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Bringing it home - are Wales’ ‘lost actors’ the key to transforming our local communities?

25 Jan, 2022

Is there a role for regional diaspora networks to support human capital development and help raise aspirations in Wales? The short answer is, yes.

Much is currently being written about the skills and education deficit and how these need to change as we face up to the growth in automation, global warming and many other existential challenges we now face and expect to face in the future. Economies are wrestling with the skills agenda, low productivity and stimulating the birth and growth of indigenous businesses. Wales, along with other regions and nations of the UK, has huge challenges to ensure it develops the workforce, entrepreneurial skills and ambition to pave the way to a brighter future.

Fundamental to changing the future prospects of the Welsh economy, is finding ways of raising aspirations and attracting investment in human capital, role models, mentors, thought leaders, to help increase economic prosperity for the whole country and at a local regional level.

"Wales, along with other regions and nations of the UK, has huge challenges to ensure it develops the workforce, entrepreneurial skills and ambition to pave the way to a brighter future."

As GlobalWelsh we are constantly asking, what our three million international diaspora (a conservative estimate), can do to help Wales address these challenges? We believe passionately that there is an important role for these three million people and much opportunity for them to engage locally, with the places they feel most connected to, as well as nationally with Wales as a nation.

Research shows that public sector partners in diaspora engagement are by no means confined to the national level. Of particular importance is establishing links between diasporas and local levels of government. This is because the contribution made by diaspora tends to be geared toward their emotional connection to place, be that by birth, education, work or ancestry. When engaging diaspora for the long-term, a solid, place-related strategy is necessary to leverage that emotional attachment to a particular village, town or city and draw on the ‘hiraeth’ and ‘perthyn’ of each individual member of the diaspora.

It is important to identify the goals in undertaking this pursuit and to define the internal tools and mechanisms, for example administrative or financial, required for the task. The second crucial element is to know your diaspora. This can be done through a series of ‘listening exercises.’ Once identified, there is a need to educate, inform, share knowledge and highlight the offerings available in the country or region of origin. This process builds trust, which can then lead to greater engagement and eventually full mobilisation of the diaspora - a fulfilling experience with tangible outcomes.

"We believe passionately that there is an important role for these three million people and much opportunity for them to engage locally, with the places they feel most connected to, as well as nationally with Wales as a nation."

We have many former valley towns with a history of prosperity based on heavy industry and mineral extraction.  Over the last 40 years, most, if not all, have experienced the loss of talented people who have left the country for opportunities that were in short supply here in Wales.  Anecdotal evidence suggests that each region has it’s own diaspora, people who have achieved a high level of success in their chosen careers. Globally over a hundred countries have realised that these ‘lost actors’, retain an emotional attachment to their country, and, more importantly, a specific location, city, town or village. They are also a huge source of untapped knowledge, expertise, networks, financial resources and inspiration to those that remain including future generations.

It’s clear that each region should consider the potential of connecting and engaging with their diaspora to help support their skills and economic development goals. 

"Globally over a hundred countries have realised that these ‘lost actors’, retain an emotional attachment to their country, and, more importantly, a specific location, city, town or village. They are also a huge source of untapped knowledge, expertise, networks, financial resources and inspiration to those that remain including future generations."

Torfaen, for example, has stated objectives to create safe, confident communities and promote community cohesion.  The reasons for individual members of a region’s diaspora to give back, will cover a broad range of interests from business, sport, culture and education. By engaging their local diaspora as relatable role models and exemplars of success, regions can enable all stakeholders to participate in shaping their communities. This can also be enhanced by leveraging the knowledge and insights from their experiences living and working in other countries and ‘import’ community solutions that have been proven to work elsewhere. 

GlobalWelsh has developed the following six-stage approach which we would be happy to share and discuss with any Welsh local authority or organisation that wishes to explore diaspora engagement to address their economic and skills challenges: Identify, Inform, Educate, Highlight, Engage, Mobilise 

To find out more, please contact Walter May (GlobalWelsh founder) directly to explore further via walter@globalwelsh.com or +44 (0)7787 386127

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