Changemaker 100: Future Generations Commissioner marks end of seven-year term by recognising Wales’ changemakers
People making a positive difference to Wales’ present and future are being spotlighted by the first Future Generations Commissioner, Sophie Howe, as she comes to the end of her seven-year term.
Wales is the only country in the world with a Well-being of Future Generations Act and Ms Howe is the world’s first statutory Future Generations Commissioner.
To date, some of the achievements of the Act and commissioner’s role include helping to put a basic income trial on the agenda, interventions in transport that lead to the M4 relief road being scrapped in favour of more funding for public transport and a new transport strategy, a new purpose-driven curriculum and an emphasis on preventative healthcare.
Now the outgoing commissioner, who will finish her term at the end of January 2023, wants to highlight just some of the changemakers from all across society working for a better Wales.
Poets, public sector workers, activists, influencers, businesses, schools and volunteers helping to embed the well-being goals across Wales appear alongside actor and campaigner Michael Sheen, on the Future Generations Changemaker 100 list – which is being published for the first time today [Tuesday, January 24] at an event at Wales Millennium Centre.
Individuals on the list include Amanda Davies, who developed the Bed Poverty Relief Scheme at Swansea Bay University Health Board, which donated surplus Covid-19 beds to a children’s hospital and refugee camps in Moldova for Ukrainian people fleeing the war; trans activist, Zoey Allen, actor Michael Sheen, and Becky Harford and Ella Smillie, the founders of Benthyg Cymru – Wales’ fast growing library of things, bringing people together to share and borrow household items, saving waste and reducing carbon emissions.
Natalie Hodgkinson is a former maths tutor using coffee to tackle unemployment who founded Boss & Brew Academy in lockdown and has since offered free barista training and employability programmes to young people primarily in Butetown and Grangetown, Cardiff, the majority of whom are Black, Asian or of minority ethnicity.
The event at WMC will include performances by changemakers on the list – Taylor Edmonds, the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales’ Poet in Residence 2021-2022; Welsh musician Blankface, one of the young co-creators at The Democracy Box, who are creating a movement for change, raising awareness about our democracy and how to get involved; and Cardiff’s Radnor Primary School choir. There will also be reflections by Sophie Howe and by the First Minister, Mark Drakeford.
Sophie Howe said: “Wales’ well-being legislation puts an obligation on public bodies to act outside of the status quo, but there are also thousands of people making positive change every day.
“This event is about recognising just some of the people demonstrating what happens when we put well-being first, work together and consider the long-term implications of our actions, and highlights the need to support changemakers so that they can improve society for everyone.
“The Future Generations Changemaker 100 is merely a snapshot of Wales’ brilliant changemakers, and we want others to share the people who inspire them, and keep the momentum going for now and for future generations.”
First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “Recent years have brought to the fore the scale of the global challenges we face. Chief among these is the pressing need to work towards a more sustainable future. To deliver on our ambitions for a stronger, fairer, and greener Wales we need to continually ensure that the way we work in government is driving forward the positive vision we have for the future shaped by the Well-being of Future generations Act.
“What helps set Wales apart is the work of the independent Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, in supporting this change and keeping the focus on the long term.
“The Future Generations Commissioner has been a driving force, and I want to pay tribute to the impressive and long-lasting contribution Sophie Howe has made to public debate and policy in Wales.”
Noel Mooney, CEO of the Football Association of Wales, takes a place on the list. Mr Mooney worked with the commissioner on FAW’s sustainability strategy, Cymru, well-being and the world, which outlines the association’s vision for a global, local Cymru, using the power of football to improve Wales’ well-being. Following the launch, the FAW announced an agreement for equal pay for the Cymru Men’s and Women’s national teams.
He said: “Sustainability is a key focus for the Football Association of Wales and so I’m delighted that the Future Generations Commissioner has recognized the work we’re doing towards our goal of becoming a world leader in football. We’re a progressive organisation in tune with the values and culture of the communities and characters that make up our beautiful game.
“Thinking and acting sustainably means that the decisions we make today will also have a positive impact on generations to come. With this strategy, in line with the Well-being of Future Generations Act, we have a plan of action to develop sustainable and stronger clubs, leagues and initiatives in order to achieve this.”
- People in Wales are being invited to share what they are doing to ‘Get in on the Act’ and share the names of changemakers inspiring them every day on Twitter @Futuregencymru
- Sophie Howe will join the 100 changemakers by adding a ‘Tag the Future’ to the Future Generations Chair*, at the event. The commissioner’s tag will be left blank to symbolise the missing changemaker – the person not-yet born, from a future generation.
