“If you ever think you are too small to influence change on a global scale, just look at what Wales are doing.”
We were intrigued and excited to have the opportunity to chat with Sophie Howe, the first and only (for a period of time) ‘Future Generations Commissioner’ in the world!
Sophie was appointed Future Generations Commissioner for Wales in 2016. Wales has committed to 7 long-term wellbeing goals for future generations. This is all about a long term vision, preventing future problems, working collaboratively and involving citizens, (and importantly, it’s a legal obligation - rather than a pledge).
As Sophie advises… “It’s the law, you have to do it,” - and this is the difference, tangible accountability! As Sophie shares how the commitments have come into play and the practicalities of embedding them, she explains how Wales has committed to stop spending money in building roads which when taking a long-term view, is a public health intervention. 14-15% of emissions in the country come from transport, and by reducing emissions from road transport there are multiple future benefits triggered, from emissions reduction through to health and wellbeing and opportunities being opened up for investment in a better public transport system - all of which collectively benefit society now and in the future.
Sophie raises many important points and examples around the interconnectedness of the challenge we all face when it comes to building a more sustainable future and how we need to make those connections when building strategies, planning investment, timescales and resource; “By not taking a joined up approach, we’re completely missing opportunities - so, we need to be thinking about what we do, and how its going to affect both now and into the future, asking how does it make the biggest contribution to wellbeing.”
The Future Generation Goals have brought people together, its changed the conversation both for the public sector and the private sector, Sophie tells us how industries operating in Wales are coming to them to ask how they can be part of delivering against the wellbeing goals. This has had a positive impact on how business is planned and operates, from point of tender through to selection and delivery, providing more security and stability.
When it comes to communities it’s a bit more of a mixed bag, with views being divided (as you’d expect) depending on the impact to where people live. However, it is bringing politicians, businesses and communities together, awareness is growing, and the opportunity to educate is also increasing as people look to understand why decisions and actions are happening.
The heart of this conversation and the actions taking place in Wales clearly evidence that we are all responsible for our future, and as Sophie points out, “as much as we criticise our politicians, actually we as citizens are as much to blame because we often demand that they do short term things.”
Brave leadership, shared communication and participation is an absolute must.
We recommend everyone listens to this episode, it is a wonderful example of rising to the challenge of making meaningful yet challenging commitments and leading the way. By the end of it, we had our bags packed ready to move to Wales (well I did, Gemma is considering Costa Rica ;)).
For more information about The Future Generations ‘Acting today for a Better Tomorrow’ - see here: https://www.futuregenerations.wales/
And to stay connected to the great work Sophie is championing - her LinkedIn profile is here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sophie-howe-57a62186/