather than more technical definitions.  Stephanie’s team are currently inviting feedback and insight as part of an ongoing consultation about the Wellbeing Indicator Framework, asking what possible gaps there might be, and how the data could be made more useful.  Take a look at the blog to submit your comments:

One key reflection from tonight’s discussion was the importance of localised data, and the ability for communities and local decision-makers to be able to access and “drill down” on data for their local places.  There was a strong consensus in favour of interactive, filterable datasets that are accessible for ordinary people, and Steph agreed that this is an area worth investigating.  Stephen affirmed that the WEW project will seek to use and distribute its data on an open data platform, so that anyone can engage with it.  The aspiration is that the data be useable at a local level, so that we can interact and drill down, bringing communities together to discuss what the data means to them; what its implications are, and what it tells about needs, strengths and challenges.

There were a number of valuable contributions from colleagues across Wales, shining a light of different aspects of the question of measuring wellbeing.  Jonathan Richards, with colleagues, has done a lot of work around measuring the value of public services, and also reflected on some very useful work happening elsewhere, including in Birmingham

At Bronllys Well Being Park, colleagues have designed a comprehensive wellbeing survey, for which they are keen to partner and seek funding – looking at wellbeing through a psychometric lens.  And Barry Farrell noted that their survey work has identified 97 important indicators of well-being in 8 dimensions: Employment & Income, Housing & Environment, Food & Nutrition, Transport, Energy, Leisure, Community, and Physical & Mental Health.

Ellie Harwood, from the Child Poverty Action Group and the Anti-Poverty Coalition said that they have collected a lot of data on child poverty, but that is has been a challenge to get people to use the data they produce.  Her insight was that data becomes most meaningful and actionable when it is provided at a local level, for example by ward – where it feels real and tangible. 

Meanwhile, David Llewellyn from the NHS in Wales advised that they are creating a local wellbeing index intended to stimulate and provoke enhanced community discussions, “such that we can support and co-produce with communities to support wellbeing. It’s still in development but we would be very happy to learn from others”.  

The meeting also reflected on WHY measuring and tracking wellbeing data feels IMPORTANT, and what our ultimate purpose should be as we seek to create and distribute new KPIs.  We heard powerful insights about the importance of good data for determining what is required for change and how to improve things, as well as the power of data to inform community conversations and drive innovation. 

All too often, data is used retrospectively to prove that something has worked and secure future funding – but perhaps our core focus should be on finding and distributing data that inspires us to action – that motivates and empowers us on an individual level, to play our part in making change.  As Vicki Moller commented, “Data has to mean something to locals and lead to action… or so what!?”

What we measure, as a society, also reflects what we value – and perhaps in seeking to find effective measures for the wellbeing of people and the planet we will be able to more strongly advocate for those shared values, and change the culture of society in that direction.  Seeking alternatives to narrow economic evaluations like GVA and GDP is important work if we are to change what we really value, and what we invest in, as a society.  And “wellbeing economics” perhaps provides a new way for Wales to define our own agenda, distinct from those in Westminster, and to build on the achievement of Wellbeing of Future Generations Act and take it forward to better implementation and delivery.

Wellbeing Economy Wales is a volunteer-led organisation, part of the global Wellbeing Economy Alliance, working to make the vision of a “wellbeing economy” more visible, more credible and more meaningful, here in Wales.  As a founding member, 4theRegion helps to host the monthly Wellbeing Economy Discussion Forum on the second Thursday of each month.

Register via Eventbrite for upcoming events or contact for info.

The Art of the Possible – An Event to Procure Transformation

The Art of the Possible – An Event to Procure Transformation

On 12th December, we’re running an event in Swansea that we hope will open new possibilities for our regional economy.  The Art of the Possible is bringing the right people together to create a shared sense of purpose around keeping more regional spending… IN THE REGION!  Not just WHY this is important from a community wealth building perspective, but also HOW it can be achieved – within the existing statutory framework and procurement laws.

We’re asking, How can we ensure anchor institutions are spending their money WITHIN the region, with all the amazing businesses and suppliers we have in South West Wales?  How are we making sure regional businesses can grow and prosper, rather than letting contracts slip away to major national and multi-national firms with no long term interest in our communities?

Our amazing speakers include Neil McInroy from the CLES – Centre for Local Economic Strategies, talking about the Preston Model and its application here in South West Wales; and Dr Eurgain Powell, Change Maker at the office of the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, talking about how the seven well-being goals could and should shape procurement decisions.  Plus, we’ll be asking leading procurement barrister Professor Rudi Klein to share his recommendations and insights around procurement law and what’s possible within the existing guidelines.

This is an open event run by 4theRegion in partnership with EFT Consult, for anyone with an interest in regional procurement, community wealth building, supply chain, and the Foundational Economy.  Dawn Lyle (4theRegion) and Dave Kieft (EFT) are both determined advocates for more In-Region Procurement, more opportunities for local firms, and a greater implementation of the values and goals of the Well-Being of Future Generations Act. They will introduce and host this event, which will include roundtable discussions and plenty of opportunity for you to have your say and share your views and ideas.

