How do you find out where organisations are on their journey of cultural change?

How do you support them to keep trying, keep communicating and keep moving in (generally) the right direction? How do you encourage them to share their successes and their shortcomings openly so that we can all learn together?

These questions were at the forefront of my mind when I issued a recent call-out to anyone interested in working with my team to understand the progress the 44 public bodies subject to the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act are making towards their well-being objectives.

The Act is about public bodies using the principle of sustainable development to shape what they do, how they do it and how they communicate (via reporting) the difference they are making.

Public organisations are publishing their first annual reports under the Act, communicating how far they have come in the last year. As Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, I must watch and judge this. My call-out was focussed on looking at these annual reports, but the project is an opportunity for the public bodies in Wales to shape how we communicate progress now and in future years.

The call-out was answered by a team of five independent researchers with a proposal that involves working alongside the public sector in Wales to develop self-reflection and collaboration as that will hopefully influence a change in working cultures and practices.

I was keen we worked with a team that could support and encourage progress with public bodies, bringing their own experiences of working in the public sector to the table. The team includes:

  • Bruce Whitear: with over 30 years experience working in healthcare culminating in board level leadership roles in two NHS organisations, Bruce has more recently been supporting Public Services Boards to fulfil their duties under the Act.
  • Andrew Rogers: a lecturer in public health at Bangor University, Andrew has extensive experience in public health and partnerships, Andrew has also been supporting Public Services Boards with their work.
  • Kathy Graham:based in Northern Ireland, Kathy brings an independent viewpoint to the project. She is experienced in stakeholder engagement, strategic development and public policy with a career spanning 20 years working with public, private, community and voluntary organisations. Prior to Kathy establishing her own business, she was Director of Policy at the Consumer Council.
  • Owen Davies: experience in planning, regeneration and local economic development and involved with making places more liveable, viable and memorable for over 20 years. More recently, Owen has been focussing particularly on economic regeneration in the context of the Act with public bodies.
  • Richard Newton: with 25 years experience in working with the voluntary sector in Wales; initially in youth and training settings; Richard’s work has developed and he now works to develop projects that deliver social change through creative learning. An experienced fundraiser Richard is the Welsh Board Member of the Fundraising Regulator.

Alongside this team of five researchers, public bodies themselves will help to design the approach to monitor and communicate their progress against their well-being objectives. I am writing to the Chief Executives of the organisations to ask for a lead contact to help shape this exciting programme of work. These lead contacts will be supported throughout the process by the research team.

We want to work with public bodies in a way that benefits them, makes best use of time and provides them with a way of improving communication of progress in future years.

Some more information on the proposed approach:

Building on the expectations I set out in ‘Well-being in Wales: the journey so far’, we will bring together a group of representatives of public and third sector to create a self-reflection exercise.

Each of the 44 public bodies will then be introduced to the exercise and asked to complete it in a timeframe. We will be taking steps to ensure the experience is not burdensome and for it to be a learning and developmental process.

The findings from the self-reflection will assist me in understanding where public bodies are on their journey of change and help me to direct my advice, support and promote practice.

Following the self-reflection exercise, public bodies will be grouped into collaborative communities of practice to share their findings with each other.

The idea is that the self-reflection exercise and collaborative conversation with others will serve as feedback and learning for each public body, as they go about drafting their corporate plans and annual reports in future.

A summary report of the project will be produced in Summer 2019.