Foundational Economy

Image showing the first slide of the Foundational Economy Online Learning Resource

New Foundational Economy online learning resource

This engaging online resource has been launched to build understanding of what the Foundational Economy is; the benefits it can bring; and how it can be strengthened. 

Vaughan Gething, Minister for Economy explains: 

This online eLearning module is an excellent tool to better understand Community Wealth Building and place-based approaches, which can support and nourish the Foundational Economy, central to our Economic Mission. We all interact with the Foundational Economy (FE) every day, from the food we eat, the buildings we live and work in, and the services that we use. It is inseparable from our communities and our country, representing roughly 40% of the economy. 

Building the necessary capability and skills to embed FE objectives across the Welsh public sector is crucial. By doing this we can maximise opportunities for our indigenous suppliers and build resilient, highly skilled supply chains – keeping the Welsh pound in our communities.   

To do this, we recognise the need to provide the necessary toolsets and support for our public sector partners and practitioners.  

I am pleased to announce the launch of this eLearning module and hope it is widely used to strengthen understanding, commitment and know-how to help our foundational sectors thrive.” 

FAQ’s  

How long does this eLearning module take?  

  • There are 8 sections to this course. We recommend completing the module in one sitting, which will take between 30 – 45 minutes.  

Who is it for?  

  • This module has been designed for anyone to take, whether interested citizens or those working in public, private and third sectors. We particularly recommend it to those who are involved in developing economic policies and projects, as well as those working in public sector procurement. The short course is designed to leave learners feeling more informed, confident and energised! 
  • No specialist knowledge is required to take this module and it has been designed for anyone who is interested.  

Where can I find out more?  

  • Links to further reading can be found at the end of the module

New Foundational Economy online learning resource Read More »

Foundational Economy Community of Practice Research

Policy

Foundational economy: delivery plan (2021).

Welsh Government’s commitments and delivery plan to the end of the current Senedd term.

Latest policy interventions to strengthen the Welsh foundational economy. Including a Challenge Fund to support novel approaches to tackle issues within the foundational economy, opportunities from procurement reform and actions regarding parts of the Welsh foundational economy; construction, food, social care and afforestation.  

Access Welsh Government’s foundational economy delivery plan

Policy Read More »

Foundational Economy Community of Practice Research

Community wealth building

Community wealth building is an approach to economic development aimed at changing the way that economies function so that more wealth and opportunity is retained for local people. In this way, its approach is similar to practitioners working within the foundational economy, with their focus on grounded, local firms. Community wealth building has been used successfully in Preston – known as the ‘Preston Model’ and is increasingly being used by The Scottish Government.  

Community wealth building webpage.

CLES. 

Access the community wealth building webpage

Community wealth building: a history (podcast) (2021).

CLES. 

Listen to the community wealth building history podcast

What is the Preston Model? (2022).

Preston City Council.  

Read the article from Preston City Council on the Preston Model

How we built community wealth in Preston: achievements and lessons (2019).

CLES and Preston City Council.  

Read the publication from CLES and Preston City Council on how they built community wealth in Preston

Community wealth building and The Scottish Government

Read the report from the Scottish Government on community wealth building

Community wealth building Read More »

Foundational Economy Community of Practice Research

Place-based studies

Several deep-dive studies have been undertaken to understand the dynamics behind different areas and their populations and to explore the approaches needed to develop strong foundational economies and well-being.

Small towns, big issues: aligning business models, organisation, imagination (2021).

Luca Calafati, Julie Froud, Colin Haslam, Sukhdev Johal and Karel Williams. Foundational Economy Research for Welsh Government’s Home and Places Division and Education and Public Services Group

Download the paper from Foundational Economy Research on aligning business models, organisation and imagination

The business potential of the foundational economy in the south Wales valleys (2020).

Bevan Foundation.  