We are particularly keen to welcome procurement teams from the region’s major anchor institutions, including Swansea University, University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Pobl Group, Coastal Housing Group, the PSBs and the four local authorities.

Please spread the word to your contacts and colleagues.  Here’s the link to register your place:

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Roundtable Report – Swansea Creative Quarter 2019

Roundtable Report – Swansea Creative Quarter 2019


The creative quarter round table meeting arises out of the Swansea City Centre Conference run by 4theRegion in April. The intention is to look at what else can be done to keep the momentum up on Swansea High Street. What can we, as business owners, organisations and passionate individuals do to improve the area, visually and socially, increase footfall and make it a destination for Swansea residents and visitors to the City.

Emerging Themes

Unique Selling Points

  • Swansea has huge potential 
  • A vibrant community proud of the City they have created
  • A place that people aspire to be part of 
  • Size of Swansea is a strength
  • Swansea has a vibe 
  • When there’s something to celebrate Swansea is good at coming together (Jubilee parties, Stereophonics, proms in the park…)
  • We’ve got amazing heritage
  • People really care

Connect with…

Emerging Actions – What Next?

Action Ideas

Practical things and how to raise awareness: 

  • Workshops 
  • Saturday clubs 
  • Bigger tech sector buildings more creative hubs 
  • Networking: low cost, decent creative community 
  • I want to implement ideas of my own 
  • Additional indoor market – take over the warehouse
  • Steering group 
  • Get noticed, high street page, podcast, what indies are doing 
  • High Street Newsletter (already in the process of being done) 
  • Community Calendar for all events, accessible, current 
  • Wellbeing publication & arts & eco
  • Storytelling event, regular awards – acknowledge thank, celebrate showcase – broadcast get it out,  the arts (Dylan T)
  • Promote remote working 
  • Youtube channel / ebook / tell swansea story  – Competition 
  • Include Creative groups/artists in town planning (sustainable cities are built around arts/music/culture) 
  • Use Swansea Bay TV more 
  • Invite more creatives to development meetings 
  • Buildings – compulsory purchase 
  • Link with schools for competitions 
  • Link with the retired sector 
  • Organise an event for Landlords/letting agents, HAs

What next – ACTIONS

  • Paul and Neil to update on the High Street newsletter and what can this group do to help make it happen (Lucy offered venue) 
  • 4theRegion with Stacey Adamiec to organise a property owners meeting – landlords, letting agents, housing associations 
  • Paul Munn has a hub that can be used for workshops (how can we make that happen?) 
  • Story telling – Carl Gough is keen to push on the Swansea Showcase through storytelling 
  • 4theRegion has found a building that can be used for a creative hub and it will give us an opportunity to get creative and put a stamp on our gateway to high street. 
  • 4theRegion has a newsletter and fantastic social media following that can be used for updates and promotion 
  • The Swansea City Centre Conference can be used as an annual Celebration of businesses & individuals who’ve made positive changes in the City Centre 
  • David Jones – is keen to create a youtube channel, regular podcast or ebook (how can this group make that happen)

Group Participants

  • Dawn Lyle  – 4theRegion / iCreate 
  • Zoe Antrobus – 4theRegion
  • Alix Charles – Alix Digital
  • Eve Oliver – Alix Digital
  • Noel Isherwood – Architects
  • Alex Williams – ATD
  • Andy Elliot- Coastal Housing
  • David Jones – Conversis
  • Paul Munn – Elysium Gallery
  • Daniel Staveley – Elysium Gallery
  • Lucy Heavens- Juicy Lucy Designs / Swansea Wellbeing Centre
  • Pearl Bevan – Oxford University Press
  • Carl GoughSocial Business Wales
  • Helen Necrews -Swansea iTec
  • Paul Harwood – TechHub
  • Richard Harris – Welsh Government
  • Stacey Adamiec
  • Lydia Evans
  • Gareth Pope
  • Dustin Rubrio
  • Ben Reynolds – Urban Foundry
  • Gareth Evans – Design Swansea
  • Kathryn Clarke – International Workspace Group
  • Mike Klein
  • Karen MacKinnon – Glynn Vivian Gallery
  • Huw Williams – Coastal Housing
  • Professor Ian Walsh – UWTSD
  • Alice Jones – Illustrator

Keep in Touch with this Conversation

Email with the subject line “Creative Quarter” if you would like to be notified of future events and projects.  Also please make you are subscribed to the 4theRegion newsletter!

Full Meeting Minutes

Dawn Lyle spoke of the importance of creative, cultural and vibrant places. If we have places that are diverse and vibrant people will want to live and work here. Starting with inward investment is the wrong approach, instead we need to work from the ground up. There’s been a lot of investment in the creative and digital sectors, but more needs to be done.

