How can the social economy play a greater role in a building a more prosperous and inclusive Wales?
A guest blog from Kate Carr, Director of Partnerships, Communications and Engagements at the Office of the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales.
If you’re looking for innovation, spend some time with people at the heart of the co-operative and social enterprise sector. These are the people who are determined to ‘be the change’ – who get the concept of ‘doing with’, not ‘doing to’ people. They are the problem-solvers, the innovators, the entrepreneurs. And together as a sector they contribute £2.37 billion to the Welsh economy.
In September, I was fortunate to be invited to the Social Business Wales awards and conference. I talked about the long-term challenges facing our future generations and the opportunities ahead – the issues decision-makers in Wales must be planning for now, whether it’s the impact of climate change on our health and our homes, helping an ageing population live well for longer or the advances in tech that will fundamentally change the way, we live and work.
The event never fails to inspire, showcasing the range of people making a difference to their communities and to the economy – from Natural Weigh, and their efforts to keep us healthy while helping us to stop single-use plastics, Tregroes Waffles, making the move to an employee-owned company, to social enterprise of the year winners Plas Madoc Leisure Centre, bringing communities together and keeping them fit.
Organisations supporting the social economy in Wales are working together to consider what can be done to enable social enterprises and other organisations in the social economy to play a greater role in building a more prosperous and inclusive Wales. It is being developed by those at the coalface and involving social businesses and others across Wales to make sure their voice is heard, in line with the Well-being of Future Generations Act.
The response from people at the event was clear – they are looking for rapid action and practical support, including:
- Championing social businesses: Better awareness of goods and services – providing a platform for what’s on offer
- Education about social entrepreneurship: Inspiring our school children about the opportunities available and extending throughout lifelong learning – particularly important with an ageing population and the changing face of the future of work
- Changing procurement and other processes to make it easier for social businesses to win contracts: supporting Public Bodies and others to make better use of the skills and innovative solutions provided by social enterprise and co-operatives – directing communities towards them.
- Skills building: preparing the sector for the 4th industrial revolution, brought about by advances in technology. So much has been done by the sector to help communities towards digital inclusion but how are those running businesses being supported to maximise the opportunities and mitigate the risks posed by changes to the way we do business? Action is needed to ensure the sector that works with some of our most vulnerable people is fully prepared.
The Office of the Future Generations Commissioner is working with the Wales Co-operative Centre and other partners to help inspire public bodies towards improving well-being through our Art of the Possible programme. The work so far includes some of the simple changes our public bodies can make, and this includes how they can make best use of all the social enterprise and co-operative sector has to offer. You can find out more about this here.