“We don’t have to, but we want to!” RCE Cymru Sharing Their Knowledge with Public Services

Universities in Wales don’t fall under the remit of the Well-being of Future Generations (WFG) Act, so why are they forming a network to research and share their knowledge, helping public services work towards the WFG goals?

The simple answer is that they’ve found working within the WFG framework to be beneficial to their research and are embracing the potential impact of sharing their knowledge.

RCE Cymru is a network of all the universities in Wales who are working together in specific groups called ‘Circles of Interest’ to help improve public services, by researching and sharing their knowledge with each other. The impact of sharing their knowledge could help public services make great strides towards the WFG framework. The Good Practice Exchange are working in partnership with RCE Cymru to bring you an event exploring these ‘Circles of Interest’ on 7th November, at an event called “It’s Good To Share”. You can register for the event by clicking here. Find out more about RCE Cymru by following @CymruRCE on Twitter.

 

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Co-operatives: Are They The Future? With Leanne Wood AM

We caught up with Leanne Wood AM and had a chat about co-operatives and the Basque Country economy, ahead of our #WAOBasque event. She says that co-operatives offer communities stability in times of economic hardship, and allow people to have a stake in their work, incentivising productivity at work. If you’re interested in learning more about co-operative organisations, join us for our webinar on Monday 3rd December via the link: https://tinyurl.com/webasq

We’d also like to invite you to attend our conference on Tuesday 4th December, in partnership with Wales Co-Operative Centre. Register here: https://tinyurl.com/basquetick

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Are Co-Operatives The Future? With Derek Walker

We caught up with Derek Walker to chat about the Basque Country and co-operatives ahead of our conference this December. We’re really excited to be able to bring over some fantastic representatives from some of the region’s most successful, innovative and future-thinking organisations. In this very special event, public services are invited to learn all about their innovative and new approaches to challenges we have in common, and how the Basque Country puts future generations at the heart of their economy.

Derek Walker is the CEO of Wales Co-operative Centre. They’re partnering with us to bring you #WAOBasque, a conference dedicated to all things Basque Country. Register here: https://tinyurl.com/basquetick

Community Impact Initiative C.I.C.

The Community Impact Initiative C.I.C. (The Cii) @TheCiiUK is a forward-thinking social enterprise based in South Wales that strives to develop and deliver innovative solutions to persistent problems and areas of need in our local communities that lead to a range of personal, social and economic benefits.

Established by Trystan Jones, The Cii is a not-for-profit organisation, where income generated is for the sole purpose of its activities, with profits re-invested to enhance and continue its community initiatives, allowing it to strive towards its vision and mission:

  • Vision: A future where our communities flourish and prosper.
  • Mission: To improve our communities through innovative solutions, providing opportunities for marginalised individuals to make a meaningful contribution to society.

The Community Legacy Project is a recent Big Lottery Wales and Screwfix Foundation funded project that supports unemployed, marginalised and disadvantaged individuals to develop construction and employability skills through the purchase, renovation and sale of properties that are empty or in disrepair across Wales. In a nutshell, properties are purchased by the Community Impact Initiative, generally through auction, renovated through the project activities and sold back into the housing market.

We employ a project team who support our participants to learn and develop construction skills whilst carrying out the renovation of the property. Through these activities, the participants develop a wide range of skills, improve their levels of confidence, achieve qualifications, experience voluntary work placements and move closer towards accessing employment. In turn, these properties that were once empty or in disrepair are brought back into the housing market, reducing the effects of anti-social behaviour, crime and vandalism, and the detrimental impact this can have on our communities.

Each property renovation is a unique partnership between the Community Impact Initiative and a support organisation local to the property, such as a charity, housing association, school, EOTAS provision, HMP or probation services. Following purchase, we engage with potential organisations to identify who would be interested working with us.

These support organisations refer individuals to the project who they feel would benefit from the support provided, ranging from those with an interest in construction, to those lacking in self-confidence.

