Category: Well-being of Future Generations

  • Walking the (sustainability) walk

    We founded Afallen in October 2018 on a set of values.

    We wanted Afallen to be the embodiment of our personal commitments to seeing Wales fulfill its potential as a sustainable country, demonstrating practical ways to improve the way we live, in a way which enriches every citizen and supports our ecosystems.

    One of the most important commitments we make is to keep more money, and people with talent, in Wales. Huge amounts of money – public and private – leaves Wales every day, along with many of our best and brightest in pursuit of job prospects elsewhere. In our own modest way, we aim to keep more of that money and opportunity in Wales; and not just in Wales, but to shovel it as furiously as possible out of Cardiff and into every corner of the country.

    Our commitment to the Future Generations approach is stated on the home page of the website

    We are building our network of partner organisations, sole traders and consultants; from Ynys Môn to Ynysybwl and everywhere in between, we believe that people work best where they are grounded and happy. We want people to be able to achieve great things in the places where they have made their lives. (By the way – if you’re a sole trader, or a small business, focused on delivering excellence in your field – please get in touch!)

    It’s also important to us to demonstrate that we not only say these things, we do them. That’s why we’re delighted to report that for the last year, nearly 97% of our spend was with people and organisations based in Wales. The remaining 3% was for some IT services and insurance.

    When you commission Afallen to work for you, you know that we will do our utmost to support local supply chains. We will endeavour to provide meaningful work for small businesses and individuals right across Wales. In so doing, we will help keep money flowing in the village shops, pubs and post offices which are so vital in maintaining community well-being and resilience.

    Indeed, many of the Well-being Goals could be read as no less than a requirement to focus on retaining money and talent in Wales through supporting local businesses.

    • A resilient Wales? By spreading our spend around small businesses we help build a plurality of choice for others which diversifies the tax base. We’re also able to influence others to become more climate-resilient in the way they carry out their work
    • A Wales of cohesive communities? With more money circulating in the small towns and villages, we have the opportunity to help safeguard essential civic resources.
    • A prosperous Wales? By keeping talent and money in Wales, we are helping to safeguard jobs, education and work opportunities for the young people of tomorrow.
    • A Wales of Vibrant Culture and Thriving Welsh Language? Our commitment to providing all our services through the medium of Welsh (including this blog post!) guarantees that we are playing our part in enabling Welsh to become a natural language of business and community

    This report on our spend over the last twelve months is a pleasure to publish. Our promise is to continue striving towards the goal of 100%, and to help build a Wales that fulfils its promise to Future Generations.

  • Nor-way in the lead on electric vehicles

    The European Environment Agency has updated its data on the number of new electric vehicles purchased in Europe. When analysed as a proportion of the total cars, Norway is the out-and-out leader.

    A graph showing proportion of cars sold by electric vehicle in Europe

    The UK is a mid-table player, but this disguises very large variations by country. Northern Ireland and Wales are both poorly served by rapid-charge infrastructure, which impacts significantly on both local use, and the inclination of electric vehicle users to spend time (particularly on holiday) in those countries.

    Welsh Government has recognised this as an issue, and has pledged funding to improve the provision of rapid (and other) charging in Wales.

  • Open source social media will save our democracy

    This guest blog post was written by our Partner, David Clubb. Afallen is proud to support, champion and use open source social media networks including Pixelfed and Mastodon. We’re happy to work with organisations to help you understand, and incorporate, open source social media into your digital strategy and workflow.

    In an opinion piece in yesterday’s Guardian newspaper, Carole Cadwalladr describes how Facebook is the virus that has enabled the catastrophes of both Brexit, and the ascension of Mr. Trump to the White House.

    Facebook allows lies to spread virtually unchecked. It permits those people with the most money and least scruples to disseminate falsehoods to those most susceptible. And it allows this with no prospect of holding individuals or organisations to account.

    Whilst Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media platforms have enabled a blossoming of connection, conversation and shared ideas; they have also created a bitter, divisive, polarised digital world where shareholder value is enhanced most by highlighting division and minimising harmony. Quiet, reasoned thoughts are filtered out by algorithms designed to maximise clicks, retweets and likes. Volume is king.

    Many people want to make a difference but they don’t know how. But there is an antidote to the virus of misinformation and hatred. That antidote is open source social media, and it’s already spreading at the fringes of the online universe.

    Open source social media

    Open source social media doesn’t permit advertising. It doesn’t sell data. It prohibits hate speech and intolerance*. And it’s moderated by users, not resourced at the behest of global tech giants. 

    More worryingly for the incumbents, the hotbeds of innovation are no longer in the mega-corporations with their teams of thousands in the offices and boardrooms of (mostly) America. They are in the open source equivalents, with code freely available for thousands of supporters and volunteers across the globe to build and improve. 