She asked the people attending what we would like to see in ten years time if all our hopes and dreams were realised.  Various things suggested included full employment, digital connectivity, and diversity of opportunities.  Dawn Lyle asked what was was important to people both in terms of the event and the Creative Quarter.

One attendee said he didn’t like the idea that the high street was dead. He pointed out that e-commerce businesses are now buying physical premises because they gave a better experience. He said, if the retail sector worked alongside e-commerce, more people would shop in the city centre.

Another person praised Swansea’s nice community vibe and way people come together to get things done.

“Property Alchemist” Stacey Adamiec said it was important to share synergy. She’s seen places change and evolve and believes it is important for Swansea to become a destination place.

Another participant said it was important to invest in older people, because younger people aren’t everyone.

Several people expressed concerns about gentrification. One participant said there needed to be buildings where people in the creative sector could collaborate. He comes from Hackney, which has been completely regenerated, but now he’s priced out of the market. Regeneration improves standards of living, but something else will suffer because of that. He said it was important to discuss these issues in relation to Swansea High Street, and the artists who will be inhabiting the building should form the core group in that process. He wants to look at how artists and retail sites can synchronise what they’re doing. It’s possible to get people together to prosper, but there are others that are important and go deeper.

Another participant else said his dream was that the people who started reviving an area wouldn’t behind behind, as they have in places like Hackney, Shoreditch and Bristol. He said he lived in Bristol in the nineties and that he house he lived in “couldn’t give away” was now worth £300,000.

Fears were expressed that exactly the same thing would happen in Swansea if artists don’t take control. The advantage is that there are a lot more opportunities to take control in a small place like Swansea than there are in London.

Dawn Lyle said neo-liberalism places value on individuals in terms of what they earn in jobs, but people can generate so much value that isn’t always commercial value.

She asked what our strengths were, as a city and as groups and individuals in the city.

Lucy Heavens from Swansea Wellbeing Centre said she got a sense that in Swansea artistry was being looked after and art belonged to everyone. She liked the idea of having a tool to explore wellbeing and what it is to belong, because it would lovely to have a real sense to identity and defining art so that Swansea is synonymous with art and talent. She said Coastal Housing had already transformed buildings and made statement pieces. She said we didn’t need to rely on big business, we can rely on ourselves and community projects can fill in the gaps. She pointed out the contribution to art that already exists. People need to create art and get a sense of belonging. This wouldn’t have to involve expensive buildings, it could be about individuals. She suggested a space on the side of Swansea Wellbeing Centre, assuming Pobl Group agreed, could be used for public art.

Another participant talked about how he remembered all the street parties from the Queen’s Jubilee in 1977. He feels there isn’t the same sense of community today, so street parties would be a good way of reviving community spirit.

Another participant said there were a lot of people involved in their communities. He we need to find a way to reach out and support the people around us. Street parties would be free, although the police need to sanction road closures.

Several people liked the idea of a YouTube channel to promote the creative community in Swansea, which could be viewed anywhere in the world.

One participant said artists sometimes find themselves having to fill spaces originally intended for retail, but if they’d been involved in the town planning process from the outset they could have purpose built places. At the moment artists are treated as an afterthought. They don’t know what will be built and whether it’ll be something they can afford. He said Swansea’s current creative quarter won’t be here in five years time, so artists will have to find somewhere else to live. This means they need a sustainable solution, where they’re be involved in development. He said Swansea had everything, so it should be a city inclusive of everything.

He said people at the top were saying how important creative communities were in bringing in revenue, but won’t creating an environment for them to do it.

Mike Klein acknowledged gentrification was a problem, but felt some degree of gentrification and wealth creation was needed. He said Swansea had a really unique vibe and that being “the graveyard of ambition” was actually a massive advantage. He said the issue was how we recruit talent, access money, and get people with talent and ideas to come here.

He wants Swansea to have the ambition to be a city with global ambition. He wants to build networks here and make a film here. He said there is huge growth in the creative sector. The demand for content is exploding. The creative industries attract international capital and “the arts” make a place cool. He wants to walk down High Street in ten years time and see the kind of businesses he sees in Soho.

He said, while Swansea was choc full of creative talent, there was a distinct lack of ambition   from the council and investors, who weren’t providing what creative people needed because they didn’t understand them.

Paul Harwood, founder of TechHub Swansea, said he wanted to ban the words “them” and “they”. He feels there is a lot of externality, with a lot of emphasis on the idea that “they” are doing things. “They” can mean the council or government. He thinks we shouldn’t worry about “them”, but should organise about what we’re doing. We have the internet and access to a global market. Paul knows content creators living on farms who are making unbelievable amounts of money.

He said money should be a goal, but it destroys value and prices artists out. Swansea faces genuine problems. He said there are going to 1.3 billion climate change refugees, so we will need to build more infrastructure and think about the people who are not benefitting at the moment. He believes the Creative Quarter should be about building a variety of sectors. If people don’t see something as valuable, people get priced out.