Project examples could include:

  • Partnering with a local charity who support individuals that have an interest in accessing the construction industry, however have barriers to doing so, such as a lack of experience or not holding the relevant mandatory qualifications. In this case, the project will allow the participants to experience the construction industry in a supportive, empathetic environment, develop a range of skills across several trades, and achieve the CSCS card which is mandatory for site work. Therefore, in this case the project will provide the perfect stepping stone for a career in construction.
  • Partnering with a local domestic abuse support organisation who supports women lacking in confidence and self-esteem due to their backgrounds. In this instance, we support participants who do not necessarily have ambitions to access employment in the construction industry but want to develop skills that they can use in their own homes. The outcomes of this project are focused on improving levels of self-esteem, confidence and motivation rather than employment.
  • Partnering with a local school who want to provide their pupils with an insight into the construction industry and how school subjects and studies can relate to employment in this industry. In this case we’ll support pupils to experience the construction environment and get a taster of the various trades and skills prior to them having to decide on a future career path. Experiencing the work environment allows pupils to understand what qualifications are required during their statutory education journey, providing an insight that will support them in engaging with their studies.

As these examples illustrate, each property will be its own unique project within the Community Legacy Project sphere where the outcomes are tailored to the needs of the individuals being supported.

In August 2018 our first project property was bought in Merthyr Tydfil. During the purchase process we engaged with Merthyr Valley Homes, a housing association who support thousands of people in the local area.

In early September 2018 10 participants started the project. A mix of gender and ages, each came from a different background, with varying degrees of construction and employment experience. However, they all had a common goal of learning the skills and gaining the qualifications required to access employment in the construction industry. Through this particular renovation they will experience a range of construction areas including plastering, carpentry, painting & decorating, kitchen/bathroom fitting, tiling, flooring and gardening.

Following referral to the project each participant completed a Health & Safety induction and a training plan outlining their SMART targets. Our project staff monitor progress on a daily basis and carry out formals reviews fortnightly to ensure progress against targets.

At the time of writing all participants have engaged well with the project and have shown a fantastic ability to learn and improve upon the various trade skills being taught. Over the next few weeks we will be inviting local construction companies to open days for them to witness the participants demonstrating their skills with a view to them offering placements, apprenticeships and employment.

The impact of the Community Legacy Project is far-reaching and not limited to the outcomes achieved by the participants. It is our intention that the project continues to grow and develop and deliver outcomes on a personal, community and economic level:

  • Personal – supporting individuals to develop a range of skills, achieve qualifications and support their progression into employment.
  • Community – These personal outcomes will support our local communities through increasing income due to increased employment rates, allowing these communities to flourish.
  • Economic – the economic impact is potentially far-reaching, in such ways as reducing anti-social behaviour, reducing pressure on specialist support organisations and developing a workforce that’s aligned to future property and construction developments.

A model that’s currently in its infancy, it is our intention that by utilising the Big Wales Lottery and Screwfix Foundation funding the model can become self-sustaining in the long-term.

We’re extremely proud to be delivering an innovative approach that is unlike any other in Wales and we look forward to supporting our communities to prosper through these activities.

 

 

Building Resilient Communities: Mind the Gap

Charlotte Waite @charlotwaite from the ACE Support Hub @acehubwales has blogged for us ahead of our Building Resilient Communities Event.  She is challenging herself, and all of us, to be someone who contributes to resilient communities, which is very different from DOING resilient communities.

At a lovely lefty festival I had the privilege to be at this hot summer, my daughter came out of the impressively clean portaloo commenting on how she was going to take the toilet’s advice and ‘smile at someone today, because (she) might make all the difference’. What struck me was that she’d read the faded sticker and it had meant something to her. I too had read it (as I strategically hovered) and the words had passed through my eyes as if I was reading ‘mind the gap’ or ‘please drive carefully’. Yadayadayada. My brain must be sending a signal to my awareness saying “nothing to see here, we know all this already” and so I come out of the loo without a reflective moment. After all I’ve been doing ‘help’ in a ‘helping’ field for many years. I’ve been on the courses and given the lectures.  Smiling is the basic basics, everyone knows that.

Truth is, though, that between me and my 9 year old daughter, the person who needed a reminder about connecting and kindness is me. Because even in a festival of joy I was busy ‘doing’ festival, consuming and soaking up what I can, squeezing every ounce of hedonism out of MY weekend so I could feel that I’ve got what I came for. Ironically, part of what I came for, is a shared experience of happiness. It’s easy to spread love in a festival because the personal risk is much lower. Smiling, hugging, feasting, dancing, chatting… connecting and feeling alive are all part of what I paid for. I went home filled with love and paid-for shared happiness. Home to my street where I say hello to my immediate neighbours, chat with a couple of them about kids, parking, extensions and bin collections but generally we go about our lives independently.