    From the perspective of Wales’ Future Generations Act, anybody using, promoting or supporting these open source platforms is supporting the goal of a Globally Responsible Wales. From a worldwide perspective, that same user or supporter is increasing the freely-accessible sum of human knowledge. 

    One clear example of this innovation is the federation between open source platforms (also known as the Fediverse). Federation is the ability to connect different social media platforms, so that posts and updates become mutually visible.

    This means that if you post a photo on Pixelfed (ethical version of Instagram), it pops up in your feed on Mastodon (ethical version of Twitter). Likewise websites, blogs and updates on the ethical equivalent of pretty much every ‘surveillance capitalism’ platform you can think of can cross-post to each other, enabling much more streamlined conversations and updates.

    What are the downsides (and upsides)?

    Let’s deal with the elephant in the room; the big downside of the new open source Fediverse is that user numbers are far, far lower than for the established platforms.

    This is hardly surprising; there’s a headstart of fifteen years or so for many of the tech giants. And the science behind social media means that there’s an agglomeration effect; once most of your friends are engaged on a platform, it takes a significant effort to leave them behind and start something new.

    For me personally it meant (mostly) leaving my Twitter account of several thousand followers, and starting a fresh new Mastodon account on toot.wales, one of many ‘locality’ type instances across the world. 

    I instantly ‘lost out’ on the instantaneous stream of updates from my many friends and colleagues, and on the rough-and-tumble of (what passes for) debate there. There’s likely an impact on my ability to promote my new business, Afallen, through that network, too. 

    However, what I have found is a new community of online friends and collaborators. I’ve witnessed almost zero hatred or bullying. And I’ve relished using platforms which don’t harvest my personal data in order to sell them to companies who may – in many cases – place profit above the public good.

    The truth is that the community of users in Mastodon (and the other platforms) is growing steadily – see the example below for activity on the toot.wales Mastodon instance. At some tipping point – I’m convinced – the growth will start to become exponential, and then the users who became active first will see the biggest benefits.

    Weekly interactions on toot.wales, the Welsh instance of Mastodon

    But the biggest benefit of all will come when people start to leave the platforms of the tech giants en masse, lessening their influence as the custodians of online debate and information-sharing, and contributing to a kinder, gentler and more thoughtful world of public discourse.

    Further information

    If you’re interested in finding out more about the ethical, privacy-conscious alternatives to the mainstream social media platforms, head to switching.software.

    *Almost all ‘instances’ of open source social media ban hate and intolerance. Those that don’t are generally blocked, so the hatred is restricted to a small portion of the Fediverse

  • Congestion Charge Cardiff – the Future Generations Approach

    Congestion Charge for Cardiff – the Future Generations Approach

    Singapore was first in 1975.

    London’s got one. Stockholm’s got one. Durham, Milan, Gothenburg and Valletta have them.

    Birmingham’s is on the way, as is one for Leeds and Paris.

    Yet, in the ‘land of Future Generations’, we’re still waiting! So we’re setting out here why we think a ‘Clean Air Zone’, or a Congestion Charge, would be a good thing for Cardiff (as a starter – no reason why this shouldn’t be the default for built-up areas with high ambient pollution).

    What is a Clean Air Zone (or Congestion Charge Zone)

    We assume that a Clean Air Zone for Cardiff would charge polluting vehicles to enter city limits – defined as those areas which suffer regularly from high pollution levels.

    We think that all non-resident private motor vehicles – except hydrogen, hybrid or fully electric vehicles – should have to pay a charge.

    And we think that all the money raised from the charge should be used:

    1. To pay the costs of the scheme
    2. To improve ways of entering Cardiff without needing to use a private motor vehicle (such as train, metro, bus, park and ride and bicycle infrastructure and services)
    3. To improve Active Travel infrastructure within Cardiff

    We also believe that Cardiff should follow Nottingham’s example of implementing a Workplace Parking Levy, and that this levy should be directed towards the same expenditure pots.

    The Well-being of Future Generations Act specifies seven Goals which should be attained by public sector organisations, working in partnership with stakeholders across civil society. We think that the scheme we envisage would support six out of the seven goals. The impact that a Congestion or Clean Air Zone charge would have on them each is detailed below.

    A Healthier Wales

    Air pollution is directly responsible for increased morbidity and mortality in the population at large, with particularly damaging effects on the elderly and vulnerable.

    It decreases lung function, causes respiratory infection, and significantly increases the risk of stroke, heart disease and lung cancer. Maternal exposure to high levels of air pollution is associated with adverse birth outcomes. Reducing the number of private motor vehicles entering the city would reduce overall levels of air pollution.

    A More Equal Wales

    Pollution from vehicles does not affect the people of Wales equally. People with high wealth can choose more easily where they live, and are able to leave areas which suffer from high levels of pollution. People with higher educational attainment may be able to access information which can be used to mitigate exposure levels, or identify preferred areas to live or spend time. Pollution has greater health impacts on those who are less able to avoid it, such as young children and the elderly.

