four images: top left; plants in a greenhouse, bottom left; Sam Hickman playing the harp, top right; Ruth Fabby, bottom right; three people putting up a sign at Car-y-Mor

Cymru Can: Here's why we think it will...

Rob Ashelford, Head of Nesta Cymru, on why 2024 might be the year Wales shifts towards real change that benefits people now and protects the future.

The Well-being of Future Generations Act, Wales’ own law that means acting now for a better tomorrow,  is a complicated framework that’s proved a challenge to implement well – it lacks specificity, is exceptionally broad in its scope and places a burden on public organisations to work in ways that aren’t second nature to them.

Perhaps because of this, with some exceptions, progress in fulfilling the ambition of the act has been slow.

At Nesta, we have a vested interest in the success of the Act and protecting the needs of people now, and those who aren’t born yet

Much of the work we do – as a charity focused on delivering innovation for social good – shares its aims. Therefore we see the value in supporting an initiative seeking to drive progress in our areas of interest and that has the potential to achieve real change that can benefit society. 

2024 might be the point at which the momentum starts to shift. Cymru Can – the Future Generation Commissioner’s new seven-year strategy focuses more tightly on where the Act could have the greatest impact and put greater emphasis on delivery.

At Nesta we feel our own organisation’s recent experiences and approach to mission-driven work allows us to share learning on two key aspects of this strategy refresh by the commissioner and his team.

1 – Becoming impact-focused

A mission-driven approach requires you to set a specific goal – to be focused on the impact you want to achieve. Nesta’s current strategy does this – ensuring every child has a fair start in life, increasing the number of healthy years lived and reducing household carbon emissions. Being impact-focused allows us to say yes (and no) to opportunities with greater certainty, to remove distractions, to focus our resources more effectively (and for the long-term) and to bring people together around a shared interest.

One of the challenges we see with the Act as it currently stands is that the seven well-being goals are too broad to be useful – no one can really say if you have or haven’t achieved them. Cymru Can starts to address that with its missions. Mission-driven impact also means we’re focused on why we’re doing something rather than specifying how – being purpose-led, rather than solution-led creates opportunities for new and radical ideas to affect the challenges we’re facing.

2 – Finding the balance between focus and flexibility

Hyper-focus is helpful for all the reasons set out above. Too much flexibility can lead to an excess of decision-making which is a momentum killer. If you want to make real progress at pace, you can’t constantly re-consider where you’re going.

On the other hand, hyper-focus can also mean passing up opportunities to be helpful or to explore adjacent possibilities – which can often be where the best new ideas lie. Flexibility is exactly what is needed to go and look for new things in neighbouring spaces.

Over the last three years at Nesta Cymru we’ve worked to balance being hyper-focused on our mission goals, whilst staying flexible enough to take advantage of opportunities that present themselves along the way. 

An example is our work on school meals in Wales.  While our mission is focused on the health of the entire population, the opportunity in Wales was specifically around childhood obesity and the changes being made to school meals. 

We took the decision to run with the opportunity because ultimately it still would get us to the outcome we’re aiming for, a healthier population, even if it meant the route looked different to some of the other work we’re doing elsewhere in the UK. 

Looking at Cymru Can, we think it holds this balance well. It’s focused whilst still maintaining enough flexibility to respond to challenges and uncertainty as time passes. It’s clear about what the office will and won’t do – whilst maintaining space for uncertainty.

Shared focus, shared mission

We’re looking forward to seeing how Nesta Cymru’s work and that of the commissioner’s team can come together.  In particular, food is an area of shared interest, with the Act’s ambitions aligning well with our own focus on reducing obesity. 

Using the skills of our in-house teams of behavioural scientists, data analysts, designers and specialists in the arts and collective intelligence, we’ve looked at how to increase the appeal of healthy school meals, enhance public support for healthy eating policies and fill data gaps in obesity, diets and food environments.

We look forward to sharing and developing this with the Future Generations Cymru team and others as we work together to improve Wales now and for the long-term.

  • If you are an organisation who would like to contribute a blog piece exploring Cymru Can, our seven-year strategy, please email