Update by the Rural Network Wales
Local enterprise agencies are at the forefront of supporting local businesses and communities during the Covid-19 pandemic. By mobilising local networks and building on strong relationships across private, public and voluntary sectors, these agencies have reacted quickly to put in place flexible, innovative responses. Many of the local agencies are funded by LEADER, a EU programme which enables Local Action Groups to respond speedily to local issues and opportunities.
» In North East Wales, Cadwyn Clwyd and the Local Action Groups in Denbighshire, Flintshire and Wrexham acted swiftly to develop and trial new ways of providing frontline community support in the context of Covid-19. This includes a variety of projects involving social enterprises and community groups such as volunteer networks providing essential basic services, using technology to support people with learning disabilities in rural Flintshire and piloting new ways of delivering food services to vulnerable people in rural Wrexham with an emphasis on sourcing locally and sustainably.
» Menter Môn works across Anglesey and Gwynedd. A central point of information has been established on the Menter Môn website telling people which businesses and organisations are offering support on Ynys Môn. In Gwynedd, through Arloesi Gwynedd, “Carwen” one of
the community electric cars has been adapted to become a very functional food delivery vehicle for the Ogwen valley. It is powered by newly installed zero carbon solar PV.
» Antur Teifi is providing support for businesses through telephone calls, webinars and a variety of technology platforms to reach out to businesses and communities. It has been able to quickly activate resources from the Brechfa Wind Farm Fund to help frontline services.
» PLANED plays a leading role in supporting Pembrokeshire communities. It has promoted examples of some fantastic community volunteering initiatives using village shops and village halls. PLANED has used podcasts to promote these initiatives as well as the help available from a range of agencies.
Having a well-respected, trusted local point of contact has been important for people seeking help at this unprecedented time. The current crisis has shone a light on the vital impacts that this well-established innovation-focused network of agencies can bring.
» Menter Môn and Dylan’s Restaurants recently launched an initiative called Neges to deliver food parcels to Ynys Môn and Gwynedd. It was important that as much locally produced food was sourced for this initiative. Menter Môn was able to bring together partners such as the Food Technology Centre, Llangefni for food safety, the local authorities for referrals and local food producers through Môn Larder. All this was done in 10 days, building on the trust organisations have in Menter Môn and utilising its well-established local relationships.
» PLANED are particularly concerned about the plight of micro-businesses in the tourism sector. The organisation has an international reputation for supporting community-based tourism initiatives and will use its knowledge, expertise and networks to help the sector to rebuild.
» Antur Teifi reports that footfall in some Welsh towns has fallen by 90% during the outbreak. One brewery reports that as many as one in
ten pubs could close. In rural areas these businesses are one of the last social contact points for communities. Rural areas will need flexible, agile support as the economy rebuilds to take advantage of new opportunities in a changed world.
» Cadwyn Clwyd has established a £54,000 LEADER Co-operation project to help rural communities across rural North East Wales battle the coronavirus epidemic. The organisation is working with over 20 social enterprises and community groups to ensure basic and essential services are provide to rural communities. The Co-operation project is also focused on tackling poverty and working with disadvantaged groups. Cadwyn Clwyd is also delivering windfarms funds in Conwy and Denbighshire to support communities during the current crisis. It has a track record of getting funding out to grassroots level and supporting, enabling and empowering them to truly make a difference to their communities as they face up to an uncertain future.
The ability to pull together organisations and businesses across sectors has been a key factor in the success of these innovative schemes. More than this, however, has been the capacity to act quickly, to respond to new ideas and to deliver solutions. The ability to do this has not emerged overnight. These organisations are well established in their communities, are trusted and have a reputation for delivery. They have worked with communities, small businesses and micro enterprises for many years. Antur Teifi celebrated its 40th anniversary last year. PLANED celebrated 30 years support for community led local development in 2018 and both Cadwyn Clwyd and Menter Mon have reached their 25 year milestone. All at one point have been funded by LEADER, (Antur Teifi no longer operate the programme) a EU programme that supports locally based innovation in economic development. The organisations, working through Local Action Groups, operate at community level to identify opportunities, proactively pull together potential solutions, then pilot and grow appropriate innovative enterprise. Wales will not qualify for LEADER in future now that the UK has left the European Union.
The strengths and experience of LEADER needs to be built on in new Welsh economic development programmes. The track record of the established locally based Enterprise Agencies need to be the delivery mechanism for nurturing new entrepreneurs, strengthening local supply chains and developing the new skills for the post-Covid-19 Wales. In rural areas especially, this local work supports, nurtures and expands enterprise using the Welsh language.
Thoughts are already turning to how innovations and energy can be sustained and how local economies can thrive after the pandemic has subsided. The Welsh Government has said that Coronavirus has dramatically changed our lives and will have a lasting effect on us all. It has called for ideas, but this is not the time for a “throw out all the old” new initiative but to fund those local agencies that are capable of working across sectors, acting quickly and mobilising innovation within the community.
» PLANED http://planed.libsyn.com/