    A charge on private vehicles entering Cardiff would reduce air pollution, particularly for poor and vulnerable groups, supporting a More Equal Wales

    A Globally Responsible Wales

    Private motor vehicles which would be eligible for a Cardiff City entrance charge are also those which use fossil fuel. The use of fossil fuel is one of the main causes of climate change, so a reduction in the number of fossil-fueled private motor vehicles will reduce Wales’ contribution to Climate Change, supporting a Globally Responsible Wales.

    A Prosperous Wales

    Reducing our urban air pollution will reduce morbidity associated with air pollution, reducing the cost of treating such illness and enabling resources to be spent in other areas. A reduction in the use of fossil fuel will also reduce the ‘leakage’ of money which accompanies the purchase of fuel which is produced far away and transported to Wales at significant cost – paid for by Welsh householders and businesses.

    A Resilient Wales

    The funding which is raised from the scheme should be (partly) recycled into improved Active Travel infrastructure, and into infrastructure and services which support public transport. The use of Active Travel infrastructure in particular is far more resilient to the impacts of flooding or other Climate Change-related impacts (if a section of a cycle or walking path is flooded, it’s often possible to find an alternative route through that part, in a way that’s much more challenging for motor vehicles). Reduced air and water pollution will also contribute towards a more healthy ecosystem – part of Wales’ resilience.

    A Wales of Cohesive Communities

    Improved provision of Active Travel networks, funded by a Cardiff vehicular access charge, would provide an infrastructure which contributes directly to this Goal, namely “Attractive, viable, safe and well-connected communities”.

    We think the science and evidence supporting the implementation of a Congestion Charge/Clean Air Zone for Cardiff are compelling, and strongly aligned with the Well-being Goals – as well as (potentially) those of a Cardiff National Park City! We would encourage the Councillors and citzens of Cardiff to push for these measures to improve the quality of life for all.

  • Supporting girls & women in STEM

     

    Creating a more equal, prosperous Wales

    It’s no secret that the STEM sectors – Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths – are male-dominated. Two exceptions overall are probably the biological sciences and medicine, but even in these sectors, many of the top posts are occupied by men.

    I’ve been delighted to have been involved with the Welsh Government’s Women in STEM Board since May last year. The Board has strong representation at the Ministerial level, and is also populated by highly influential Champions of Women in STEM from across industry and education.

    I believe that it’s not just industry and education that face challenges with facilitating the pathway to fulfilling STEM hobbies and jobs, but the whole of society. That’s why I took on the role of Chair of a sub-group dealing with communications for Women in STEM.

    The two main outputs from the communications sub-group have been:

    The benefits of having a more equal STEM workforce are strongly overlapping with the values of Afallen. We believe that a STEM workforce which reflected gender in Wales would support both a more equal and a more prosperous Wales.

    A more balanced STEM workforce also supports three of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, namely a Quality Education (Goal 4), Gender Equality (Goal 5) and Decent Work & Economic Growth (Goal 8).

    How can you get involved?

    The WiSTEM movement needs support from women and men in all walks of life. Here are some practical things that will help make the STEM sector, and society more widely, more accessible to women, thereby improving prosperity and equality for us all:

    1. Consider adding your support of Women in STEM to your social media profile. I have ‘Feminist’ in mine, which is a public reminder to myself of the behaviours and actions I expect to hold myself to
    2. If you’re happy to act as a STEM ambassador in a local school, or happy to speak to the media (print, radio or television) about why it’s important to improve the rates of participation by girls and women in STEM subjects, please sign up to the supporter list
    3. Sign up to be a mentor (or mentee!) at the Wales Women in STEM site
    4. Follow the twitter account 🙂

    If you have other practical suggestions on how to accelerate equality in STEM for girls, boys, women and men, please let us know in the comments below!

     

     

  • An urban National Park for Wales

    Building on the best

    Sometimes Wales is a pioneer. Sometimes we can learn from others who’ve gone first.

    When it comes to the nascent global movement for National Park Cities, London has blazed a trail, having founded the first National Park City (NPC), and created the National Park City Foundation to help inspire others.

    The aims of the National Park City Foundation are manifold, but include:

    • Enriching cities with nature
    • Empowering local people and communities to make a positive difference to their environment
    • Improving well-being, biodiversity, air quality and water quality in cities

    Afallen has been following the development of the NPC concept with interest. We chose the day of the launch of the London NPC – 22 July – to create a NPC website and Twitter account for Wales. We aim to work in partnership with people and organisations from all sectors, and of all types. We aim to help create a movement which is informed by expertise and local knowledge, and energised by the desire to make the world a better place.

    What and where?