A report, funded by Welsh Government’s Foundational Economy Challenge Fund, drawing lessons from interviews with businesses of the foundational economy across three communities in the south Wales valleys – Cwmafan, Treharris and Treherbert. Authors conclude that across all communities, there are businesses with potential to grow from micro and small businesses into successful SMEs. The authors argue that, given the types of businesses that exist in the south Wales valleys, developing the foundational economy requires a different approach to past economic measures. They suggest support tailored and targeted to micro businesses, with more effective communication between business, support services, local and Welsh Government and addressing the lack of availability for premises suitable for expansion including conversion of empty properties. A sister report published by the Bevan Foundation, Consumer spending in the foundational economy (2021), Lloyd Jones looks at the foundational economy within the same communities but from the perspective of the consumer. 

Download the paper from the Bevan Foundation on the business potential of the foundational economy in the south Wales valleys

Download the sister report from the Began Foundation on consumer spending in the foundational economy

Enabling renewal: future education and building better citizenship, occupations and business communities in Wales (2020).

John Buchanan, Julie Froud, Mark Lang, Caroline Lloyd, Bruce Smith and Karel Williams. foundational economy.com for ColegauCymru 

Download the paper from foundationaleconomy.com on future education and building better citizenship, occupations and business communities in Wales

How an ordinary place works: understanding Morriston (2019).

Luca Calafati, Jill Ebrey, Julie Froud, Colin Haslam, Sukhdev Johal and Karel Williams. foundational economy.com 

Research aiming to understand how Morriston, Swansea works to deliver well-being to the people who live there. Authors argue that this well-being depends on the functioning of foundational services and that understanding a place using metrics of well-being, rather than traditional economic metrics, can support new policy to tackle to liveability issues that truly matter to citizens. In this vein, the authors provide policy ideas for a town plan to revitalise Morriston’s social infrastructure.   

Download the paper on foundationaleconomy.com on how an ordinary place works: understanding Morriston

Place-based studies Read More »

Foundational Economy Community of Practice Research

Business support and fair work

Foundational sectors often struggle to implement, or benefit from, fair work practices. The following reports explore how this could be changed.

A better balance: business support for the foundational economy (2021).

Jack Watkins. The Institute of Welsh Affairs and Centre for Regeneration Excellence Wales.  

A review of business support policy and practice of Business Wales, the Development Bank of Wales and Welsh Government and opportunities for changes to better support the foundational economy – ensuring grounded Welsh firms can receive necessary support to supply high quality everyday goods and services. Authors find that current support has positive impacts however only reaches a minority of Welsh firms, because it is often targeted at high-growth firms and particular sectors. Thus, the current support currently does not effectively support micro-firms to become successful and sustainable SMEs – a key part of a healthy foundational economy. Authors suggest measures for policy makers could take to make business support work for the foundational economy better.  

Download the paper from The Institute of Welsh Affairs and Centre for Regeneration Excellence Wales on business support for the foundational economy

Fair work in the foundational economy: what should be done (2021).

Victoria Winckler. Bevan Foundation.   

A report bringing together key findings from work previously published by the Bevan Foundation on experiences of working within some sectors of the foundational economy and an international review of promising policy and practice to approaches to fair work. It shows that work in the foundational economy is often of low quality including low pay and low hours, highlighting a need to improve terms and conditions. Drawing lessons from the international review, the report makes recommendations for a range of actors including policy makers, local government, Business Wales and the Development Bank for Wales to support fair work within the foundational economy.  Authors use The Fair Work Commission in Wales’ components of fair work; fair reward, employee voice and collective representation, security and flexibility, opportunity for access, growth and progression, safe healthy and inclusive work and that legal rights are respected and given substantive effect.  

Download the paper from the Bevan Foundation on fair work in the foundational economy

Fair work in the foundational economy: key data (2021).

Anne Green and Paul Sissons. Bevan Foundation.  

Download the report from the Bevan Foundation for key data on fair work in the foundational economy

The impact of regulation in the foundational economy (2021).

Jack Watkins and The Means. The Institute of Welsh Affairs, Centre for Regeneration Excellence Wales and The Means.  