So not much smiling, hugging, feasting, dancing…..connecting and feeling alive in my own manor. Hmm. Here the risk to me is much greater. Well, what if they don’t want to connect? What if they don’t like me? What if they find out what I’m really like? And anyway I’m too busy. I’m too busy rushing off to my community group all about kindness to ask my neighbour how she is, when I know her husband has left her and her children. Yes really. This was a real reflective moment on a rainy Wednesday evening when I saw her broken heart on her face as she went in her house as I was getting in the car. ‘Mind the Gap’ between my rhetoric and my behaviour loud and clear this time.

I took the risk and knocked the door, we talked about our lives, our children and began a connection. It was scary and I’m still not sure she likes me but I feel like I have communicated that she is not on her own and that feels very important.  It will take time.

So, am I saying we should model resilient communities on festivals? At a festival there’s no hierarchy, no supporters and supported, just people. Sharing joyful and fun activities together connects us: breaking bread, dancing, playing; losing inhibitions inherent in our real life roles as ‘helpers’ or even as neighbours. I’m not suggesting we go home and set up twee street parties but I am suggesting we take risks in relationships, without vulnerability we can’t create authentic relationships and yet we know it is authenticity in relationships that creates resilience. Knock the door, offer to break the bread.

How can we lose some of our personal inhibitions and find ways to connect joyfully, eye to eye (not screen to screen) without having to pay for the experience? Or professionally without ‘doing’ the best practice model when we get to work and demonstrating the outcomes to those that pay us. We know the importance of sports and community groups to build resilience in children (Link to resilience research here) but do we all get in our cars and drop our kids off at these while we catch up on screen time? I’m noticing the ‘please drive carefully’ as I navigate this one for myself. I could definitely bring more to this street party. I am challenging myself to BE someone who contributes to resilient communities, which is very different from DOING resilient communities. I’m reminding myself to stop for a minute and be curious. To see ‘mind the gap’ and notice where it applies to me but I can only see it if I’m going slowly enough to notice it and then notice how it makes me feel and be brave enough to bring myself to the party.

Data – it’s not just boring tables

Louisa Nolan from @DataSciCampus has blogged for us ahead of our data webinar with examples of the exciting possibilities out there coming from new types of data and new analytical tools.  Join us on the 16th to find out more about Why using data effectively enables better decision making.

Data is exciting, and these days, we can extract interesting information not just from tables of survey results or management information (although these are still of course important) but also from large volumes of documents, or from images, or sensor readings. Data science gives us the tools to rapidly analyse these types of data, in ways that would not have been possible even just a few years ago. It is this combination of opportunities: new types of data + new tools to analyse them that is so exciting, because it opens a whole new world of insight!

As a lead data scientist at the Data Science Campus of the Office for National Statistics I get to think about data every day (this is a Good Thing!). We develop and deliver data science projects addressing difficult questions for our public sector customers, we offer advice and training on data science, and we run deep dives, hackathons and workshops with multi-disciplined teams to find solutions to data challenges.

In this blog, I’d like to share a few examples of how we have been using new types of data and applying data science techniques to tackle challenges that aren’t met by more traditional approaches. This is just a selection, so please visit our website, follow us on Twitter, or get in touch if you would like to discuss how we could support you to adopt or adapt these projects, or if you would like to discuss your own data science challenges.

wales on twitter

What are people talking about when they talk about Wales on Twitter? We were posed this question by the National Assembly for Wales, who wanted to understand what people were interested in when they talk about Wales. Our data scientists built a tool for topic analysis of the text of tweets containing #Wales. Topic analysis is a technique which groups text –  in this case Tweets – into related subjects.  For the period we analysed, we found topics on tourism, sport – including rugby, of course, a business exposition in Cardiff, and, somewhat unexpectedly, a topic on Indian street children! This topic was related to the book ‘A Hundred Hands’, published that week by Diane Noble, a Welsh author. The tool can be easily adapted to analyse other hashtags of interest.

urban forest

Mapping the urban forest at street level Using images sampled from Google StreetView, the team has developed an experimental method to map the density of trees and vegetation at 10 metre intervals in English and Welsh towns and cities – this is hyper-local mapping! The team have built a pipeline for processing and analysing the images, which could potentially be used for other types of analysis of StreetView images.

emerging technologies

Analysing the text of patent applications to understand emerging technologies. In this project, large volumes US patent applications have been analysed, to explore whether emerging technology (aka ‘the Next Big Thing!) can be identified from the text. This is a great demonstration of how the power of data science can unlock data. Even 5 years ago, text documents like these patent applications would likely have had to be analysed laboriously by hand. Now, we can rapidly analyse large quantities of text to extract useful information to inform decision-making.

hierarchical groups

Turning free text lists into hierarchical groups. Sometimes, we have short, free text descriptions or lists – perhaps a list of products purchased or transported. To make use of these, we need to somehow group them into similar products, account for spelling mistakes, typos and different abbreviations. This is theoretically possible by hand, but usually prohibitively labour-intensive. This project automates the hierarchical classification. Because the approach is both syntactic (how the word is spelled) and semantic (what the word means), we can group, for example, whisky and vodka together, and correctly assign steel products, steel prod, and steel produtc to the same category. This tool could be adapted for various datasets of free text responses.

