New research shows Welsh communities have deep loyalty to the places they live in strong contrast to negative narratives about them, but barriers perpetuate inequality.
Today The Young Foundation launches Valuing Place, its Welsh Government funded research into the lived experience of over 350 people in three Welsh communities; Port Talbot, Connah’s Quay and Aberystwyth.
Its findings show that people have a strong connection to the places they live and care deeply about their town’s features like beaches, rivers and parks. These connections provide a strong sense of belonging and shared community pride. They also have many supportive networks and people care for each other. These findings stand in stark contrast to the dominant narratives which present them as places of remoteness or in industrial decline.
However people in these communities also experience many inequalities including:
• Feeling that those from outside hold negative perceptions of their places, and of the people who live there
• Feeling that they are not involved in big decisions about policy and investment in their areas
• Geographical isolation which affects people’s abilities to meet their needs or pursue opportunities
• Feeling socially isolated in other places where opportunities lie because of their close connection to a specific place
• Differences in income and stability of employment
But people are also taking action to make their places better for those that live there. The research found that each town is brimming with charity, action, goodwill, and social innovation. But there are challenges to this including many people not knowing that they are able to ask for support, or how to ask, and external structural factors, such as the accessibility of sources of support and funding.
Recommendations from the research include:
• Knowing how people in places experience inequality should be a primary concern of policymakers and development agencies.
• Promoting counter-narratives to deprivation and decline is really important, balanced with recognising challenges and problems where they do exist
• Allocation of resources needs to be better targeted to meet community aims.
• Policy makers need to recognise, celebrate and amplify the actions which people are already taking, including those which are small-scale and loosely formed.
• Local networks need to be established as a priority to help encourage, train, mentor and connect people together who want to take local action.
• Decision-makers and influencers need to be working with communities in different ways, away from things being ‘done to’, to co-creating new solutions to existing problems.
Glenys Thornton, Chief Executive of the Young Foundation said:
“The challenge to Welsh institutions and leaders, those with resources and influence, is to pool resources and to change what they do in order to facilitate and support action at the local level. We understand the level of challenge this presents to current ways of thinking. However we also think it is an opportunity which cannot be missed if we want more equal, vibrant and healthy communities.”
A resident from Connah’s Quay said:
“We are really good at surviving hard times. We had the steel industry collapse with most of the population out of work, but we made it through! Those bonds from years ago are still strong because the people here survived together.”
And another from Aberystwyth said:
“You don’t disappear under the radar. People do see you. People care here.”
Notes to editors:
1. For full copies of the research, interviews with senior staff and case studies and more information please contact: Lucie Russell 07931 507873 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
2. The Young Foundation is a research and action based institute with a formidable track record of confronting inequalities. We work across the UK and internationally to create insight and innovations which put people at the heart of social change. We do this through research, work with communities and social innovation. We also bring together leading thinkers and policy makers around the world to develop new ideas to confront inequalities and create fairer societies.
3. Amplify is a Young Foundation led initiative that supports people and organisations to take action together to create fairer communities where everyone can thrive. Our methodology seeks to support locally driven processes of community transformation and is tailored to meet the unique needs and opportunities of the places in which we work.
4. The Young Foundation was founded by the great social scientist and innovator Michael Young and originally called the Institute for Community Studies. We became the Young Foundation after Michael’s death in 2002. Together we have created and supported over 80 organisations including Which?, The Open University, Economic and Social Research Council, Social Innovation Exchange (SIX), School for Social Entrepreneurs, Uprising and Studio Schools Trust. Find out more at www.youngfoundation.org