Building from the community up – innovation at a time of crisis

by May 27, 2020Entrepreneurial innovation, Featured

How local communities are responding proactively to the crisis

During this unprecedented time local enterprise agencies are stepping up to provide crucial assistance and support for local businesses and communities. Recognising the extreme pressures facing so many businesses these agencies have mobilised their local networks and built on their strong relationships across private, public and voluntary sectors to put in place flexible, innovative responses. Many of these agencies are funded by LEADER, a EU programme which enables Local Action Groups to respond speedily and effectively to local issues and opportunities.

Here’s an overview of some of the work the agencies have carried out so far:

  • 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.
  • Working across Anglesey and Gwynedd Menter Môn provided a central point of information on its website telling people which businesses and organisations are offering support on Anglesey. While in Gwynedd, working alongside 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, which covers Carmarthenshire and Mid Wales 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 as Liz Bickerton from Rural Network Wales explains,

“The strengths and experience of LEADER needs to be built on in new Welsh economic development programmes. The track record of the long-established and locally based Enterprise Agencies need to be the delivery mechanisms for nurturing new entrepreneurs which will strengthen local supply chains and develop new skills for the post-Covid-19 Wales.

“In rural areas especially, this local work supports, nurtures and expands enterprise while keeping the Welsh language at its heart.”

The current crisis has shone a light on the vital impacts that this well-established innovation-focussed network of agencies can bring and the ability to pull together organisations and businesses across sectors has been a key factor in the success of these innovative schemes.

This can be witnessed in some of the collaborations developed such as:

  • Menter Môn and Dylan’s Restaurants coming together to launch an initiative called Neges to deliver food parcels to Ynys Môn and Gwynedd. While in Pembrokeshire;
  • PLANED, with its international reputation for supporting community-based tourism initiatives will use its knowledge, expertise and networks to work with the sector and help it to rebuild.

Dr Liz Bickerton from Rural Network Wales added,

“The strength of these agencies is their ability to act quickly, to respond to new ideas and to deliver solutions. These organisations are well established in their communities, are trusted and have a reputation for delivery, as they have worked with communities, small businesses and micro enterprises for decades.

“Thoughts are already turning to how innovations and energy can be sustained and how local economies can thrive after the pandemic has subsided. We all know that Coronavirus has dramatically changed our lives and will have a lasting effect on us all.

“The Welsh Government has called for ideas, but this is not the time for a “throw out all the old” new initiative but to continue to support those local agencies that are capable of working across sectors, acting quickly and mobilising innovation within the community.”

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