I hope that has given you a taster of some of the things we are working on in the Campus, and maybe some ideas or what you might be able to do with your own data. And I hope I have also convinced you that data doesn’t have to be boring!

 

GSWAG: Keeping Data Live

Does your organisation have the right kind of data to future-proof decisions?

Hear how Gwent Strategic Well-being Assessment Group’s (GSWAG) are looking past traditional data sets to make their decisions about well-being. GSWAG want to know more about local conditions for well-being from the lived experiences of their residents, and are looking at likely future trends that may face the Gwent area over the next 25 years, to help better prepare and plan for the future. They’re using a very different type of data than they’re used to, getting out of their comfort zone to shape their decisions with future generations in mind. Watch our vlog to find out more

Cwmni Bro Ffestiniog

cwmni bro

Cwmni Bro Ffestiniog is a pioneering development in Wales; a network of successful community enterprises which have come together to co-operate under the banner of one overarching community company.

The company operates in the communities of Blaenau Ffestiniog, Trawsfynydd and Penrhyndeudraeth and nearby villages, which between them have a population of about 8,000 people. Blaenau Ffestiniog was the second largest town in north Wales in 1900 with a population of about 13,000 people, but as the slate industry declined the population had more than halved by the year 2000. Blaenau Ffestiniog is now one of the economically poorest areas in the United Kingdom. Despite the de-industrialisation a cultural legacy survives, upon which an integrated and holistic model of community development is being pioneered by Cwmni Bro Ffestiniog.

There are more social enterprises per head of the population in Bro Ffestiniog than anywhere else in Wales. Thirteen of the area’s social enterprises have come together under the banner of Cwmni Bro Ffestiniog. The members are:

Antur Stiniog     www.anturstiniog.com

Barnardos    www.barnardos.org.uk/cabanbach.htm

Cyfeillion Croesor     www.orielcafficroesoratcnicht.co.uk

CellB/Gwallgofiaid    www.cellb.org

Cwmni Opra Cymru    www.opra.cymru

Deudraeth Cyf.    www.deudraethcyf.org.uk

GISDA    www.gisda.org

Seren    www.seren.org    Gwesty Seren www.gwestyseren.org

Pengwern Cymunedol www.ypengwern.co.uk

Trawsnewid

Y Dref Werdd www.drefwerdd.cymru

Ysgol y Moelwyn/Canolfan Hamdden sg@moelwyn.gwynedd.sch.uk

The diverse activities of these ventures include running two hotels, shops, restaurants, cafes, tourist information centre, leisure centre, arts and crafts workshop, mountain biking centre, retail, horticulture, energy production projects, developing allotments, educational and cultural activities, opera, environmental projects, energy saving promotion, reducing food waste, recycling, river cleaning, work with adults with supplementary needs, youth work including to do with homelessness and teaching environmental and media skills.

The company’s aims are to promote co-operation between the constituent social enterprises, nurture new social enterprises and work with small business enterprises which are anchored in the community. All of this is in order to promote the environmental, economic, social and cultural development of the area.

Between them, Cwmni Bro’s members employ some 150 people. A recent analysis of their economic impact showed that a high percentage of their income comes from trading. Further, this income largely stayed and circulated in the area. For every pound received as a grant or loan, a significant proportion, 98 pence, was spent locally, mainly on wages. Of the 1.5 million pounds spent on wages 53% is retained locally. Nearly half the expenditure on goods and services was local and thus circulated money in the area.

In August 2018, a new venture was launched, BROcast Ffestiniog, a community digital broadcasting service, aimed at facilitating communication between the social enterprises and the community and within the community (See BROcast Ffestiniog-YOUTube and facebook.com/BROcastFfestiniog ).

The integrated and holistic model of community development which Cwmni Bro is pioneering offers a pattern which other communities can emulate. Cwmni Bro resonds positively to invitations to visit other communities to explain what has been achieved in Bro Ffestiniog and to discuss the general potential of this model of community development.

