In December 2020, the Welsh Government published the Government's Social Research Report (GSR) The effects of COVID-19 on Welsh language community groups: survey results, which analysed the activity of Welsh-speaking community groups in the wake of COVID-19. The development of the report was driven by the Welsh Language Partnership Council Subgroup, Increasing the Use of Welsh. Shortly after the report was published, the Minister issued a Written Statement setting out the recommendations of the sub group.
The paper below presents the Welsh Government's response to each of those recommendations. This document contains a large number of action points. We’ll begin work immediately, emphasising from the outset that capacity building and community development and empowerment (elements addressed by the recommendations) are long-term processes that we’ll undertake in order to ensure the best outcomes for the Welsh language.
- We’ll work together to implement this document, meaning co-create with our partners, as we did when creating the report.
- Recognising and encouraging the concept of monolingual Welsh language spaces will be central to our work - meaning creating spaces in which we can freely use our Welsh.
- Where there’s a need to change ways of working, we’ll work together to support capacity building to deliver those changes.
- A community empowerment model will be central to our work - as well as the work we fund.
- We’ll reach out beyond organisations we fund and beyond Welsh language organisations in order to encourage more people to take action to support our language. And we’ll expect the organisations we fund to do the same.
- We’ll build on what works, push boundaries and experiment with new approaches. And if the new or current approaches don’t work, we’ll be open about it, we’ll learn from it and we’ll adapt what we do.
As well as the specific action points for each recommendation, we’ll:
- discuss any changes needed to our grant scheme, or to the scheme’s targets, to ensure that the recommendations are implemented
- ensure co-ordination between all our existing work and new work created by this document
- consider any contributions all Welsh Government departments may make in order to implement these recommendations
- co-ordinate, and ensure that everyone’s aware of their role and the significance of their contribution. This will ensure that limited resources are maximised and that we avoid duplication
- look at systems/structures that support current work to ascertain whether they’re suitably future-proofed
- consider what further research we’ll need to progress with our work
- base new work, and adapt existing work, on a theory of change so that desired outcomes are made clear from the outset. We’ll learn and adapt where success isn’t evident
- explore which models of change/organisational development we should use to ensure full participation in all the work we do together
Recommendation 1: re-establish Welsh language community groups
As soon as possible, the Welsh Government, in partnership with the Mentrau Iaith, should contact those community groups who indicated in the survey that they are unlikely to resume activities after the pandemic to ascertain what support is needed to help them resume action as they would wish. This should be achieved with appropriate action to enable activities to resume including working in partnership with local Voluntary Councils to ensure appropriate support.
- We’ll reconnect, together with relevant partners, gathering information regarding local needs. We’ll assess what support is needed by the groups in order to resume, and decide who is best placed to provide that support. We’ll also assess whether there are groups/work that may have reached the end of the line and what should be offered in their place.
- We’ll work in partnership with the Mentrau Iaith, the groups themselves, and other relevant partners to plan and implement re-engagement work and to resume activities.
- Having gathered this information, we’ll invite other organisations to support these groups for example Arts Council of Wales, Sport Wales and Local Voluntary Councils (again, as in all cases in this document where organisations or projects are named, the list is not exhaustive).
- We’ll discuss with the Wales Council for Voluntary Action to ensure a consistent flow of information regarding assistance to restart or resume activity ensuring that the information reaches Welsh language organisations or groups.
- We’ll explore the potential for mentoring between organisations to jointly build the capacity of their management committees and staff.
Recommendation 2: digital inclusion
The survey shows that there are a significant number of Welsh speakers who are excluded from participating in online activities. The Welsh Government should consider the barriers that exist in terms of lack of access to digital networks and raising digital skills.
