‘Deep Place Study’ views co-ops and social enterprises as key to tackling poverty in Wales
Last month, the Centre for Regeneration Excellence in Wales (CREW) published a report that looks at how poverty could be tackled through sustainability in Welsh communities.
The ‘Deep Place Study’ focused on Tredegar, which was held up as a typical example of a town facing numerous challenges in post-industrial Wales. The report looked at weaknesses that limit the town’s ability to grow economically, as well as opportunities that could be exploited over the next 10-15 years. By basing the report around one town, its authors hope it will enable decision makers, at all levels, to realise how a similar approach could be taken in other locations in Wales.
I recently met with Professor Dave Adamson and Dr Mark Lang, of CREW, who led the ‘Deep Place Study’, as I’d noted the number of recommendations or ‘actions’, as listed in the report, that suggest the potential for co-operative solutions to many of the problems identified in Tredegar. Across key themes such as energy, housing, education and social care, there are recommendations to set up new co-operatives and social enterprises to develop and deliver services, or to transfer existing services into the hands of such organisations and businesses.
Taking renewable energy as a leading example, Professor Adamson told me that ‘there is huge potential for job creation around a low-carbon economy’, citing Germany’s approach where 380,000 jobs have been created in the sector in recent years. He also highlighted the ways in which co-operative approaches are taken in the care system in Italy (Bologna) and Canada (Quebec), ways that he feels could be replicated in Wales – retaining local ownership, providing local jobs and keeping investment within the local economy.
Dr Lang gave me his thoughts on energy and food, another key part of the report, “We need a radical rethink on local food production. Look at the New Forest Economy Initiative, around willow cropping and large-scale green-housing”. He went on to tell me that there are opportunities for larger scale social enterprises to be providing local food supplies in Welsh communities, holding up the work of similar organisations in Cleveland, Ohio.
The pair are under no illusion as to the barriers facing them, as they seek support to realise the report’s actions. They’re seeking policy change in order for resources to be made available in the coming years, viewing the study as a ‘long-term report’. Dr Lang summed their future hopes up, by saying ‘When the funding environment is less hostile, when we can invest in Welsh communities again, we all need to consider models that can create community sustainability”.
You can listen to my interview with Dave Adamson and Mark Lang on SoundCloud.