Another participant said a lot of people didn’t identify with what artists do. He said artists work on a different timescale to other people, but, like them, are still committed to a particular purpose. He feels there is common ground where artists can exist with people making money in the retail sector. He met with a developer and was amazed how much he had in common with him. He felt he should be able to sit in with him as part of the whole development process. Nurturing arts and culture requires financial commitment, which means for example landlords shouldn’t put rents up too much.

One participant said property is an important thing. We need to decide where the Creative Quarter is and put a price on buildings. He felt some older buildings should be left in position should be left in position  to provide lost cost spaces as part of a long-term vision. Compulsory purchase could be used to bring old buildings back into use.

Another participant said Swansea reminded him of a mid league football team that wanted to get better players. He works with young people on a film and photography course. They have an “aspire” curriculum. Students produce spoken word videos that are shot right outside BaseKamp Coffee, the building we were in. A £5,000 lottery grant, which was more than they needed, has enabled them to buy expensive cameras, so it’s easy to do what they’re doing. They’ve produced professional looking videos for various companies, a football academy, and a conference for women.

One participant said young people see Swansea as the “graveyard of ambition”. Since he’s moved back here from London he finds himself that he’s not fulfilled because of the lack of opportunities and culture. He feels this is a huge issue in South Wales, although doesn’t know whether it’s due to lack of infrastructure, property, or something else.

Dawn Lyle said she wanted Swansea to be an innovative city that people wanted to live and stay in. She wouldn’t want to live anywhere else, but a lot of young people want to leave.

Storyteller Carl Gough talked about how he often hears people “regurgitate Dylan Thomas and Twin Town”. As a storyteller he’s gained an appreciation for Swansea, but people buy into the idea that it’s  a “pretty shitty city “ and “the graveyard of ambition”. He feels this is dangerous because it’s created a lack of inspiration and a self-limiting ceiling. Any storyteller will tell you that we are the stories we tell to ourselves about ourselves. He has created Swansea Story as way for Swansea to develop a new identity that isn’t defined by the depressive words of Dylan Thomas and Twin Town.

Another participant said he didn’t even know where the centre of Swansea is. He feels it would be great to have an obvious centre.  Dawn Lyle said this was a weakness, caused by bad city planning over many years. She said we needed to define the Creative Quarter, even if something comes along to displace it geographically.

Zoe Antrobus said she didn’t feel that was a distinct Creative Quarter at the moment, but it is possible to define the actual Creative Quarter as being in and around High Street, which includes Volcano Theatre, the Elysium Gallery and various music hubs. However, not everyone knows it’s here. She said we need to think about what we do to show people this is the Creative Quarter when they step out of the station, for example by having street art and street performers. It also needs restaurants with a diverse range of food.

Paul Harwood said there needed to a strategy. People will find it far easier to raise finance if there is a defined creative quarter, because that will add legitimacy.

Stacey Adamiec said we needed to get landlords into the room. She said they were behind the times in terms of leases and co-working spaces. She said landlords weren’t afraid to say they won’t take a chance with creative industries, although they’ll jump on an opportunity when things are going well. She said it will be important to get landlords to understand that the creative sector is a hybrid of small communities. A landlord could provide a building that everyone in the room would be able to use for creative purposes.

One participant asked about raising awareness of the spaces available for creative young people. She said she found it difficult to find out what was going on in Swansea.

Stacey Adamiec said until now not a lot had been going on. She said 4theRegion have noticed people are doing things and are helping to bring them together to have a discussion about what needs to be done.

Mike Klein said he is actively having conversations about why Swansea is where what he’s doing what he’s doing. He talked about the convergence between creativity and the response to climate change. He said Swansea was somewhere where people actually cared, but didn’t have a shared story or centre of gravity. He feels if we think Twin Town is all we are we’re missing a trick. He pointed to the fact we have the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act and a lot of social businesses working to tackle climate change. He sees Swansea as an emerging “birth city” where we can create a really vibrant quality of life that will attract people to come here. He said he found Welsh people’s lack of self-confidence in our country extraordinary. He said this whole region should be seen as the best place to live in the UK.

He is thinking about opening a funk bar in Swansea, so that he can say his screenplay about a funk bar in Swansea is a true story. He said if we don’t figure out how to pull our finger out no one else will. He said we need to bottle what we have and think how to describe it.

Richard Harris said he was keen to tell the story of the city he was born and bred in. For example, not everyone knows the man who invented the hydrogen fuel cell was from Swansea. He praised what had been achieved in High Street, considering what it was like six or seven years ago, although he acknowledged a lot of work still needs to be done. He said the City Deal doesn’t mean much to most people and most people still see High Street in a very negative light. People don’t know what’s going on and we tend to hide our light under a bushel. He agreed there wasn’t a centre of Swansea, and this is a problem. But he said people need to understand the opportunities artists bring. There needs to longevity in order to benefit society.