    It’s early days yet in the development of a National Park City in Wales, so we haven’t yet solicited opinion about how it should look, nor where it should be located. We’re big into co-design, co-production and co-delivery, so we definitely don’t want to own this concept. We believe that it will be for the people, by the people.

    Wales is a predominantly rural country, with cities much smaller than many of the countries currently pursuing the NPC concept, so it remains to be seen whether we will focus on one or more cities – such as Swansea or Cardiff – or whether larger urbanised areas such as National Landscape Character zones, or the Valleys, are deemed to be more suitable.

    We’re currently getting informal support from the founders of the London National Park City, and starting to build up a list of supporter individuals and organisations who may be interested in shaping how a Wales National Park City or urban area might look.

    We would welcome your interest and support; you can demonstrate your support by registering your interest and signing up to receive updates, as well as by following our @WalesNP Twitter account.

    We look forward to working with you to catapult Wales to the top of the list of countries that are making a positive difference to their urban well-being and ecology.

    Image credit: Freepik

  • Plastic pollution in Wales

    Wales’ role in plastic pollution

    The Committee on Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs of the National Assembly has published a report on plastic pollution. It makes twelve recommendations to Welsh Government on ways to improve our environmental performance, including:

    • Legislating to restrict microplastics
    • Create a 10-year strategy aimed at reducing plastic pollution
    • Implement an extended producer responsibility scheme for plastic
    • Implement a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS)

    Our partner, David Clubb, was invited onto Radio Cymru to discuss the recommendations of the report. The recording, including English translation, is below

  • The symbolism of the M4 in Wales

    The M4 decision

    With one tweet, the First Minister Mark Drakeford raised Wales’ aspirations, values, and environmental credentials. The decision was publicly opposed by a range of trade bodies and representatives of political parties, including some from the First Minister’s own party.

    The symbolism of this decision is hard to overstate. A project of Carwyn Jones, who would surely have pushed it through despite his own government’s Future Generations Act, this proposal is now where it rightly belongs – on the scrapheap of 20th Century ‘solutions’.

    In making his decision, Mark Drakeford stated that the financial position of Welsh Government would not permit him to make the compulsory purchase orders necessary to proceed with the project. However, he also said that he disagreed with the Inspector, and that the environmental considerations were also too great to allow the project to go ahead.

    The latter part of Prof. Drakeford’s reasoning will have given heart to the many thousands of environmental campaigners who have made this a cause célèbre for the wider environmental movement.

    Most interesting for Afallen though was the statement that the First Minister did not think that the Future Generations Act had been insufficiently regarded in the process.

    “The Member has asked me about the well-being of future generations legislation. I want to make it clear, Llywydd, that I read very carefully the evidence that was given by the commissioner, and I read very carefully the way in which the QC, on behalf of the Welsh Government, responded to her interpretation of the Act. My own view is that it was not a reading of the Act that I heard expressed on the floor of this Assembly that proposals for development have to satisfy all seven goals and all well-being objectives, and that they have to do so equally across all the goals and the objectives. It does seem to me inevitable that, in any plan for development, there will be some balancing between the different goals and the objectives that the Act introduces. I did not dissent from the view of the inspector, therefore, that the requirements of the Act had been fairly represented by the Welsh Government in the way that it presented its evidence on the Act to the inspector.”

    The wider symbolism

    As important – and welcome – as this decision was, there is almost as much value in the symbolism it provides for Wales’ aspirations and its environmental (and fiscal!) credentials. Many campaigners had made the point that were the decision made to press ahead with the project, the Future Generations Act would have been shown to be worthless.

    We do not reach that assessment – although it would surely have been a hammer-blow to the Act and to the credibility of the Office of the Future Generations Commissioner which has robustly opposed the project, including several detailed counter-assessments of its efficacy and proposals. However it’s hard to square the spend of billions of pounds on several miles of tarmac, with the needs of Wales’ citizens as yet unborn. In the public discussion following the decision, it is the future generations – the unborn – who have figured least on the part of supporters of the project.

    We consider that the First Minister was right to make the decision that he did, and to base it on financial and environmental grounds. But we side with the office for Future Generations, and do not consider that all aspects of the WFG Act had been appropriately considered.

    This decision has highlighted the divide that exists in the public debate about Wales’ future direction. If the battle of today in the UK is about #Brexit, in Wales it is as much about how our economy, environment and culture develops. The battle of ideas – and money – has been waged over the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon, electrification of the main railway line to Swansea, and the naming of a bridge. The latest decision would appear to suggest that the struggle is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

    To date, it seemed that Wales, in common with standard economic orthodoxy, across the UK and in many other countries, was not sufficiently considering the responsibilities we owe to our citizens, environment and the global community. Perhaps yesterday’s decision redresses the balance somewhat – and there is excitement in the possibility that it may augur the start of a shift from 20th Century thinking more generally in Welsh Government policy.