Day: February 26, 2021

Blaenau Gwent To Hold First Climate Assembly in Wales

10,000 households in Blaenau Gwent have received written invitations to register their interest in participating. From those who apply to be involved, 50 people will then be randomly selected to take part and will learn about climate issues facing their community, discussing the themes of housing, nature and transport before proposing and debating potential solutions. 

The Assembly is being organised by housing associations United Welsh, Linc Cymru, Melin Homes and Tai Calon in partnership with sustainable development charity Cynnal Cymru, Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council and ERS Cymru.

Steve Cranston, Foundational Economy Lead for housing association United Welsh said: 

“Climate change is an emergency that impacts us all, from the homes we live in through to the food we eat with our families.

“A climate assembly is a fantastic opportunity to capture the views of local people representing the wider population about what needs to happen, helping decision makers across the Welsh public sector to shape their approach.

We all have a part to play in tackling climate change. As a partnership, we are looking forward to coming together with people in Blaenau Gwent to learn, challenge and inspire action.”

The Assembly will see leading experts present information on climate change and the sub-themes to the 50 participants to provide context to inform the discussions.

Jess Blair, Director of ERS Cymru said: 

“Through this climate assembly, Blaenau Gwent is leading the way in Wales on a new model of democracy, which gives local people a greater say in issues that affect them. Assemblies like this have been used across the UK, including with the Citizens Assembly of Scotland, UK Climate Assembly as well as elsewhere around the globe.

“The Assembly will give a representative sample of people in the community a chance to discuss, deliberate and produce recommendations that will be heard by decision makers across local government, local registered social landlords and Welsh Government. 

“Elsewhere models like this have been proven to build trust, give people a greater say in local decisions and give decision makers an insight into the trade-offs people would make around climate change. This is a really exciting development and we can’t wait to see it in action.”

Sarah Hopkins, Director of Cynnal Cymru-Sustain Wales said: 

“Local Authorities across Wales are declaring climate emergencies and recognising that urgent action is needed at local level to reduce carbon emissions. The transition to net zero will mean changes to people’s lives so it’s vital that citizens understand and participate in this journey. 

“We are delighted to be involved with organising the Blaenau Gwent Climate Assembly. The recommendations decided upon will help to inform the collaborative approach to decarbonisation from Housing Associations, Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council and other key organisations in the region. We hope that other regions in Wales will also adopt similar processes to inform decarbonisation action plans.”

The Assembly has received funding from Welsh Government through a consortium managed by energy service provider Sero, where 68 partners in Wales were awarded more than £7m to decarbonise 1,370 homes and create tools to roll out large scale decarbonisation of homes across Wales as part of the ‘Optimised Retrofit’ programme.

The recommendations from the Assembly will be shared with all consortium partners and Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council to help inform effective citizen engagement for climate change in future.

Michelle Morris, Managing Director, Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council said: 

“Climate change is a global issue and it’s absolutely vital that we act now to protect our environment for the well-being of future generations and I am sure that the Climate Assembly will help us all focus on this.  As a Council, we recognise the importance of the challenges and we recently approved a new Decarbonisation Plan.

“We’re already taking a number of actions to reduce our carbon impact such as improving the energy efficiency of our schools; our public buildings and our street-lighting and also reducing the amount of waste sent to landfill. This Plan will see us take a more strategic approach towards achieving carbon neutrality and will help us to prioritise work in a number of key areas of our operations which, with some changes, can make a significant contribution towards our carbon neutral aim.”

Find out more about the Blaenau Gwent Climate Assembly >>

The Carbon Literacy Project

The Carbon Literacy Project offers everyone a day’s worth of Carbon Literacy learning, covering – climate change, carbon footprints, how you can do your bit, and why it’s relevant to you and your audience. The Project divides ‘everyone’ into three distinct audiences – those that live, those that work, and those that study. This allows every citizen to be offered Carbon Literacy learning in a way that has immediate meaning for them.

We have been working with the Carbon Literacy Project since 2017 to help accelerate action on climate change, by providing organisations with the training and support needed to reduce their carbon emissions.

The Project delivers no training directly, but works with a host of people and organisations from all walks of life, that all deliver training that is accredited against the Carbon Literacy Standard. The Project then assesses participant’s and certifies successful candidates with their own uniquely numbered Carbon Literacy certificate.

Due to this ‘crowdsourced’ approach, working with everyone, from all walks of life, The Carbon Literacy Project is globally unique – there is nothing else quite like it anywhere. This was recognised by the United Nations at the UN climate negotiations, COP21, in Paris in 2015, where the Project was awarded TAP100 status, – one of 100 projects worldwide recognised as Transformative Action Programmes, that could materially change the way we deal with climate change.