He said the Welsh Government wanted to regenerate High Street because they wanted young people from other parts of Swansea to have pride in their city. He said Swansea had the best beaches in the world.

The Financial Times has said capitalism is broken. Paul Harwood said this is because capitalism doesn’t value social capital. He said something needs to be valued otherwise it’ll be lost. He gave the examples of what has been achieved in the last ten years by Austin, Texas and Bilbao, for example in the growth of tech firms.

Andy Elliott from Coastal Housing said he was surprised by how much of High Street has picked up. There has been some market penetration for the creative sector and independent businesses. He said Coastal Housing were opening up a lot sites that were not subject to the pressures of the open market.

Another participant suggested having a word or hashtag that could be used to promote Swansea.

Dawn Lyle suggested having a 4theRegion Film Festival.

The attendees were split into three groups to discuss property, art, community and wellbeing, and communication and storytelling.

In the property group, Paul Harwood explained how TechHub’s first premises was one floor of a building in Wind Street rented from Coastal Housing. It was desk space with no commitment, supported by a £20,000 Welsh Government grant. From this they went on to get government sponsorship and a deal with the DVLA. Because they had far more money they were able to take on the whole building. TechHub weren’t thinking about making loads of money, they did it so that start ups didn’t have a lease over their head and could fail quickly. The detrimental effect was that they priced themselves out of the market. TechHub have done more deals with Coastal Housing. Paul Harwood said they wouldn’t have been able to do anything if wasn’t for Coastal Housing, who have people who can work on bids, and can provide capital for leverage.

He said there was a lot of capital investment in infrastructure but not the equivalent investment in social capital. Buildings don’t solve the problem. Human capital will lead to more infrastructure. He said for every £1 spent on building infrastructure there should be 50p spent on human capital.

Daniel Staveley from the Elysium Gallery said they have rented a number of properties from Coastal Housing, which have allowed them to expand, but only within a confined space. Their pub Champers will be knocked down next year and they will lose £80,000. They will lose another building in five years time. He said Coastal Housing needed to invest to keep them in High Street. He said the plans for shops and flats would turn High Street back into a corridor. Elysium Galley have found £50,000 to spend on their building to keep it going, but would like a long-term sustained business instead of something short-term.

Paul Harwood said the Elysium Gallery would be replaced with another business, but the gallery generates social capital that can’t be valued financially.

Daniel Staveley pointed out artists were sustaining the shops along High Street “because we live off Polish beer and noodles”.

Paul Harwood suggested having a property steering group of local stakeholders which would meet monthly or quarterly. Coastal would report to the steering group and the steering group would report to Coastal.

Richard Harris said there needs to be communication between artists and landlords. He said plans had been put in place to develop various quarters in Swansea, but nothing really happened. He said Coastal Housing weren’t the only landlords in Swansea and money was getting tight for the Elysium Gallery. They need a ten year lease for a building, but Coastal will give them a five year lease which could ultimately be followed by another five year lease on a different building. He said Champers could be put back into use, but would need work done to it.

He said the local business community had no impact on the closure of the Ford factory in Bridgend, and that if artists wanted a creative quarter they would need to have an influence on landlords. They would need a forum to bring together different landlords.

Paul Harwood said we didn’t need to go to the government for everything, pointing out the regeneration of Bilbao mostly wasn’t achieved with government funding. He said the property steering group would look at strategy.

Another suggestion was for housing associations to be involved in providing spaces for the creative industries.

Stacey Adamiec suggested creating a High Street web page, rather than waiting for the council to promote it. The council are already making podcasts to show what independent businesses are doing. She would like an additional indoor market to show how retailers work together and to show demand. She said there needed to be a couple of doers who were interested in taking over spaces to get more interest for the creative industries.

The art, community and wellbeing group identified a need to get the youngest children to engage with technology more creatively. One of the people in this group is touch with Swansea Community Workshop, who are looking how to get more people engaged with the arts. They already have stained glass and pottery workshops, so she feels bringing in an IT workshop might be a way of bridging different interests. She said children would be encouraged to take part if there was an outcome they can see, such as a video on YouTube on an e-book on the Swansea story that they created. 

Another idea was promote remote working, so that people who work for global businesses can stay here.

The communication and storytelling group said their focus was on communicating outwards about Swansea, upgrading and listening to the story Swansea tells about itself.

Carl Gough suggested having a regular storytelling event where people share individual stories. This could possibly serve almost as an award ceremony celebrating the people who contribute to Swansea. This event could be broadcast, although we’ll need to work out how best to do this. For example, it could be broadcast on Swansea Bay TV or on the radio.

The group also discussed having a publication similar to Swansea Life, but with more of a focus on wellbeing. This could be combined with the arts with a cultural, beautiful, accessible editorial. The down side would be the cost of the publication infrastructure, so it was suggested the publication could be a community interest company and get funding.

Paul Harwood said the High Street already had a newspaper, produced by a very low cost by a service that lets people publish newspapers. The newspaper is funded by Coastal Housing. He said High Street was the centre of Swansea once. It was once the busiest part of the city. It has a fantastic story.