There are several themes relevant to this recommendation:
- broadband (geographical availability across Wales)
- the need to develop digital skills/digital literacy
- do the right people/organisations have enough equipment in the right areas
- the need for simultaneous interpretation in videoconferencing software
- identify, facilitate and (where necessary) ensure the creation of digital inclusion provision/advice through the medium of Welsh
- identify areas that are currently not supported, therefore encouraging collaboration and sharing skills with partners and others on a local level
- collaborate with software companies to ensure that simultaneous interpretation is enabled as a feature that can be widely used
- collaborate between language policy and digital inclusion policy with the aim of increasing the uptake of digital upskilling support/training among Welsh language community groups
- support digital capacity building
- ensure that lessons from Welsh language organisations who have already developed digital activity during the pandemic are shared, to enable other organisations to increase their activities/ICT skills
- discuss potential synergies that may arise from building relationships between our partners and digital inclusion work
- liaise with agencies that support community groups and provide help and advice regarding digital inclusion through the medium of Welsh as part of their general area of work. The aim will be to highlight any training/digital support available. We’ll encourage collaboration and skills sharing with partners and others at a local level that could support increased digital inclusion
Recommendation 3: sports clubs and arts/performance groups
The Welsh Government, in partnership with Sport Wales and the Arts Council of Wales, should give greater attention to the role of sports clubs and arts/performance groups in the context of language planning in order to support the use of Welsh as a community language.
- discuss with Sport Wales and the Arts Council of Wales what support is appropriate for their networks of community, arts and sports groups to increase their interpersonal use of the Welsh language
- use organisational development methodology to see what contribution other organisations can also make to language policy, through our work arising from our ‘Leading in a Bilingual Country’ programme run together with Academi Wales
- work with relevant organisations and contractors we fund to ensure they understand how to ensure that the aims and spirit of Cymraeg 2050 are embedded in their work, and encourage them to develop projects and policies relating to the Welsh language that are beyond what’s expected in the Welsh language service delivery standards in order to support the aim of increasing the interpersonal use of Welsh
- work closely with grant managers across the Welsh Government to ensure that they understand their contribution and that of their grant schemes to increase the use of the Welsh language
- look at projects/campaigns that have taken place in the past along with those currently underway to increase the use of the Welsh language in the sports and arts sectors, to see what can be learned from them
- in conjunction with the National Eisteddfod, consider what further community benefit can be created, using that to create a focus for community development and language planning work in the area that the Eisteddfod intends to visit (meaning during the years before the Eisteddfod)
- invite all relevant organisations to work together to create a long-term strategic legacy for the Eisteddfod. The legacy of the National Eisteddfod is of course already substantial, and our aim would be to build on its strength and the valuable community knowledge created to increase the use of the Welsh language
Recommendation 4: micro language planning and the role of the Mentrau Iaith
The role of the Mentrau Iaith should be developed to work at a micro level in more communities. This should be done by broadening the focus of the Welsh Government grant to the Mentrau Iaith in order to create schemes to support the specific work of Welsh-speaking community organisations, and activity that is in line with the principles of micro-level language planning. Action should be taken based on the principles of community development to respond to local needs (see the Local Action document). Capacity of and funding for the Mentrau Iaith should be expanded to help achieve this.
We expect the work that we’ll undertake in responding to this recommendation will be among the most substantial and long-term pieces of work which emanate from the Report.
The challenges posed by Brexit and COVID-19 may be significant in terms of language policy in the long term. With COVID-19 in particular, we expect an impact in relation to how we socialise, live our lives and work. Because of these changes, it’s clear that the way we work needs to evolve. We’ll discuss and create new expectations because the landscape in which we’re working has changed.
- We’ll work together to ensure that the right resources are in the right place to boost the social use of the Welsh language. This could, among many other things, involve capital investment to bring organisations closer to their target audience. It could also mean that organisations that don’t currently work in language policy, or don’t work in it to the extent that they could, make a more significant contribution to the spirit of Cymraeg 2050.
- We’ll look at community development models around the world to see what we can learn from them to increase the use of the Welsh language.
- We’ll ensure that the recent work done by Mentrau Iaith to create new profiles plays a full role in the implementation of this recommendation.
- In this new post-COVID context, we’ll ensure that work to increase the use of the Welsh language is done in the right place, by the right organisation or people. The Mentrau Iaith have a clear role in this area and we’ll create partnerships with the Mentrau and other organisations too to add further value to the current work of the Mentrau Iaith and others.
