Bringing the ‘Foundational Economy’ from theory to practice in Wales


  • Stefania Fiorentino University of Cambridge
  • Sean Lee University of Cambridge


Resilient Rural, foundational economy, Post-Growth Era, Governance Reform




Within the emerging gamut of heterodox trends in economics and post-growth planning theories to face climate change and the rising global inequalities, we look at the UK and focus on the Foundational Economy (FE). As for the other parallel frameworks, the greatest challenge is represented by turning key theoretical principles into real policy and practice. The Welsh government tried to do so, by embedding FE guidance into the Welsh Economic Action Plan (2017), formally embracing the FE to deliver a long-term, sustainable economy to the whole Welsh region. The FE has since formally entered the Welsh national planning discourse through statutory planning documents, elevating the concept from a conceptual debate to a nationwide spatial and regional development policy content. But great challenges are still found within the daily practices of local governments. We carried out a statistical analysis of key economic data, a detailed content analysis of 689 policy documents at different scales and 11 semi-structured interviews to selected planning representatives, in an attempt to disentangle the policy-makers perceptions of the FE and the other alternative “growth” models as well as to understand and describe the key practical challenges offered to their implementation. We identify two main issues. The first one lies in the fuzzy definition of the FE, its theoretical approach, and the difficulty in measuring any FE contribution trough traditional economic tools and lenses. The second challenge is represented by the current governance structure, and the barriers faced by local governments in innovating practices following FE principles and requirements. The Welsh example confirms that restructuring planning governance and reforming economic policy are two required and synergic efforts for a sustainable and inclusive “alternative-growth” future.


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