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Harnessing the Power of the Diaspora in Blaenau Gwent

Harnessing the Power of the Diaspora in Blaenau Gwent: A place-based approach for revitalisation

“By acting as role models, hosting events, and sharing their expertise, diaspora members can significantly contribute to raising local aspirations and driving economic growth," writes Owen Davies FIPM.


In an era where local communities are increasingly looking for innovative strategies to foster economic growth and revitalise their towns, the mobilisation of diaspora communities has emerged as a compelling approach.

It has the potential to leverage the skills, resources, and emotional ties of individuals who have migrated from their hometowns but retain a strong connection to their origins. Rarely has this been address at an individual town or local authority level and it’s why Owen Davies Consulting is working with Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council (BGCBC) to pioneer this approach in Wales.

A deep-seated connection to hometowns

Blaenau Gwent, like many post-industrial areas, has seen many of its talented individuals leave in search of better opportunities. However, these individuals often maintain a deep-seated connection to their hometown, creating a unique reservoir of potential support for local initiatives.

The Blaenau Gwent diaspora initiative, conducted in collaboration with Global Welsh, aims to tap into this potential. Global Welsh, a Community Interest Company, is dedicated to connecting Welsh people globally to foster business opportunities, investment, and community engagement.

This pilot project is designed to be a "proof of concept" for engaging the diaspora community in ways that directly contribute to local economic and social goals.

By aligning with broader economic objectives at the local, regional, and national levels, the initiative seeks to create a model that can be replicated across other Welsh towns and authorities.

Invaluable networks

Globally, over a hundred nations actively engage with their diaspora communities, recognising them as invaluable sources of knowledge, expertise, networks, and financial backing. There are other examples across the UK. Made in Stoke-on-Trent brings together individuals who originated from Stoke-on-Trent to drive positive change in the city. Similarly, Blackpool Pride of Place has fostered a strong culture of place-based philanthropy and investment. These examples highlight the transformative potential of diaspora engagement.

A structured approach to mobilising diasporas

The Blaenau Gwent project is building a model by creating a structured approach to identify, inform, educate, highlight, engage, and mobilise the diaspora. The six-stage process ensures that the initiative is both comprehensive and targeted, maximising the impact of diaspora contributions.

The six stages involve:

  1. Identify: The first step involves identifying and recruiting members of the Blaenau Gwent diaspora through social media, desktop research, and the Global Welsh Connect platform. This stage includes focus groups and interviews to understand the diaspora’s current engagement and interests.

  2. Inform: Next, we have created a summary paper on Blaenau Gwent’s economic and place-based strengths and weaknesses. This will help communicate the opportunities available for diaspora involvement.

  3. Educate: The identified diaspora is being informed about Blaenau Gwent’s economic challenges and how their engagement can address these issues. This stage involves sharing research findings through the Diaspora Hub and online events.

  4. Highlight: Specific opportunities for engagement, aligned with the diaspora’s skills and interests, will be highlighted. This step aims to connect diaspora members with projects that resonate with their expertise and passions.

  5. Engage: The project will identify initiatives that the diaspora would be interested in supporting, such as economic, social, leisure, or philanthropic projects. This stage also involves reconnecting with the business community and preparing for a pitching event to secure commitments.

  6. Mobilize: Finally, the initiative will present the identified opportunities to the global diaspora through a hybrid event, aiming to secure pledges and commitments for specific projects.

Scaleable model for other regions

A successful pilot could yield a range of economic, social, and philanthropic outcomes for Blaenau Gwent. These might include mentoring opportunities, international trade facilitation, investment in local businesses, and support for community projects. By acting as role models, hosting events, and sharing their expertise, diaspora members can significantly contribute to raising local aspirations and driving economic growth.

The Blaenau Gwent initiative not only aims to revitalise the local economy but also seeks to create a scalable model for other places and regions. By demonstrating the effectiveness of diaspora engagement, this project aims to inspire similar initiatives across Wales and beyond, fostering a culture of place-based philanthropy and investment.



About the author


Formed in 2006, the Institute of Place Management is the international professional body that supports people committed to developing, managing and making places better.

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