- Our aim will be to develop and empower people to enable them to help themselves and then help others to make more use of the Welsh language. We also know that the linguistic geography of Wales varies and we’ll also consider this in our work.
- We’re extremely grateful for the contribution of many volunteers and organisations in the field of language planning in Wales. Working in close partnership with them, we aim to build on their work and look at what further work is needed in order to respond to this recommendation.
- We’ll need to prioritise all that we do. So as we take on new work, we’ll address what needs to be postponed and/or what work needs to be modified or brought to an end.
- Our work will be evidence-based. Research and data will be central to our planning.
- We’ll undertake literature reviews and look at best practice in community development on an international level to see what can be implemented in Wales to help the Welsh language.
- We’ll take a fresh look at ‘Local Action’ guidelines and adapt and update them to meet the needs of diverse communities in light of the above changes.
- We’ll feed this work into our budget planning cycles.
Recommendation 5: project funding
The Welsh Government should establish a mechanism for funding projects to facilitate and operate at a community level to ensure the viability of the Welsh language. This should include creating a mechanism that will be able to draw upon the Welsh Government's various financial funds. This would be in line with the aim of promoting and developing the Welsh language throughout government activity, at Welsh Government and local government level.
- collaborate with grantmaking organisations in Wales to consider establishing a small grants scheme and/or challenge fund to increase the interpersonal use of Welsh in the community
- consider possible models to drive action at a community level which include community empowerment. This work could include challenge funds, as noted above, capital funds and other funding mechanisms
- review the outcomes/impact of our work alongside grant recipients in order to identify best practice and learn and document lessons and failures and any learning to improve future work
- ensure that the spirit of Cymraeg 2050 is given full consideration within all relevant grant Welsh Government grant schemes.
- draw the attention of relevant partners to funding beyond current grants that could contribute towards the implementation of these recommendations
Recommendation 6: intergenerational balance
Note the older age profile of many of the existing Welsh language societies. The next generation of community leaders should be actively nurtured to ensure leadership succession in community groups and societies. Volunteering opportunities could be offered in Welsh-medium societies, as well as apprenticeships, work experiences and skills development opportunities. Facilitating and supporting the arrangements could be part of the work of Mentrau Iaith and Welsh-language social organisations, but they also need to be integrated into schemes across the Welsh Government that develop community leadership across Wales.
- look at examples of best practice in relation to attracting new and younger volunteers/members and how this can be embedded within the aims of Welsh medium community organisations
- ensure that our work to develop community leadership embody the spirit of Cymraeg 2050
- collaborate internally and with youth organisations to develop the concept of a plan to create the linguistic and community leaders of the future
- explore the potential contribution of the circular economy in supporting future communities/leaders
- explore the possibilities of creating intergenerational matching/mentoring schemes
- encourage and facilitate succession planning within the organisations we work with
- explore what’s happening in Wales, the United Kingdom and beyond in terms of how to create community leaders
- analyse the potential contribution of our work with the Language Charter and its associated programs in the secondary sector to create the community and linguistic leaders of the future
- learn from the experience and achievements of the Young Farmers Movement, National Eisteddfod, small Eisteddfodau, Mudiad Meithrin and the Mentrau Iaith and others of creating future leaders and forging links with community groups
- explore the potential contribution of the Welsh BAC towards the community leadership development agenda for the Welsh language
- invite the Welsh Youth Parliament to work with us
- encourage matching voluntary organisations with private sector companies to offer mentoring opportunities to young officers
Recommendation 7: social enterprises and co-operatives
More Welsh-medium social/co-operative enterprises which offer Welsh-medium employment and volunteering opportunities should be created in our communities.
- We agree that social enterprises and co-operatives have a significant contribution to make in increasing the use of our language - we also agree that there are many other benefits to be gained from this approach (economic, social and community etc). The resultant sociolinguistic capital is significant and increasing their numbers may further enhance our implementation of Cymraeg 2050.