The model presents a challenge to government in Wales; to develop policies and appropriate support in order to facilitate the adoption of this model of community development across Wales.

CONTACT

Cwmni Bro Ffestiniog, 49 Stryd Fawr, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Gwynedd. LL41 3AG

CwmniBro@CwmniBro.Cymru      07799 353588

Loftus Village Association

Alison and Bron from Pobl Group have blogged for us ahead of our Building Resilient Communities event on the Loftus Village Association – an intentionally created community that they have been a part of from the beginning.  Come and join us at the event to find out more about the successes and challenges that this community, and Pobl, have had during their journey together.

The Loftus Village Association journey began in 2014 when Charter Housing (now Pobl Group) began the process of trying to find 19 households keen to move into Loftus Garden Village under a shared ownership scheme, and also at the same time to become co-operators.

It was a curious top down approach to setting up an intentional community.

Generally speaking Co-housing projects begin with a group of people who for various reasons want to share space and some time together, whereas we had the homes, but no people!

We had carried out some market research and identified a group of people who were interested in the idea back in 2012/13.  So we began contacting those folk, and interestingly one of those did see the idea through to the end, and 6 years on is now on the Co-op’s management committee.

A lot of people liked the idea of living in Loftus Garden Village.  It’s a particularly beautiful new housing development, and that wasn’t a hard sell.

Also most people liked the idea of living in a street where they know all their neighbours before moving in, had a sense of community, felt safe and enjoyed  living in a visually attractive environment…..so ‘Greener, Cleaner, Leaner‘ living soon became LVA’s values.  However it was all the legal/financial paraphernalia that went with it that many found a stumbling block.

Finding a financial and legal model was a headache for Pobl as an organisation and also for our would-be co-operators.  We examined a few legal and financial models before coming up with a version of our own that felt right for us and also the co-operators.  That done the co-operators had many months of working together to draft a management agreement, as well as months of training sessions on how to work together co-operatively.   The management agreement has given the Co-op the responsibility of collecting the rent, being involved in resales and ‘staircasing up’ (to own a higher percentage) and taking on the early stages of any neighbour complaints.  (none so far).

We lost people, we gained people and eventually ended up with 19 households comprising a complete mix of ages, numbers, and backgrounds.  For some it was their first home of their own.  Being a member of the Co-op meant that you could buy with only a 30% share, making it more affordable than most shared ownership schemes.  For others they were starting out again after changes in circumstances, and for some it was a home for retirement.

To keep morale going while waiting for the builders to ‘hurry up and get on with it’ our co-operators enjoyed fun tasks like choosing their kitchen and bathroom, tiles and flooring, discussing what to do with their community garden and building  (a garage), and generally getting to know one another.

There was an application system to ensure we found people who did genuinely want to be part of a community and support one another, rather than just live in a nice house. Would be co-operators had to fill in a section asking them to indicate how much time they could offer each week or month.

Two years ago the street moved in…bit by bit, with great excitement.  There was a huge amount of camaraderie with lots of ‘lending a hand’ with the trials of moving in.

The Co-op has achieved a beautiful community garden, two shared spaces, an office and a garage where garden tools are stored and kept.  They have held numerous social get togethers (often involving the wider community), including Carols by the Christmas Tree, Halloween, Easter celebrations, a Play Street event, where the road was closed for children to play.  Household costs i.e. boiler servicing and energy charges, are reduced via collective bargaining, and they have a reduced Carbon footprint from other streets by sharing power tools.

They have just held their third annual general meeting.  It hasn’t been a bed of roses, and it won’t ever be.  They complain about one another sometimes, complain about Pobl, and generally don’t really want to do the boring stuff.

But they are a community, and they certainly appreciate the power of that, and wouldn’t want to change it.

GSWAG: A Collaborative Partnership

Partnership working is the way forward for public service delivery. Partnership is hard work, we know that. But the benefits to public services are huge.

We recently got to hear about Gwent Strategic Wellbeing Assessment Group’s (“GSWAG”) approach, so we went along to one of their meetings.

We heard how they are working in partnership to achieve more by learning from each other, by collaborating on the same agenda items. They’re working under the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act, putting some of the five ways of working in practice. They’re able to avoid duplication, share their expertise by utilising a common language and giving each other the space to ensure they can discuss areas of contention in a constructive way. They recognise that by working in partnership, they can go far further and achieve far more than they would alone. You can find out more by getting in touch with Bernadette Elias or Lyndon Puddy.