Caro Wild

caro wild

An absolute delight speaking to Caro. You’re such a gifted individual with so much more to offer your community and the City of Cardiff. .The leadership you provided for 10 years at Streetgames, the charity harnessing the power of sport to create positive change in the lives of disadvantaged young people, is inspirational. Having been reelected for Labour after a 5 year term on Cardiff City Council cabinet, leading the transport portfolio, you’re now focussed on delivering cross department support and initiatives leading the climate change portfolio. Instrumental in getting new cycle lanes across Cardiff and inspiring more kids to walk and cycle to school, with massive public health, economic and environmental benefits; you’re responsible for driving public engagement to make a difference. Why is this the most important portfolio? Because we have a climate emergency and the country needs people like you to be brave, bold and impactful. We’re in safe hands.


What is the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift, and why? Or what are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life? 

Start with Why? by Simon Sinek. As you can imagine at city council level there’s lots of meetings so I always go into them asking people why they’re here, why we’re here and then set the objectives for the meeting. Works really well to focus minds and empower people to contribute.

And recently I picked up Why the Germans Do it Better? by John Kampfner.  It’s a bit of a homage to the Merkel era with the underlying message about how an economy and social fabric can tie together,  and I guess about successful social democracy – a decent stab at how you can make capitalism work. 


What purchase of £100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months (or in recent memory)? (Brand and model, where you found it?)

A really good quality Leuchtturm notepad for £20 and a Lamy pen for £20. I like to feel organised; I take notes wherever I go and keep a to-do list. I have a system for actions where I star things that come up in my meetings – then add them to my to-do list. Simple!


How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favourite failure” of yours?

Whilst I make mistakes all the time, and get super-frustrated when I haven’t delivered progress – as I’m always pushing and trying to progress positive change, I don’t ever really think of it as failure.

What does happen once or twice most years is a mistake or poor piece of work that gets to me. Usually where I’ve not paid attention to a relationship or important piece of work. I try to use this experience positively. I think of it as licking my wounds, feel a bit of pain and try and improve from it.  


What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made? (Could be an investment of money, time, energy, etc.)

I exercise five mornings a week, first thing.  I do either a 25 minute run or a 45 minute gym session;  or sometimes a bit of yoga at home. If I don’t do it I can feel really unhappy and flat. It’s important for my mental health. 

The running in particular always feels really important for my health, the best description I’ve heard about the effects of aerobic exercise is that it is literally cleaning your blood (something to do with mitochondria, I believe). 


What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you love?

I don’t know if you’d class it as absurd, but as a bit of a sustainability and active travel geek,  my guilty pleasure is F1. Initially it started when I just got transfixed by Lewis Hamilton, watching a young black man in the most privileged of pastimes as this totemic figure,  changing a sport and culture in real-time before our eyes. 


In the last five years, what new belief, behaviour, or habit has most improved your life?

During lockdown I became more disciplined and this included making daily smoothies with fruit and veg. Now I’m doing it seven days a week. I use a decent blender, rather than the smaller smoothie makers. I’m always on the lookout for out of date reduced fruit, which I chop and put in the freezer.   


What advice would you give to a smart, driven student about to enter the “real world”? What advice should they ignore?”

Focus on developing core ‘professional’ skills like writing notes, having a to-do list and managing your time.

I’ve done a lot of work over the years alongside underprivileged people and there’s a massive issue of discrimination and social capital at play in society. I’d just advise to try and ignore some of the barriers, and find a way of opening doors and being heard, your voice counts. Many of the people in charge won’t have necessarily got where they are entirely on merit. 

In terms of advice I’d ignore: anything that suggests we live in a meritocracy!


What frustrates you the most about your industry and the way companies are run in it?

I get hugely frustrated at the ability to get things done quickly at government level. And  – especially when issues like health, air pollution and climate change are considered to be at critical stage. Of course there are good reasons for care to be taken when making changes, to ensure safety and accountability. But working through multiple rounds of design stages and parallel consultation phases is just too much if we’re going to get things done. Public consultation is also a controversial issue, it may sound sensible that the public get a say in changes, but we are well-versed in the NIMBY principle – and whilst this is sometimes a harsh verdict on well-meaning citizens – it’s definitely a legitimate issue to making positive change happen.   

In some cases the issue here is obvious – using a bus lane as an example. Bus lanes are widely viewed as positive for the environment, the economy and social justice. However they can be unpopular for those that live next to them because they take away local parking. Well organised campaigning can quite quickly throw the plans for a simple bus lane out. And local residents can take to pretty hostile tactics. 

This is just one small example, but virtually every important change will have opponents. There may well be ways around this, really good consultation and communication can get good results – but that work takes more time and money, which often isn’t there. 

We need to see a change here, a climate emergency calls for emergency measures and fast action. Minor legislative changes could be used to ensure climate measures are fast-tracked. 

In Wales there is some really good new legislation Well-being of Future Generations Act (Wales) 2015. It will make the public bodies listed in the act think more about the long term, work better with people and communities and each other, look to prevent problems and take a more joined-up approach. We’re the first country in the world to introduce it and other countries are starting to follow.


In the last five years, what have you become better at saying no to (distractions, invitations, etc.)? What new realisations and/or approaches helped? Any other tips?

I’d previously done a lot of work on being efficient with my time and learning to say no. But as a leader in the public sector I’ve actually made a conscious decision to keep up a visible high work ethic and culture of saying ‘yes’. I am aware there is much more nuance to it than this – and I certainly don’t want to become a ‘busy fool’ – but I believe hard work is important for change to happen. 


What does a balanced life look like to you? Has a work or a project you have been focused on caused you to neglect other areas of your life?

I like the pressure of working hard but I also get tired. My work can be quite seasonal so I’m able to plan a good break during the main holidays. During the work day I work hard in the morning, then have a bit of downtime in the afternoon and then I’m usually busy in meetings in the evenings. 

It’s important to switch off sometimes to keep my productivity up so I’ve started to have more discipline around pausing social media. I attended a really good training session on this after years of building a profile. It’s now important to recognise the risk reward relationship.

My vision is to be known for doing good stuff. To be proud of what I’ve done and have proof and recognition of that.


When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do? (If helpful: What questions do you ask yourself?)

Sometimes I cancel or reschedule a few things. I’m selfish about my own needs to protect myself but also to be able to continue to do a good job.. I’m lucky to have a strong inner confidence and good relationships, so when it happens I’m not falling out with people or letting people down.


What does leadership mean to you?

Seeing a direction and moving things and people that way.


Which people have most inspired you in your life and why?

Too many to list. But it’s noticeable to me how many of my inspirational people are women. 


What do the words principles and values mean to you?

In politics ethics are at play every day. I’m doing the best that I can doing the right thing by individuals and doing the right thing. Sometimes they are in conflict. My values are to be kind, to help people feel better about their lives; and social injustice, helping people who have no voice in the world. I’m a local councillor in a ward with high levels of poverty. I spend a lot of my time going into those areas of poverty and asking people for their opinions. It’s about finding the balance between helping individuals and also, looking at the bigger picture. 


If you had a forum to speak to 50 leaders, what question would you pose to them, to get them thinking about and being better leaders?

 I’d ask them how often do they personally thank and recognise the positives in the people around them. 


What one thing could you do that you aren’t doing now, that if you did on a regular basis, would make a tremendous positive difference in your personal life?  What one thing in your business or professional life would bring similar results?

For both I’m sure it would be spending less time on my phone – I win the odd battle with this, but am definitely losing the war! One to ask the NewLeaf team I reckon!

Topic: 50 in 50