Ambition is critical

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As we hit 25,000 followers on twitter, Tony Colville, Partnerships lead at The Young Foundation, starts a monthly reflection on new partnerships, new programmes and plans for collaboration. For more on our new partnerships follow us @tony_colville @the_young_fdn

If I ask my friends what they know of Swansea, the beautiful coastal town of South Wales, half will tell me of tales of nights out on Wind Street, the other half simply quote “Pretty, Shitty, City” from the classic film Twin Town. Even Swansea’s most famous son Dylan Thomas referred to the city as the “graveyard of ambition”. As you exit the train station, if you look carefully you can see the faded attempt to change that perception in the city’s adopted slogan of “Ambition is critical”. Despite the impression visitors, residents and commuters get from the somewhat unloved fading pavement sign, this slogan has never been more relevant and never been more important to Swansea. Below I give you a glimpse into why I believe this to be true and how the image of Swansea is being re-born through exciting, sometimes disruptive social initiatives.

Housing associations have long been a natural partner for The Young Foundation. The renewed focus on tackling inequality in our manifesto has brought us even closer in recent months. In the past our partnerships have focussed on how we make internal strategies mean something to the residents they serve and have a tangible effect on their opportunities in life and within their communities. We continue to do that (see Metropolitan example) but there’s a shift coming from new relationships with smaller social landlords in response to our new manifesto that has a greater grass-roots feel. The shift is resulting in using much more immersive ways of working, using skills such as ethnography and movement building to develop stronger stories about communities and the ideas we all have for creating resilient, thriving neighbourhoods. We are firm believers that you create solutions by engaging people at all levels and giving everyone an equal role in developing solutions and positive identities for communities.

In Wales we accidentally stumbled upon the great team at Community Housing Cymru, the umbrella body for housing in Wales. A year of getting to know each other has opened our eyes to the many fantastic examples of social landlords across Wales: Engaging in fascinating social innovation, enterprise and regeneration projects. Of the many examples we’ve looked into, the regeneration of High Street by Coastal Housing in Swansea has caught our imagination the most. The notion of Ambition is critical is key to the very ambitious plans of Coastal to bring High Street back to life. Ambitious plans to make this a destination that residents, business owners, tourists and general commuters can be proud of ticks all the boxes of re-imagining how you can put ambition and socially sustainable strategies together.

The Young Foundation is in the early stages of exploring how we can partner with Coastal Housing and various other partners across Swansea to bring our skills in ethnography, movement building and social innovation to these ambitious plans. We (and me personally as a huge fan of Swansea) share the ambition of creating innovation hubs, social businesses, and unique public open spaces within normally private settings as well as external areas. All of this will drive growth in pride, community ownership and employment and most importantly, will reset the benchmark for ambition in Swansea. Why can’t Swansea be recognised for being a leader in socially sustainable communities in Wales, in the UK, globally?

Shouting loud and proud

Later this month Swansea becomes host to ‘FesTYval, a first of its kind event in Wales led by Crew and Community Housing Cymru that will reimagine how we talk, design, deliver and engage people in regeneration as well as shouting loud and proud about the already innovative examples of regeneration across Wales. The Young Foundation is part of this event and we plan on engaging the 150 plus attendees (still plenty of time to sign up!) to come up with a co-produced plan for a regeneration innovation programme for the housing sector. Our plans for this programme will build on the momentum, inspiration and ambition instilled in our team from the Coastal Housing programme and will mean that ambition spreads beyond the Swansea borders. If you want to know more then come along to the event or follow us online on the 18th June.

So, why do we care so much about Swansea and ambition? The Young Foundation’s ambitious manifesto can only be achieved when we work with others with the same level of ambition. The partners we have in Swansea, the depth of inequality in Swansea and the starting point of where we can make a measurable and socially sustainable impact presents the perfect city partner in making our point in Wales. Follow us throughout the year to hear from us and our partners to see how we do in realising this collective ambition.

In Wales Tony is a Director of Vi-AbilitySwansea City FC Community TrustBuilding Communities Wales Trust and is an advisor to Llamau. Tony is leading Young Foundation’s ambitious strategy to decentralise which includes significant growth in presence of expertise, programmes and collaboration across Wales.


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