Another participant suggested a community calendar. The calendar would mean we knew exactly what was going on, and would be combined with an editorial. She said the calendar needs to vibrant, exciting, televised and up to date or it will fail. It will need money behind it, possibly from the council.

Dawn Lyle said the Creative Quarter is a physical space, but it’s also an idea and includes people who are not geographically on High Street.  She said the next meeting about the Creative Quarter would take place before the April 2020 City Centre Conference.

Keep in Touch with this Conversation

Email with the subject line “Creative Quarter” if you would like to be notified of future events and projects.  Also please make you are subscribed to the 4theRegion newsletter!

Roundtable Report – Renewable Energy Region

Roundtable Report – Renewable Energy Region


This event was organised in partnership with Low Carbon Swansea Bay and sponsored by FLEXIS.  The intention was to celebrate the growing Renewable Energy Sector of South West Wales, showcase the fantastic, diverse projects and initiatives going on across the region, and bring together business, academia and individuals to learn from each other and explore what else can be done to strengthen our renewable energy sector.

All 4theRegion events are intended to be co-creative, and to help participants emerge shared priorities and a shared sense of purpose.  We deliberately create space for wisdom to emerge from the room, and aim to encourage as many different voices as possible.

A key theme that arose throughout the discussions at this event was the need for better collaboration and sharing of knowledge across the sector; better coordination; and the benefit of knowing who is doing what.  “We need more events like this!” was a recurring refrain, which reflects the appetite that exists for open-access, co-productive, knowledge-sharing regional events.  We cannot under estimate the value of simply getting people in a room together, who share an interest (or passion) for the sector.  Of course we all want to emerge actions and make change happen following events like this, but the events themselves – the CONVERSATIONS and CONNECTIONS are seen to be of great value irrespective of what happens next.

What did we learn?

  • That South West Wales IS ALREADY  “A Centre of Excellence for Renewable Energy” and we should be shouting about it
  • Wind power generated in Wales equates to around half of our electricity needs
  • Hydrogen is a massive new clean resource which we’re using in a very small amount but it’s being researched 
  • Change must be convenient to create an environment where people want to change 
  • Repairing products instead of sending them to landfill will create new jobs, skills and reduce waste
  • Port Talbot has solar power, wind turbines, hydrogen power, the active homes project, district heating from the steelworks. 
  • FLEXIS research findings included: 
    • Resistance to living in smaller homes to reduce energy 
    • Support for making products and packaging more sustainable was high 
    • People were broadly supportive of extended life cycles of products but weren’t  always behind some of the strategies 
    • Concerns over renting products – worries included contracts, higher costs, insurance, less choice 
    • Language is key – people think that recycled, repurposed products are poorer quality, and that renting products mean you can’t afford to buy, 
    • Changing behaviours is a huge challenge – and different for different age groups

Barriers & Challenges

  • Policy changing with government changes 
  • Procurement red tape is an obstacle to change and flexibility 
  • Money goes out of our region
  • Government leadership on issues isn’t clear or concise
  • Not enough tangible outcome – to many talkers
  • Red tape in adopting technology
  • Lack of political will to make significant changes to the system
  • Grid upgrades are slow – 12 years, current grid is not fit for net zero ambitions
  • The Wellbeing of Future Generations Act has limited impact beyond public sector at the moment

What’s Already Happening

  • Renew Wales – offers support to community groups on climate change through mentoring, training & visit bursaries (holding and event on 13th November – support churches address climate change) 
  • Egin and Gower Power leading the way with co-operatives – encouraging a change in energy supply with benefits to local communities 
  • Innovation in our region is high with businesses like Marine Power Systems collaborating wave and wind for a new energy source 
  • Carmarthen Energy looking at links between energy usage and electric car charging times. With proven results of reduced energy costs.
  • SPECIFIC and the Active Buildings Centre at Swansea University.

What needs to happen

  • An immediate action step, and one which 4theRegion would like to take forward with partners, is the idea of MAPPING the renewable energy sector in our region.  Some way of visualising who is doing what, where, across South West Wales, would be a great resource for everyone.  This is very similar to something that was discussed at the Biobased Economy roundtable we held in Carmarthenshire – the need to join the dots and map activity (by sector and across sectors) across the region.
  • We need to upgrade the grid – investment in infrastructure
  • Inventive ideas or investment in energy storage solutions 
  • Public money invested in University research needs to be commercialised 
  • Raise awareness of skills needed – engineers, retrofitting existing homes
  • Collaborative thinking to reflect the future generations act 
  • Research needs to be turned into commercial assets – creating jobs and helping to reduce our carbon footprint. 
  • Technology & renewable energy sector needs to work hand in hand.


