Words by Smiley Team
Sophie Howe, from Cardiff, is one of the few people who can confidently say nobody else in the whole world has the same job as them.
She's the world’s first ever Future Generations Commissioner – and has been in the role since 2016. Her job description might be overwhelming to some, as she's tasked with protecting the futures of generations that are yet to be born.
“My job set out in law is to act as the guardian of the interests of the future generations… so no pressure," Sophie jokes to Smiley News.
Her job was created under the Future Generations Act (2015), in which Wales pledged to change the country’s approach to public services.
Since then, Sophie has led high-profile interventions around transport planning, education reform and climate change, challenging the government and others to demonstrate how they are taking account of future generations.
“My role is really about looking at how we stop problems happening and taking a long-term approach which is vastly different to how we have been doing public services, because we really just deal with problems as and when they arise," says Sophie.
“We have messed it up quite a bit for the future generations and I’m passionate about how do we stop doing that and start putting some of that right.”
Prior to her current position, Sophie was the first Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for South Wales where she led programmes to tackle violent crime and violence against women and girls.
Sophie has been in politics since the age of 21, but it was her childhood that inspired her career path.
“I went to school in a more affluent area than the one I lived in and I could see the difference between the kids on the street that I played with and the ones I went to school with," she says.
“Why should your future be determined on the basis of where you’re born? But also when you are born? Current younger generations are already faring much worse than their parents and grandparents.”
Sophie has already championed revolutionary work in Wales, from school curriculum changes to interventions in road building. She also advises and equips public institutions with the skills, knowledge and resources to identify and tackle domestic abuse when they encounter it.
The main areas of development are: Housing, Planning, Transport, mental and physical health, jobs and skills, and tackling adverse childhood experiences.
Sophie’s work affects the Welsh government and all public institutions across the country, and she hopes it will inspire other countries to put future generations first.
“My mission is how do we take this concept everywhere in the world because if we are going to tackle massive issues, like climate, they don’t sit within countries – the whole world has got to act," she adds.
“Never too small, never think a girl from Ely can’t change Wales and that Wales can’t change the world!”
DISCOVER: Find out about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
SUPPORT: Help organisations like The Climate Coalition to inspire climate action across the UK.