An outline of the effect of current regulations and their enforcement on Welsh small and medium firms of the foundational economy. Authors use interviews with business owners in construction, social care, food and manufacturing demonstrating confusion over rules, the complexity of overlapping requirements and overly rigid enforcement. The report outlines how regulation and enforcement can disproportionately impact small and medium sized business, causing difficulty for new businesses to be successful. Authors make a series of recommendations for regulatory bodies, including Welsh Government and local authorities to help support small and medium sized businesses of the foundational economy.  

Download the paper from the Institute of Welsh Affairs, Centre of Regeneration Excellence Wales and The Means on the impact of regulation in the foundational economy

What can Welsh Government do to increase the number of grounded SME firms in food processing and distribution? (2021).

Andrew Bowman, Julie Froud, Colin Haslam, Sukhdev Johal, Kevin Morgan and Karel Williams. Foundational Economy Research.   

An analysis of the Welsh food system from field to fork and the business models of SMEs which form a part of this system, with recommendations on a range of coordinated policies to secure and increase the number of grounded Welsh SMEs processing and distributing food. Authors define a Welsh grounded SME as an SME which is independently owned in Wales with a high proportion of assets in Wales. Authors argue specific policies are required for the specific characteristics of every food system, including Wales. They put forward a number of priorities to move forward; one, engage supermarket chains in a greater effort to recruit Welsh SME suppliers, two, effectively use public procurement to create demand side opportunity and finally maintain and consolidate infrastructures to support Welsh food SMEs. 

Download the paper from Foundational Economy Research on what the Welsh Government can do to increase the number of grounded SME firms in food processing and distributing

Business support and fair work Read More »

Foundational Economy Community of Practice Research

A low carbon economy 

A stable climate cannot be achieved unless all parts of the economy decarbonise and operate within environmental limits. These reports consider the role that foundational sectors could play in reshaping a more climate-positive future.

Turning rhetoric into reality: decarbonising the foundational economy (2022).

Jack Watkins. The Institute of Welsh Affairs and Centre for Regeneration Excellence Wales.  

A look at the effect of decarbonisation on the Welsh economy (including parts of the foundational economy) and the potential for disruption and unemployment. The authors highlight the lack of understanding within certain industries of their future within a net zero world and consider different approaches to support them, including increasing vocational education and for more powers to be transferred to local authorities to help them respond to their local opportunities and encourage stronger relationships with local business. The report also considers if Wales’s performance in research and innovation may limit the ability of new Welsh firms to benefit from the opportunities stemming from net zero commitments.  

Download the paper from IWA on Turning Rhetoric into Reality: Decarbonising the Foundational Economy

Serious about green? Building a Welsh wood economy through co-ordination (2020)

Luca Calafati, Julie Froud, Colin Haslam, Sukhdev Johal and Karel Williams. Foundational Economy Research Limited for Woodknowledge Wales.  

Work arguing for the need to develop the ‘foundational economy 2.0’; the provision of goods and services for everyday life which also safeguard the well-being of future generations, for example through the substitution of steel, cement and fossil fuels for wood and renewable energy. The report focusses on developing the wood economy of Wales, providing ways which afforestation and the creation of high value timber products such as timer framed housing could be increased. The report draws lessons from The Republic of Ireland and Scotland who have successfully managed afforestation and processing high value timber products.  

Download the paper from Foundational Economy Research on building a Welsh wood economy through co-ordination

Renewable energy in the foundational economy (2020)

Bevan Foundation and RWE Renewables.  

Download the paper from the Bevan Foundation on Renewable energy in the foundational economy

A low carbon economy  Read More »

Free school meals – a healthy and sustainable school meal system

Informed by the experience in Sweden, where all primary and pre-school meals are tax-financed, we heard how the City of Malmo increased the amount of organic food served to 70% within 10 years, whilst also achieving a 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (GHGe) on 2002 levels. This was complemented by insights from Castell Howell Foods, an independent food wholesaler supplying 1,800 schools and the majority of local authorities in Wales.

This roundtable was held as part of our work on behalf of Welsh Government to support the foundational economy in Wales. Here are 8 of the key messages that emerged.