  • One clear energy strategy (one waste process for the whole of Wales) 
  • Positive use of procurement processes 
  • What can the region so to support a Tidal Lagoon in Swansea
  • Become a member of Low Carbon Swansea Bay get involved with and help develop a co-ordinated, integrated and sustainable approach to reducing carbon emissions across all sectors in Swansea and south-west Wales.
  • Become an Ambassador of 4theRegion – be part of a network of passionate businesses, organisations and individuals who understand that collaboration and working together instills pride and passion in place and projects –
  • Buy shares Gower Power
  • Help FLEXIS with project research and to shout about the outcomes (don’t keep research behind closed doors for academics)
  • Connect FLEXIS with Circular Economy businesses in the region
  • Promote car sharing 
  • Continue to innovate and celebrate the Circular Economy – be part of our regional Circular Economy Club and take part in an annual globally connected events.

Keep in Touch with this Conversation

Email with the subject line “Renewable Energy” if you would like to be notified of future events and projects.  Also please make you are subscribed to the 4theRegion newsletter!

Roundtable Report – Food, Farming, Waste & Biobased

Roundtable Report – Food, Farming, Waste & Biobased


A well attended roundtable meeting was held in Carmarthenshire to explore the food, farming, waste and biobased sector in South West Wales. The goal of the event was to share knowledge about what’s already happening, identify what’s missing and co-create priorities for the sector from a regional perspective.  A diverse range of organisations came together for some lively, insightful discussion.

Emerging Themes

Collaboration / sharing

The importance of better collaboration and sharing of knowledge and resources – this was THE key message from participants throughout the day.

  • Collaborating and sharing has an enormous number of benefits:
    • By understanding what each other’s businesses and needs are we see opportunities in:
      • each others waste, valuing materials and respecting their worth  
      • increasing ideas for Circular Economy principles
      • Open up research and areas for new innovative technologies
      • Understanding what works and what doesn’t work for others and learning from it 
    • This will also help us understand the skill sets that are needed for future jobs and courses in universities and colleges 
      • Ensuring a sustainable economy means recognising the high value jobs in this sector – engineers, biosciences
      • We also need to reinvest in traditional skills such as food growing and land management for regenerative agriculture
    • It will also help us to inform future policy and practice 
      • ONE VOICE – the importance of having a coherent and common message for the sector when talking to policy makers
    • There are benefits in sharing skills and workforce, such as apprentices, especially the value of shared apprenticeships 
      • Financial commitment for smaller organisations is shared
      • The apprentice gets experience, expertise from across the sector 
      • We can train more people

Sector Promotion

It came across from the feedback that although our region is hugely successful, innovative and a leader in the food, farming, waste and biobased economy, we’re quite shy about it too. All agreed we need to be better at promoting and celebrating what we have and what we do here, better at telling stories about our successes.

Key themes were:

  • Shouting,  publicising, showcasing, storytelling about our successes. To: 
    • improve perceptions of farmers and farming 
    • Improve awareness and confidence in what the region has to offer in this sector 
    • Showcase and celebrate that this region has all we need 
    • Be ambassadors for the wider sector –
    • not just promoting our own product, but doing so as part of a bigger story about the regional offer
    • A strong brand for regional produce, international recognition for the quality of the food produced in this region, differentiation.
  • Use social media, networks

Climate Emergency

Climate Emergency was a key theme.  All four local authorities in our region have declared a climate emergency.  Discussion ranged from whether agriculture is the problem or the solution, there is a defensiveness in farming communities who are perceived as the problem, but this reflects a division between urban and rural communities which was seen to be the root of some of the problems.  Farming, food production, land management – these are vital to the sustainability of our society and ecology.

This was a key theme – sustainability is not enough, we need to develop a circular, regenerative biobased economy

  • More people are now interested in the food and farming sector because of environmental concern
  • Food growing and land management is all about the Resilience of the region in the broadest sense
  • Reducing the distance that food travels, reducing its carbon footprint
  • Also ensuring we can feed our region if national and international supply chains are disrupted
  • Regenerative agriculture and the health of the soil
  • What are farms and farmers already doing, is there a need for more education
  • New forms of biofertilisers and other methods to reduce the use of chemical fertilisers
  • Reduce the use of plastics on farms
  • Could we link up farms with innovators to implement regenerative solutions, lead the way
  • Storytelling and marketing.  Connecting urban areas with rural food growing region, eg farm shops and markets in Swansea City Centre
    • Connect people to where their food comes from, people need to understand all the benefits and reasons to buy local/regional
    • Opportunity for people from urban areas to grown food and get involved, eg through community supported agriculture projects
  • Be wary of not romanticising the idea of food growing etc, this is also a key economic driver for our region, big business and jobs
  • Sustainability of farming has two meanings – a sustainable economy and a sustainable ecology
  • Circular economy practices are essential and must be at the heart of every conversation in this sector.

Joined Up Working

There was a sense that there are lots of positive things happening already across the region, how can we join them up and break down silos.