- To read the full Future Generations Changemaker 100, go to futuregenerations.wales/impact/future-generations-changemaker-100
*The first Future Generations Chair, created and designed by craftsman Tony Thomas, in partnership with the Future Generations Commissioner and the Eisteddfod Genedlaethol Cymru, is a symbol of voices not present – future generations – who should have a seat at the table. Words such as ‘newid’ (Welsh for ‘change’) are engraved into the wood and were chosen by Climate Cymru, via its project to gather 10,000 voices from Wales to take to global conference, COP 26, at Glasgow in 2021, where the chair was first unveiled. The chair was also created as a nod to the chair awarded to poets in a historic Welsh cultural tradition. After this event, it will move to a home at Cathays Park, where Cabinet and other key meetings will be held by Welsh Government, as a reminder of the interests of future generations.
CASE STUDIES – Future Generations Changemaker 100…
Further interviews available.
- The Future Generations Leadership Academy is a group of 18-30 year-olds putting the Act into action in Welsh society – via creating future generations plans for their workplaces, mentoring Welsh leaders and informing the commissioner’s own work. Since graduating from the 2020 academy, the alumni have been busy making change, including speaking at COP 26, sitting on Welsh Government advisory boards, joining the Wales-Ireland inter-ministerial forum, becoming elected officials, and making waves by representing Wales on the UK Future Generations Commission.
- Taylor Edmonds has used poetry to humanise topics of climate change in her role as the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales’ Poet in Residence 2021-2022. The Barry poet and writer worked with communities across Wales to ensure the rallying cry to protect future generations continues to be heard loudly – on poems like My Magnolia tree, an example of how poetry can incite meaningful change. She said: “My residency with the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales re-affirmed for me the potential and power of poetry to drive cultural change. Poetry can humanise and create empathy around topics of climate change in particular. Everything is connected – we can’t have justice in one area without justice in others.”
- Wil Stewart is a warden at Breakwater Country Park in Holyhead, one of the spots where Isle of Anglesey County Council’s Countryside and Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Team and Social Services work with Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board to use the Act to offer walks as a form of natural therapy. Clients can be referred by their own local GP or through Anglesey’s Community Mental Health Team and Will, who has been a warden for 24 years, runs them at the same time every week. Wil said: “It’s satisfying to sense people connecting with nature, and often connecting with themselves and for a significant number of walkers, they have become a very looked-forward to healthy routine. I’ve seen significant changes in people, from the gentleman who didn’t talk for weeks on the walks and was suddenly inspired by his surroundings to quote lines from his favourite poem, to the person who has started to come here to simply sit on a bench in nature. The positive effect that walking has on our well-being is unmistakeable and I’m immensely proud of the Well-being of Future Generations Act – it’s sanctioned people’s well-being and given official backing to finding new ways to help people improve their physical and mental health.”
- Indo Zwingina takes part in community activities set up in response to floods that have caused terrible damage to her hometown, Treforest, including growing vegetables on flooded land. She recently graduated from the University of South Wales with a Masters in Management, so that she can advocate for the need to involve communities in tackling the climate and nature emergencies. An estimated 245,000 properties in Wales are at risk of flooding – a result of climate change caused by rising carbon emissions. Indo, who moved to South Wales from Nigeria, volunteers at Meadow Street Community Garden and Woodland, where residents grow vegetables together on the land that was flooded by the riverbank. She said: “The floods have affected everyone. Many people lost businesses, and treasured belongings that insurance cannot replace. When I arrived, you could see trails of how the water came – huge containers in the community garden still had the marks of the water level, up in the hedges and the trees. Volunteers are still collecting rubbish that the floods left behind. Flood water brought knotweed to the community garden where I volunteer – it’s a lasting memory of when the water came. I knew we needed to make a change, for the environment and for people. I started to recycle, and upcycle things instead of throwing them away, and to talk to my friends about climate change. I want to learn business skills so I can be part of making a change in the way we do things. Politicians need to listen to people in order to tackle climate change – we can only make the changes we need if they engage people and understand their lives and the reality for them. They can’t force ideas on people, it needs to be about what communities need and can do. Volunteering has been such a positive thing to do. We talk about how we can prepare for more floods. We can’t stop it but we can work together to help make sure the impact is minimal.’’
- Marten Lewis is head of Corporate Responsibility at Bluestone National Park Resort where he’s helped transform the former dairy farm into a luxury, nature-based resort in Pembrokeshire.
His remit includes carbon reduction, maximising biodiversity, moving towards a circular economy and net zero, and supporting the community, and he has developed a network of community partners that he works with regularly to increase ethical practices and tackle carbon emissions.
Since opening, sixty acres of woodland have been planted, along with the creation of two new lakes as part of a rewilding project which is returning dozens of acres of pasture to natural grassland. One of the first things Marten did was to create a 20-acre nature reserve and a 4-acre wildflower meadow, as well as develop bird and bat box projects with local schools and a hedgehog release site for the local Hogspital.
A Kent Wildlife Trust report shows that since 2006, Bluestone has increased biodiversity (the richness of different animals and plants) and that their Wildlife Action Plan is set to achieve over 50% Biodiversity Net Gain in the coming years.