1. Systems change requires collaboration across policy area

The goal to provide organic food in uFSM in Malmo was driven by the Environment Department, however buy-in and cooperation from the departments for Health and Education was crucial. It was part of a wider vision for the City’s food system published in 2010 that set out that by 2020:
o All food served in Malmo should be certified organic
o GHGe from procured food should have decreased by 40% from a 2002 baseline.

2. It’s not all about budgets – a shared understanding can achieve more

In the case of Malmo, no additional money was added to food budgets to help with the transition to organic. However significant additional money was provided for training, education and raising understanding of how each part of the system could support the wider sustainability mission. This included tailored courses for staff at all levels and in all parts of the food system – cooks, managers, teachers, commissioners etc. Rather than just issuing instructions or calls to action, these courses focused on why the policy was needed and the impact that each part of the system could have in terms of making a difference and influencing others. These accompanied practical courses for delivery staff about how this could be done e.g. at the most practical level, how low carbon, nutritionally balanced meals on a budget could be produced.

3. Choose a goal that can be defined and measured (and if an existing indicator fits – use it!)

A goal for organic food was chosen over ‘sustainable food’ as there was already an agreed definition of what constituted organic, plus a credible existing certification system that i) could guarantee many of the standards and processes that the City was looking for and ii) provided a tangible way to evidence and measure progress. This removed the need to agree, embed and find a way to measure any new definition of the desired outcomes.

4. Local does not always mean better

The push to support local economies can sometimes detract from the bigger debate about what sort of local economies we want to see emerging. In terms of food, this label says nothing about how food has been produced in terms of quality, sustainable farming methods, animal welfare etc. This was another reason that the ‘organic’ goal was chosen by the Malmo team.

5. The role of teaching and catering staff is critical

In Malmo, the role of teaching staff, especially in pre-schools, was vital to encourage interest and curiosity in new foods amongst children. Meal times are also a learning opportunity and so teachers are encouraged to eat with the children and to work with kitchen staff to link the food that is being eaten to classroom activities – a factor also raised in the Learning Lessons from Scotland event.

6. It is vital to involve the supply chain

Transformation involves collaboration and in Malmo the supply chain needed to be supported and strengthened to make the policy work. In Wales, we also need to learn how to better enable producer-purchaser-policy partnerships that are based on reciprocity and help to rebalance risk. This is so that risks and short-term costs of trying to embed the ways of working that we all wish to see are not borne disproportionately by producers.

7. We need to rethink the way that staff in the food sector are valued

In Malmo, the heightened awareness about the role that school catering staff can play in the wider sustainability picture helped shift perceptions of these roles as ‘nothing jobs’ to ones that chefs in the restaurant business wanted to move into, with pull factors including the social contribution they could make as well as the family-friendly hours. In Wales, all parts of the food sector are struggling with staffing and a lack of young entrants. Reframing the opportunities within the food sector could help address this, provided that organisations are also supported to provide jobs that meet Fair Work criteria.

8. It’s a marathon not a sprint

Change takes time. The Malmo team set themselves a 10-year window to achieve the City’s goals. Even though these were not achieved in full by the 2020 deadline, it is still significant progress that others in Sweden and beyond wish to emulate. Success has been attributed to committed leadership, cross-party, cross-sector buy-in, hard work and consistent reiteration of a clear and ambitious target.

Background

The roundtable was held on 28 July 2022. The speakers were Helen Nilsson, Project Manager, Environment Department, City of Malmo and Edward Morgan, Group Corporate Social Responsibility & Training Manager, Castell Howell Foods. Presentation slides are available from admin@cynnalcymru.com.

You can read more about our first roundtable Learning Lessons from Scotland here and our wider work supporting a community of practice on the foundational economy here.

If you would like to join future roundtables or have ideas or comments around this or future themes, please contact Clare Sain-ley-Berry clare@cynnalcymru.com

Free school meals – a healthy and sustainable school meal system Read More »

Lessons from Scotland on free school meals

This commitment has been broadly welcomed but its implementation brings to light many challenges currently faced by local authorities, catering staff, suppliers and others involved in school meal provision. These range from inadequate kitchen and dining facilities in schools not designed with universal school meal provision in mind, to the disconnect between what pupils learn about food and nutrition, and the experience of their school meal.  