- These new enterprises/companies will create different types of products. In some cases, the product will be directly relevant to the Welsh language. In some cases, the product may not have a linguistic aspect. Our yardstick for working in this area will be the contribution that such an organisation can make at a strategic level in terms of increasing the use of the Welsh language by their employees, their partners, their customers and the surrounding community. They’ll be spaces within which we can use our Welsh freely.
- We’ll look at different models within international case studies, such as the Basque Country (Arrasate Mondragón). We’ll engage both internally and externally to take this forward.
- We’ll look at our activity in the business sector to see how it could evolve, develop and adapt to contribute towards responding to this recommendation.
- We’ll draw on examples we have here in Wales of social enterprises/co-operatives. We’ll ask them to work with us to create models that could work elsewhere in order to respond to this recommendation.
- We’ll work with national organisations working in the co-operative enterprises/companies field to ensure that they also make the best contribution possible towards implementing the spirit of Cymraeg 2050.
We should build upon the strength of committees of Welsh-speaking community organisations, focusing on the organisations’ long-term resilience, strengthening financial management, information technology, business and community entrepreneurship skills.
- work with community bodies to ensure their long-term resilience and internal capacity
- consider offering mentorship support to help local organisations and groups who wish to create a Social Enterprise
- examine lessons learned from Arfor and other relevant programmes
A national network of Welsh-medium social/co-operatives should be created to encourage strategic collaboration.
- look at potential models and collaborate with existing social/co-operative organisations to take this recommendation forward
- learn from experience within Wales and beyond in order to share experiences and good practice that create job opportunities through the medium of Welsh in this sector
Recommendation 8: county Promotion Strategies
Local Authorities should give Welsh-speaking community organisations a strong voice in planning and implementing their language promotion strategies. Welsh Language Promotion Strategies, Welsh in Education Strategic Plans and Mentrau Iaith County Forums should be interwoven with the Welsh-speaking community organisations.
We’ll hold discussions with local authorities and others with the aim of:
- ensuring a strong voice for community groups within the Promotional Strategies, Welsh in Education Strategic Plans and County Forums of the Mentrau Iaith
- ensuring that the language forums meet regularly and develop work programs in conjunction with other partners and the community and support the Promotion Strategies and the Welsh in Education Strategic Plans
- tapping into the enthusiasm of communities as they prepare for the National Eisteddfod, as well as our expectations for the legacy and the specific role of the local authority in that regard (see also recommendation 3)
- we’ll support the work of the local authority in developing and realising their Promotional Strategy by providing them with data and evidence. This will also be very useful for the Welsh in Education Strategic Plans
- work with relevant partners to ensure that work on the implementation of county Promotion Strategies reflects this recommendation
- emphasise that local authorities need to ensure that all organisations who play a part in the implementation of the strategy have a clear role, and that all those organisations have timely access to proposed plans to ensure strategic and specialist input
Recommendation 9: information sharing
It should be ensured that Welsh-speaking community groups know about and take advantage of opportunities to improve their organisation through relevant training, funding sources and guidance etc
- share information regarding the successes of our partners and community groups, and create and grow a culture of learning/formal reflection (for example facilitating workshops discussing successes and failures)
- provide further training for our partners on how to plan for linguistic ‘outcomes’ or results
- publish case studies and lessons learned from our partners' work, and our own, on our website
- ask Mentrau Iaith Cymru to share information with community groups in ways that suit the needs of the groups. This could be as an online newsletter or in Papurau Bro
- liaise with organisations such as the Wales Council for Voluntary Action and others to ensure that there’s appropriate training and support to contribute to the implementation of this recommendation
It should be ensured that language planning training is available to Welsh-speaking community groups as required.
- ensure a suitable training program for our partners, and link that with further training on planning towards linguistic outcomes/results
- identify new opportunities to offer language planning training
- link the training with community development and empowerment and include language planning as part of that, for example training for town and community councils, how to strengthen the voice of the local community, empowerment, facilitation, communication and governance