The Carbon Literacy Project has, from its inception, always been a massive collaborative project. It involves people and organisations from all sectors and walks of life working together and contributing time, materials and funding to advance understanding and action on climate change. The Project is wholly owned by The Carbon Literacy Trust, a registered charity (No 1156722) established in 2013 to take responsibility for The Project in perpetuity, for the public good.

Vale of Glamorgan Council: Changing public procurement

With the help of Welsh Government’s Foundational Economy Challenge Fund, Vale of Glamorgan Council is changing how they procure to benefit the foundational economy.

Procurement is where an organisation acquires goods, services or works from an external source. Often it uses competitive bidding. Very simply it is the shopping an organisation does to deliver its aims and objectives.

The Council is the biggest spender in the Vale, spending £186 million per annum. Council staff believe they have a responsibility with that spend to ensure they deliver the best value to the area including skills, health, well-being, environmental benefits and employment.

When the Welsh Government’s Foundational Economy Challenge Fund was launched, the Council saw an opportunity to strengthen their procurement practices to help meet these aims, including better support for SMEs (small and medium size enterprises) which are recognised as the ‘lifeblood of the area’.

Funding was awarded for a project that aimed to grow local SMEs and to increase the number of these delivering Council contracts. Maddy Sims, who leads the Council’s foundational economy work, realised that this would also require changing unhelpful perceptions that the Council’s procurement was a closed rather than open process.

Recognising that dialogue was crucial, the project focused on listening to local businesses, the use of data and trying to ‘humanise’ the process of bidding for Council contracts so that more SMEs could benefit.

SMEs often don’t have guaranteed income at the end of the month. Because of this, Maddy explains, it’s important to remove barriers to the bidding process as businesses cannot afford to be constantly bidding for contracts that do not materialise.

Through the Council’s conversations with local SMEs they found that many faced frustrating – though easily rectifiable – issues that prevented them from winning Council contracts. Many had not heard of Sell2Wales (an initiative from the Welsh Government helping SMEs work successfully with the public sector) whilst others had various small but disheartening problems – such as not having codes set up correctly.

Central to resolving these issues has been a proactive approach to building relationships with local business and asking ‘what can we do to help you work with us?’ rather than just assuming that SMEs would approach the Council for information or advice.

The Fund has allowed the Council to engage with more than 1,000 businesses since June 2020 through events with Business Wales, Sell2Wales and others to help understand and resolve tendering problems.

The Council’s new conversational approach also works to take away the ‘waste of time factor’ and the overwhelming feeling many SMEs currently face when tendering. Maddy explains that these factors not only lead to some SMEs not bidding, but also rushing bids, making them less likely to succeed.

To help encourage and reassure local SMEs therefore, the Council are making case study films featuring some of the local businesses they’ve worked with, including a story of one who, after gaining confidence in tendering through providing vending machines to the Council, went on to win a multi-million pound contract with the NHS. 

An animation to make procurement look simpler and more exciting has also been commissioned and the Council has also increased the number of mailshots sent to businesses to grow awareness of the contracts available.

As a result of these efforts, 100 new local businesses have registered with Sell2Wales and the Council has taken other steps to make its contracts more accessible to SMEs – such as breaking up a large-scale contract into smaller ones that SMEs are more able to tender for.

Conversations with local businesses not only identified barriers to tendering and winning contracts but also allowed the Council to better understand the local supply chain and gaps in the market. This understanding is vital for the Council to support the local area with its procurement, for example potentially through a supply chain policy or proactive procurement to help stimulate activity in a supply chain void.

The project has also helped catalyse other new ways of working. The Council’s procurement is not centralised, and the procurement is devolved to different directorates. Currently, there is no centralised reporting about how much is spent locally which makes it difficult to measure the full impact of Council procurement on SMEs or the local foundational economy in general. The challenge here is the lack of data. The Challenge Fund project has highlighted this gap, which the Council recognises as a positive first step in overcoming and rectifying it.

An important learning point Maddy would like to convey to others doing similar work is simply to “put yourself in their (SMEs) shoes and consider what they’re going through”. She explains “it’s a lot of listening, talking and then finding out if you can change your processes to bring mutual benefit. Anybody looking to do this kind of project, talk to as many people as possible.”

Procurement is the main part of the Council’s spend and Maddy feels that the Challenge Fund project has really opened up the potential power of that spend to benefit the foundational economy. It has given the Council new insights into where they will go next, reshaping their procurement service, standardising it and measuring the locality of their spend in a more precise way.

Ultimately, the Council wants to support SMEs to deliver skills, jobs – and often many other benefits linked to a strong foundational economy. It also wants to give commissioners more confidence and awareness to spend with locality and value in mind.

This case study was compiled by Cynnal Cymru – Sustain Wales as part of supporting a community of practice of Challenge Fund projects sharing learning and collaboration.

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