To better understand how these challenges might be resolved, Cynnal Cymru is convening a series of roundtables to bring together those working in the different policy and operational areas of school meal provision. Our first, in May 22, was held primarily to learn from the experience of implementing universal free school meals (uFSM) in primary schools in Scotland, where the commitment is for all primary school children to have free school meals by August 2022. 

The speakers were Prof. Mary Brennan, University of Edinburgh Business School and Chair of the Scottish Food Coalition and Jayne Jones, Commercial Manager at Argyll & Bute Council and Chair of Assist FM –a non-profit association working to promote the facilities management services of all member local authorities in Scotland. The roundtable was chaired by Prof. Kevin Morgan from Cardiff University.  

Below is a summary of some key points shared by the presenters and attendees. The full meeting notes are also available. 

uFSM must be seen as a vehicle for multiple policy objectives 

The role that school food has to play in enhancing public health and well-being must be looked at in a context extending far beyond just provision of nutrition and calories. School food matters to many cross-cutting themes and is at the heart of a ‘good food nation’. 

Dining together in schools helps children develop important, but sometimes overlooked, eating and social skills, where new tastes and food combinations can be introduced in a safe environment and norms around use of cutlery and avoiding waste can be set. Social eating also provides an opportunity for relaxation that aids afternoon learning.  Alongside the immediate benefits, these things will also help shape future food and lifestyle choices. 

In terms of the wider school community, the experience in Scotland suggests that universal provision benefits all families including those with time or knowledge constraints, as well as financial ones. 

Universal provision can also provide local economic multipliers particularly if there is investment in building links with local businesses.  It can be a driver for high quality farming and fishing, enhancing animal welfare and supporting and creating new routes to market for food businesses. It can also be an opportunity to trial methods of procurement and production compliant with Net Zero and nature recovery ambitions.  

Mary Brennan argues that what is needed is an annual forensic analysis to understand how uFSM provision is contributing to other policy areas in Scotland but this has not so far happened. 

It is essential to develop systems thinking capacity to understand how school food can deliver across different policy areas 

One of the biggest challenges in Scotland has been getting Ministers and officials to understand the operational realities and challenges that school catering staff face. The school canteen is a relentless and demanding operational environment and staff are usually not employed outside term-time or food preparation/supervision/clean-up times. There is therefore no time or space for strategic thinking to review, reflect or plan. The same is often true with local authorities with very little resource, which can lead to paralysis and a default to doing things the way they have always been done rather than trying to maximise or diversify policy outcomes. 

In Scotland, Assist FM argued for investment in management as well as frontline staff to aid the transition to uFSM in recognition of the need for this thinking and planning time and to ensure they weren’t spreading already stretched management staff too thinly. 

It is not just the food that should be valued  

The key role of dining staff in school has also been recognised in Scottish research. The extent of many of the benefits of social eating in schools – particularly around the amount of time spent eating (and therefore producing less waste) – was found to correlate directly with the amount of dining supervision available, yet the hours and numbers of dining supervisors are often vulnerable to cost-cutting.  

This links to another obstacle in expanding uFSM provision – the recruitment and retention of supervision and catering staff. Scottish research suggests that recognising more overtly the insights and contributions from these staff can expedite successful uFSM implementation, through staff development and providing space for learning and professionalisation of school catering. Attendees agreed that the whole food sector – from farming to catering – needs to be understood and promoted as a career path. 

Conclusions and next steps 

Implementing uFSM may involve complex trade-offs but there is also the potential for multiple co-benefits from a singular investment. In Wales this is a key opportunity to look at food through the lens of the Well-Being of Future Generations Act, incorporating net zero, nature recovery, equality, foundational economy and other aims. 