This means visitors now have more of a chance of encountering important species like the rare yellow hammer bird, otters, the viviparous lizard, a, Sand Martins and breeding barn owls. The increase in wildflower species like southern marsh orchid has led to a boom in pollinator species including butterflies and bees, resulting in Bluestone being accredited as a Bee Friendly Business in 2021.
Marten has led a large-scale decarbonisation programme since 2019, inclusive of a REGObacked electricity supply so all consumption is matched by energy from a zero-carbon renewable source within the UK, with further renewable energy plans being developed. Bluestone became the first regional hospitality business in the UK to switch to 100% biogas in 2021 and, using biomass instead of an oil product to heat its Blue Lagoon Water Park, saves the emission of around 1300 tonnes of CO2e per year.
Since 2018, the resort has reduced its carbon footprint on energy by 90% and is working in line with the Well-being of Future Generations Act, which sets out an ambition for a more environmentally resilient Wales.
When it comes to the circular economy, Marten and the team re-use and upcycle resources no longer serviceable in the business. For example, old sofas are repaired and reupholstered as part of a learning programme for vulnerable adults in the community and then sold, with profits donated to charities in the county.
Bluestone is also a longstanding member of Business in the Communities’ Responsible Business Network and Marten has worked with the community and colleagues to take the organisation into Green Key accreditation and a member of the Zero Carbon Forum.
Marten said: “I’m humbled to be on the Future Generations Changemaker 100 list. I want to raise the conversation about sustainability and the importance that every one of us push for change and keep Wales at the forefront of innovation during the social, climate and biodiversity crises we face as a global community.”
ADDITIONAL CASE STUDIES:
- Ali Abdi, Community Gateway Partnership Manager at Citizens Cymru Wales and Cardiff University Community Gateway. Ali is a passionate community champion and activist. Through Citizens Cymru Wales, he empowers residents in Butetown, Grangetown and the surrounding area to become active citizens and leaders, including through his leadership role in the development of Grange Pavillion. In his voluntary role with Race Council Cymru, he brings together large groups of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic young people to engage with political leaders and Welsh government.
- Chris Blake, Founding Director of Green Valleys (Wales) and catalyst for Project Skyline. Chris is a champion in community land ownership and renewable energy projects. He started in Brecon with the Green Valleys and then introduced ‘Project Skyline’ to the Rhondda valleys, working in partnership with the community to refine a concept that connects local people to their landscape by providing jobs, training and health benefits. A former board member of Natural Resources Wales, Chris has a fantastic vision for a better Wales.
- Criccieth Town Council. The Town Council has been responsible for many activities to improve the area and increase footfall. It developed an ambitious Community Plan, which included cultural activity, place-making and well-being. Inspired by a poem written 90 years ago about a mysterious, fictional incident on the seashore, a public sculpture was commissioned along with new music and poetry were commissioned, community events, an artistic town map, heritage interpretation panels along with many other activities which together, have encouraged community cohesion, increased visitor numbers and supported local traders and sustained the town’s morale through and beyond the pandemic.
- Samantha Egelstaff, co-founder, Llanrwst Flood Action Group. Samantha, teacher and campaigner, co-founded Llanrwst Flood Action Group in the wake of Storm Ciara in 2020. The group produced a powerful poem: Ymgodi o’r Gaeaf/Emerging from Winter, with our Poet in Residence Taylor Edmonds. Read by Ysgol Bro Gwydir pupils, it highlights the plight of flooding upon our communities and the collaborative effort to protect them.
- Amanda Davies, service improvement manager at Swansea Bay University Health Board, developed the board’s Bed Poverty Relief Scheme, supplying thousands of surplus Covid-19 emergency beds to homes where people were experiencing bed poverty. Beds were also donated to a children’s hospital and refugee camps in Moldova for Ukrainian people fleeing the war. In 2022, she also established the largest community-supported agricultural farm on health board premises in the UK. It will deliver affordable organic veg for up to 200 households per week, with surplus going to local foodbanks. Amanda is also improving procurement practices in the NHS supply chains and integrating art with patient well-being.
- Zoey Allen, from Cardiff, a ‘trans woman on a mission to educate’ lists some of the reasons she works hard to increase the visibility of trans and queer people as being: the ‘fight for equal and better health care, equal access to facilities, and to be treated like a human being while we’re out and about’. The influencer was recently nominated for a National Diversity Award.
NOTES TO EDITORS:
For the full list, to attend the event on January 24, from 10:00-16:30 at Wales Millennium Centre alongside the changemakers, to request an interview with the commissioner or any of the Future Generations Changemaker 100, or for more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Well-being of Future Generations Act puts an obligation on decision-makers to act now for a better future – and take action in a joined-up and long-term way, so that inter-connected factors such as poverty, health, education and skills, employment, transport, climate and housing have inter-connected solutions.
Public bodies, including Welsh Government, are legally required to act for healthier, more equal, prosperous, environmentally-resilient and globally-responsible Wales of cohesive communities, with a vibrant culture and thriving Welsh language.
For more information, go to https://www.futuregenerations.wales/