  • Silos exist across counties, we need to learn from each other
  • For example Pembrokeshire are leading in things that Swansea could learn from
  • Creating networks. For example do all the Community Supported Agriculture projects know each other?  
    • Community Land Trusts – could learn from each other and enable good ideas to spread by connecting subsectors
    • Industry – who is working in this space, eg engineering, controlled environment agriculture, biosciences, new bio fertilisers developed at Swansea Uni

One Voice

There was a unanimous feeling from the room that there needed to be One Voice/ one platform that could feed into Welsh Government to help steer policy and inform decision-making.  The biobased sector needs a coherent message for government, like a trade association that can present a shared set of priorities.

  • One voice also means a central/directory/map to encourage collaboration and make sure everyone knows who is doing what across the region;
  • one place where projects / opportunities were fed into and promoted to local supply chain, academia and encourage collaborative working
  • 4theRegion noted that we have an online regional supply chain Map that can visualise everything that is happening and show relationships between organisations, projects and individuals, it is ready to launch but would require sponsorship to ensure we can devote resources so that it would gain critical mass and industry take-up.  4theRegion are open to partners and support to develop this.

Other Ideas

  • More land management events to encourage cluster based thinking 
  • Improve food production practices – greener and healthier, healthier preservatives and greener packaging 
  • Not to duplicate the work that other organisations are already doing.  It was noted that PLANED have a number of very relevant projects which could be better supported and rolled out more widely.  Linking back to the message about knowing what support is out there and who is doing what.


  • There was a lack of understanding and a need to understand what support was available: 
    • Financial, investment & funding 
    • Research
    • Start ups
    • Education support

Emerging Actions – What Next?

  • Each of us need to be Ambassadors for the wider sector – how can we achieve this?
  • Can 4theRegion be the body for this sector to use as One Voice: 
    • Bringing the sector together – networking, cluster groups, keeping in touch (even in an online portal)
    • Shouting and celebrating the successes and projects – through our newsletter (5000), social media – 10,000 twitter, 1600 LinkedIn, 4600 facebook 
    • Being the one voice to government
  • Identify the changemakers and start with them by inviting them to the next group session – people feed in names and ideas of key players to
  • Can 4theRegion, with partners such as BIC, PLANED etc, create a portal / index as a central regional source of information on who is doing what?  How can we fund the launch and management of this map / online portal.
  • What is the right platform to keep this conversation going?  A LinkedIn Group? A Facebook Group? Both?

Noted Organisations

  • ARCITEKBio Limited
  • Bee1
  • Beech Holidays
  • BIC Innovation
  • BioInnovation Wales
  • Business Wales
  • Castell Howell Foods Ltd
  • Digital Farming
  • EFT Consult
  • Food Centre Wales
  • KingShipp Sustainable Solutions
  • KN Consulting
  • Regional Learning & Skills Partnership
  • Severn Wye
  • Swansea Council
  • Zero Waste Wales
  • The Waterside 
  • Fishguard Community Fridge
  • Building Resilience in Catchments (BRIC’s) – project PLANED
  • Pembrokeshire Sustainable Agriculture Network – PLANED 
  • Gower Meadow Beef – Conservation grade locally grazed beef
  • Narberth Community Fridge & council Orchard 
  • Dr. Beynon’s Bug Farm 
  • CIWM – Chartered Institute of Waste Managers 
  • Life – online newspaper & portal for sharing 
  • Cow Tan (Beef) – Conservation grazed co-operative run group on gower
  • Bio Innovation Wales – Distance learning courses geared around the circular economy) 
  • Future Foods – Under Nutri Wales, SiG’s – developing healthy farming 
  • Cae Tan C.S.A – Wales’s largest (?) CSA – soon to establish it’s second site on Gower 
  • Farm Co 
  • Terraffix – Gower Based land management/ land remediation  – Soil solutions 
  • Severn Wye – Sustainable communities/ fuel poverty 
  • Green Arising – biomass/sustainable agriculture projects
  • Pembroke CIC – manage green hill farm – non-food production agriculture 
  • Welsh Valley Alpacas – prototyping new farming alpaca textiles (replacing polyester) 
  • Leader Supported projects – PLANED
Find Out About Our Upcoming Events

Find Out About Our Upcoming Events

Be Part of Our Events & Conversations!

We’ve got a busy programme of 4theRegion events coming up this Autumn, which we would love you to be part of!  As you know, at 4theRegion we are all about connecting people, breaking down silos, and enabling effective collaboration across South West Wales.  With that in mind, we’ve planned a series of events for a range of different sectors, aiming to bring people together to share updates on what they’re up to, and crowdsource wisdom about the opportunities, priorities and challenges facing our region over the coming months and years.

Here’s an overview of what our upcoming events are all about:

Register your free place at our events

Click through to Eventbrite to register your place at any of our events.  They are free to attend, open to everyone, and there is usually an opportunity for you to share your own updates and contribute to the conversation.  If you have any questions, or would like to sponsor, exhibit or speak at one of our events, please email or call us on 07979 578494