The clearest outcome from this session was that the ‘cost’ of school food needs to be reframed as an investment in better health and environmental outcomes and an investment in our learners (as opposed to just investing in the learning itself). We hear of redefining ‘value’ in public procurement to include the social and environmental value created from spending public money. With the publication of the Social Partnerships and Public Procurement Bill this shift should now be at the forefront of government’s mind. The provision of uFSM is an opportunity to put this into practise. 

Future sessions will consider how this investment can be made and how other operational challenges raised but not included in this piece can be resolved. These include how to increase flexibility within menu design to be able to cope rising food prices, uncertainty of supply and other ‘what if..’ scenarios; the challenges faced by schools with insufficient or no catering facilities; and how this policy aim can also support a more diverse and progressive food system in Wales, including links with the Community Food Strategy. 

If you would like to join future roundtables or have ideas or comments around this or future themes, please contact Clare Sain-ley-Berry clare@cynnalcymru.com. 

Lessons from Scotland on free school meals Read More »

Grow your Own – The Hywel Dda approach to building local skills and well-being

In 2019 Hywel Dda University Health Board took a bold step to start an Apprenticeship Academy. This was partly in response to the increasing financial costs of using agency staff to make up for the shortfall in employed Adult General Nurses. It was also, however, in recognition of the opportunity that the University Health Board had, as an anchor institution, to improve opportunities and well-being in its local area.

Recruitment had been a long-standing problem. There is no nursing college in the local area and those that have studied elsewhere, and begun to make lives for themselves, often prefer to find work in the same place. Recruitment from within local communities has therefore been a challenge, as even those students originating from the UHB area may not always choose to return once qualified. The UHB was also conscious that recruitment practices that simply attracted staff from other health board areas would just create problems elsewhere. A programme that could nurture and develop skills amongst the existing local population was seen as a more pragmatic, sustainable approach and one that would fit with the UHB’s values. The Apprenticeship Academy was therefore born.

The initial apprenticeship programme included two pathways: Healthcare and Patient Experience. This has already expanded to include many other pathways including areas as diverse as Engineering and Corporate Governance. The Healthcare Apprentice Programme, however, which can develop individuals from entry level to Nurse registration within seven years, remains its flagship. Its aim is to develop a future nursing workforce through targeted skills development, working with local employment organisations, educational institutions and youth organisations to promote and tailor apprenticeship opportunities. 

The establishment of the Academy has, of course, faced challenges, not least in the unprecedented number of applications and onboarding of apprentices. In 2021 alone there were over 600 applicants, with only 40 places on offer. The high standard of applicants, however, did provide the UHB with confidence to increase the places on offer to 57.

A secondary challenge was integrating the apprenticeship programme within the culture and working practices of a large, established workforce. To help navigate this, a ‘Reverse Mentoring’ scheme was put in place that has allowed apprentices to share their experiences and ideas through providing mentoring and guidance to members of the Health Board. Apprentices were also invited, with the Board’s support, to present at the 2021 Nursing and Midwifery conference, in recognition of their achievements. This gave members of the apprenticeship programme another opportunity to share learning first hand with those that might also find themselves working with apprentices, or even be thinking of starting programmes themselves.

One example of the value that this programme has brought was highlighted when the Academy Team was able to offer additional support to the Directors responsible for the staffing and implementation of Mass Vaccination Centres throughout the Health Board area.  Andrew Cavill (Job title) explains that the 2021 apprentices “have stepped up and stepped forward to support the vaccination effort, undertaking additional training to offer immunisation and administrative support to patients across all counties”.

The programme has also contributed to wider and longer-term benefits. The Academy has a principle of not taking on an apprentice unless there is a job available for that person at the end of the apprenticeship programme. This has encouraged services to look at their future staffing needs and start to plan early for how these can be met. On this basis, 100 apprentices have already been taken on with a pledge to deliver 1,000 apprenticeships by 2030 – an ambition that will not only grow local job opportunities but help to provide better health care, training, skills and well-being in the local foundational economy.

Grow your Own – The Hywel Dda approach to building local skills and well-being Read More »

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