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Local Economic Innovation

Community Wealth Building

The perspectives of Community Wealth Building (CWB) are becoming increasingly familiar in local authorities and some large, place based ‘anchor’ institutions, as they consider their power (multiplied by collaboration between institutions) to shape their local economy by increasing the recirculation of wealth in their area and region. The Covid-19 pandemic, too, has highlighted the importance of resilient local economies to minimise economic insecurity from global supply chains, and the need for an inclusive post-Covid recovery in local economies with limited external sources of funding, through recirculating wealth already existing in communities. In addition, the continued concern to decarbonise economies in response to the climate emergency puts a premium on developing local and sustainable suppliers.

New Prosperity Devon ran three seminars on CWB in 2019 for officers and managers in place based ‘anchor’ institutions, academics and community organisations. Our report ‘Investing in Our Place’, launched in July 2020, shows how revitalising a local economy can be achieved through CWB and contains a cross section of case studies.

A series of webinars in 2020-21 “Community Wealth Building in Practice” introduced expert speakers from Preston, Devon and Cornwall and elsewhere, and developed a network for information and support for this approach. The opening presentations are available below, and on our Youtube channel, and Knowledge Hub.

Elements of Community Wealth Building


1. Progressive Procurement and a Value Framework

Redirecting a proportion of institutional spending requires a value framework of one kind or another. Manchester City Council awards points in tenders for social value, eg for good employment practices such as paying the Living Wage and offering training and apprenticeships, and for environmental value such as sustainable practices and inputs. They also favour businesses which re-spend more into the local economy. Cornwall Council uses a Doughnut Decision Wheel for all major spending decisions to assess a range of influences on the social foundation and compatibility with planetary limits. Plymouth has its own Resurgam Charter awarded to businesses with a range of good employment and environmental practices. Authorities and institutions differ in their values and procurement practices but attain more of their goals for their place through systematic application of their values across major contract.


2. Plural forms of governance

Co-operatives and social enterprises – businesses with democratic governance – are particularly well suited to ensure recirculation of community wealth. Co-ops distribute profits to their members, in many cases their employees (worker co-ops) or customers (consumer co-ops) ensuring that the benefits of recovery are shared locally. They are more likely to be value driven and maintain employment suffers in challenging times, lending a resilience to the whole local economy. Maintenance and enhancement of this sector can be encouraged by developing routes to democratic governance for owners ready for retirement and for community groups delivering a service seeking a more economically sustainable method of operation.


3. Commissioning and proactive supply chain development

The process of re-localisation and achieving social value can often start with the commissioning process; seeking value-aligned local suppliers to co-design services enabled Leicestershire County Council to design and commission children's services with Barnardo's and to achieve quality and good value from them as supplier. The States of Jersey set up a 50% owned social enterprise to provide bus services which effectively served user needs and greatly reduced costly petroleum imports.

The famously successful Democracy Collaborative in Cleveland Ohio helped set up three large co-ops to supply a group of institutions with renewable energy, salad crops and a hospital with laundry services. Where local suppliers are absent, there may be sectors where establishing sustainable and socially productive enterprises is an efficient and effective way to fill the gap.


4. Socially productive use of land and property

Local institutions often own assets which can be made available for use by local community groups or provide a crucial resource for local enterprises. Rochdale County Council, seeking a service for adults with learning difficulties, set up a social enterprise to run a Community Farm on its own land with pigs and parrots instead of a day care centre.


5. Fair employment and just labour markets

For a buoyant local economy the benefits of regeneration need to be shared through fair wages and employment conditions and education and training for entrants to the labour market. Assistance for retraining is becoming increasingly important in the transition to decarbonisation and the need for changing skills in building, engineering, and digital sectors. 


6. Making financial power work for local places

In Europe and North America local and regional banks support local enterprises and assist the prosperity of their local economy. In UK banks are centralised and lending tends to be asset-based rather than risk-sharing and supportive of developing businesses. Savings and Loan societies and other local banking institutions have largely disappeared from UK, with few exceptions, but there are plans for establishing regional customer-owned banks such as the South West Mutual.

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See below for replays of opening presentations for our webinar series held in 2020-2021. 

The role of anchor institutions in economic recovery in the Preston Model: Community Wealth Building and Post Covid-Recovery Plans

Presentation with guest speaker Dr Julian Manley, University of Central Lancashire, Social Innovation Manager Centre for SME Development

Community Wealth and the Climate Emergency

With guest speakers Andrew Shadrake, of Torbay Local Spark and Action on Climate in Teignbridge and Peter Lefort, Sector and Partnerships Lead, Cornwall Council. This session New Prosperity Devon associate Elizabeth Wainwright was a guest facilitator. Elizabeth is the portfolio holder for the climate emergency, at Mid Devon District Council.

Fostering local and institutional resilience through investment in energy generation and other revenue generating activities 

PART ONE. With guest speakers Ian Hutchcroft, Chair, Plymouth Community Energy and Tony Greenham, Director, South West Mutual.

Plural ownership patterns

With guest speakers Daphne van Run of ESSENCE, Exeter’s Social Enterprise Network, and Jonathan Gordon Farleigh, Director and Co-founder of Stir to Action.

Local Enterprise Development

Presentation with guest speaker Jay Tompt, of Totnes REconomy and Torbay Local Spark. Jay is also a lecturer on the masters programme 'Regenerative Economics' at Schumacher College. We also hear from Greg Parsons, introducing the South West Food Hub, as an outstanding example of how local procurement can be encouraged and enabled in this important sector.

Integrating Social Value frameworks in institutional procurement objectives

With guest speakers Ed Whitelaw, Head of Enterprise and Regeneration, Real Ideas Organisation, Plymouth, Gareth Hart, of Iridescent Ideas and Plymouth Social Enterprise Network, and Paul White, Director of ESSENCE, Exeter’s Social Enterprise Network, and CEO of eCulture Solutions.

Fostering local and institutional resilience through investment in energy generation and other revenue generating activities

PART TWO. With guest speakers Ian Hutchcroft, Chair, Plymouth Community Energy and Tony Greenham, Director, South West Mutual.

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