Wales, my country, you frustrate me!

a guest blog by David Griffiths

This week’s blog has been inspired by a series of conversations with people such as Mark Hooper (indycube) and Neil Dyer. It is about Wales, but it is also about knowledge networks.

I love being Welsh. Whether it be sharing the frustrations of 5 minutes of capitulation and 60 years of hurt against the All Blacks in rugby, revelling in the glorious beauty of what is surely one of the best coastlines in the world or craving for the talent in Wales to be more widely recognised, I wear my heart on my sleeve when it comes to the nation of my birth.

My problem is that I want more for my country. We are a small nation, but we are a mighty nation of workers and creatives. Whether it be by voice, word, mind or hand we have shown throughout the generations an ability to lead. We have taken our knocks down the centuries, but we, the land of creative workers, have shown our mettle. From the Rebbeca Riots to the Miner’s Strike of the 1980s, our not too distant past is littered with stories of collaboration and solidarity. But somewhere along the line we seem to have lost our way.

For too long government leaders have spoken about the regeneration of Wales – our pride dented by the loss of our core industries in the 1980s. This country that displayed the agility of Shane Williams on the rugby pitch just can’t seem to find that same economic agility. Our agility has seized up, some might say that we never had it in the first place.

Our leaders respond by looking for more handouts from UK government or the EU and look to far off lands for inspiration. New Zealand, Scandinavia, Canada, amongst others have been held up as the guiding lights for our future. But the truth is, after decades of rhetoric, we are still playing catch-up. We are weighed down by leaders who seem to have run out of ideas and when that happens they look to copy, to mimic the success of others, while, all the while, the solution lies in the hearts and minds of our people.

It is time for Wales to shrug the shackles of tired political thinking and instead throw this gauntlet that is the challenge for our future at the feet of the people. We must rise with the challenge. We must do a better job of collaborating, as opposed to competing. We need to reconnect with ourselves and release our “hwyl.”

“Hwyl: A healthy physical or mental condition, good form, one’s right senses, wits; tune (of a musical instrument); temper, mood, frame of mind; nature, disposition; degree of success achieved in the execution of a particular task; fervour (esp religious), ecstasy, unction, gusto, zest; characteristic musical intonation or sing-song cadence formerly much in vogue in the perorations of the Welsh pulpit” (The Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru (the big dictionary of Welsh recently published by the University of Wales)

We, the Welsh people, need to hold ourselves accountable. We need to focus on creating a connected competitive advantage for Wales. This nation of ours is a knowledge rich region, we are just not connecting and releasing the energy available to us.

A knowledge region or city is seen as a network of places, people, processes and purpose that are enabled by knowledge moments – essential conversations between actors (people).

We, the people of Wales, are our competitive advantage. We create the sense of place that connects and brings about this advantage through the exploitation/exploration of geographically embedded knowledge. Our ancestors mined the coal that powered the United Kingdom. They created the steel upon which the British Empire was built. Today we need to mine our knowledge and forge new collaborations that will once again turn this country of creatives into a respected world leader for innovation and knowledge services.

Our future advantage will be provided by a critical mass of connected hubs. These connected hubs act in a reciprocal relationship, through which they drive and are driven by knowledge. According to the National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts these hubs, a network of people, education, and commerce, are key to an adaptive society where a reciprocal relationship of attraction builds between skilled people and businesses.

In a global economy where technology brings disparate societies closer together, it is the situated culture of the society that brings competitive advantage. Enhancing advantage through inward investment in education, taxation policy, skills base, historic culture, tradition, and links between business and education becomes the currency for innovation and national competitive advantage. But it is the management of common-pool resources at a local level that economics theorists have targeted as being pivotal to the adaptive capacity and productivity of nations.

This is why we have to act!

It is time to stop looking to others to solve our problems. It is time to hold ourselves accountable for our own futures. We are a community. We are teulu (family) and we are proud. The plate below says, “Family like branches on a tree, we all grow in different directions yet our roots remain as one'”

Now is the time for change, I say.

For an insight into hubs and how people are trying to facilitate self-organised change at a grassroots level, chat with Mark Hooper at indycube. Change is possible, we just have to want it.

Thank you for reading.

With thanks to David Griffiths for this insightful post.