We are delighted to have featured as a case study in a paper exploring wellbeing as the basis for regional development post-Covid.

How the researchers conceptualised 4theRegion’s approach

4theRegion is a movement to co-create a happier, healthier South West Wales with a thriving economy that serves the wellbeing of people and the planet. We want to see our region leading the way in making new ways of living, working and organising our society and our economy so that it is more visible, more accessible and more relevant to all those who live here.

The case study looked at 4theRegion’s unique approach based on community engagement and the close cooperation of a range of stakeholders in a local network, all of which is underpinned by wellbeing.

The paper, written by researchers Beth Cummings, Samantha Burvill, Robert Bowen, and Leonie Themelidis from Swansea University, has been published in RSA Magazine. It was based on interviews with our directors Dawn Lyle and Zoe Antrobus, and ten of our members, which the researchers then thematically analysed for data.

The researchers felt 4theRegion’s business model of connecting people in the region through events, projects and forums, with a focus on our six Impact Areas including The Wellbeing Region, was unique. They therefore undertook a detailed case study to understand our approach and analyse its benefits and possible ways it could be improved.

The researchers said their findings “underline the unique approach taken by 4theRegion, centred on an asset-based local development grounded in social purpose. This approach is influenced by well-being and seeks to engage with a wide variety of community stakeholders to derive holistic flourishing”.

They felt that “4theRegion are instrumental in bringing together the ecosystem of South West Wales towards a focus on purpose and well-being.”

They said everyone in this ecosystem was “linked by a social purpose in achieving sustainable development and well-being”, which also stemmed from the overarching focus on the Well-being of Future Generations Act in Wales.

In 2015 Wales became the first country in the world to bring wellbeing goals into law. The Well-being of Future Generations Act emphasises the need for policy to be founded on the seven principles of a prosperous Wales, a resilient Wales, a healthier Wales, a more equal Wales, a Wales of cohesive communities, a Wales of vibrant culture and thriving Welsh language, and a globally responsible Wales.

The Well-being of Future Generations Act (Image: Welsh Government)

The researchers noted how South West Wales was a largely rural area based around a regional city, Swansea, and felt that their findings on 4theRegion would “contribute to wider knowledge about the impact of regional development on places with similar demographic and geographic characteristics”.

They said “These findings could support organic sustainable growth within communities, which is recognised as an important aspect in the post-Covid recovery.”

They noted how our approach was based on cooperation between various stakeholders from across the region, including local businesses of all sizes, every local authority in the region, Swansea Bay City Region, local community groups, charities, social enterprises, schools, colleges, universities, “and all individuals in the regions who could play a role in local development”.

This, they said “Aligns with a bottom-up approach to regional development that is promoted within more recent literature, advocating networks and clusters through entrepreneurial ecosystems, and engagement across the triple helix of industry, government and education”.

The researchers said “The findings from the case study of 4theRegion underline the value of cooperation among relevant local stakeholders to identify, conceptualise and seek solutions to specific issues that impact the local economy.”

They added that 4theRegion also play “an important role as an enabler, organising events, leading discussions and engaging the various stakeholders in order to achieve impactful outputs”.

The researchers concluded by saying “The emphasis on prosperity, resilience, health, equality, cohesion, cultural value and global responsibility represent important aspects in ensuring sustainable economic development that could have a positive impact on everyone. These principles could provide a valuable foundation for a more inclusive recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, supporting opportunities for businesses to develop resilience, promote environmental sustainability and enhance productivity through a better work-life balance.

“This emphasis on well-being was highlighted during the Covid-19 pandemic by increasing capabilities to work from home, and a greater awareness of how work stresses impacted employees before the pandemic. While discussions on well-being and regional development gain traction, further research is needed to explore this in different contexts, however, the example of 4theRegion and Welsh Government policy implies that the principles of well-being could support more inclusive regional development in the post-Covid recovery.”