This growing movement works by unlocking the potential of economic assets and strengths that already exist in our communities.
Interesting things have been happening in Cleveland, Ohio – as reported today by governing.com – but which takes us to Preston, Lancs, and beyond:
A Rescue Plan Built on Community Wealth, Not Corporate Giveaways
The billions in recovery funds flowing from Washington should be used to build local economies from the bottom up with a focus on justice and equity, rather than counting on trickle-down strategies that have failed.
The Democracy Collaborative, for which we work, began developing the theory and practice of community wealth building in 2005. At its core, it is about broadening ownership and control of assets and wealth so that the economy works for all of us and not just an elite few. To share and grow household and community assets, local governments can implement or support a variety of mechanisms, such as cooperatives, employee-owned firms, community land trusts, community finance and public banks, and municipal enterprises. Community wealth building also harnesses the economic power of local, place-based anchor institutions, including universities and hospitals, to recycle wealth back into surrounding communities.
The transformative power of this approach has been demonstrated in Cleveland, where we partnered with the city government, local philanthropies, anchor institutions and community-based organizations in 2008 to launch the Evergreen Cooperatives. That has grown from a commercial laundry into a network of a half-dozen worker-owned cooperatives offering living-wage jobs and profit-sharing to 400 worker-owners, many of whom were chronically unemployed or formerly incarcerated.
One of the best places to see how that would look on a citywide scale is in Preston, a post-industrial town in the United Kingdom that took the Cleveland model and cranked it up several notches. The city government’s community wealth strategy led, in one four-year period, to an approximately $100 million annual increase in local institutional spending and the creation of 1,600 new local jobs. Several other administrations across the U.K., including in Scotland, have now also taken up community wealth building to change who the economy works for.
Preston is indeed an inspiration – especially when it comes to the model of local procurement:
Meanwhile, also in today’s news, Belfast is looking at community wealth building in the context of mitigating climate change:
And last month, echoing the piece from governing.com and Cleveland, the chief executive of the Centre for Local Economic Strategies looked at “what a real levelling up strategy should look like” in the UK:
Community Wealth Building should be at the heart of levelling up
Community wealth building is about bringing wealth back home to local economies so that it can be put to good use to create generative economies with a diverse range of businesses and ownership. This growing movement works by unlocking the potential of economic assets and strengths that already exist in our communities…
An approach based on community wealth building principles would include enabling local and democratic forms of ownership, meaning that underused land and property assets were used productively to maximise local economic benefits – establishing alternative financial arrangements such as community enterprise, regional banks and worker co-operatives. It could also lead to the establishment of greater democratic participation through new models for deliberation such as citizens assemblies and juries, helping to broaden debate and strengthen local accountability.
It seems the government is still attempting to ride high on the electoral successes of 2019 but it is becoming increasingly clear that they now need to come good on their promises to level up. For voters, this will mean experiencing a fairer share of the wealth and power in their community. Community wealth building provides a means to deliver this but, crucially, it is an approach that does not rely upon the good will of Whitehall. Instead, community wealth building arms local communities with the tools to get on with the job of building a better economic future for themselves.
With much more here: