Building Community Wealth from the Ground Up: The Owned by Oxford Report
Oxford has a wealth problem. There’s no shortage of money in our city, it’s just not fairly distributed. And that’s a problem for everyone. Owned by Oxford is using community wealth building to address this problem. We’re a partnership of grassroots community enterprises and infrastructure projects working with larger Oxford institutions, to test out and innovate new ideas. Our long-term vision is for a fair, democratic, and sustainable economy in Oxford, an economy owned and controlled by its community that puts people, planet and wellbeing before profit. This report explores the journey and learning of the partnership so far.
Oxford is a famously affluent and well-resourced city, but these resources are not fairly distributed, making Oxford one of the most unequal urban areas in the UK.
The Owned by Oxford project launched in April 2021 with the aim of addressing this inequality in the city through community wealth building. Funded by the Friends Provident Foundation, the pilot was set up by a small group of Oxford infrastructure organisations with the intention of developing a “top down meets bottom up” approach, creating an interface between council-led Preston-style models of community wealth building and grassroots community development.
At an early stage, issues of class, race, and economic power emerged, and work was done to ensure ownership of the project by Black, minoritised, and economically marginalised communities – those who are most affected by Oxford’s particular inequalities.
Owned by Oxford is now a diverse partnership of organisations and individuals. Together, we have been testing out and creating new routes for the considerable resources held by Oxford anchor institutions – Oxfordshire County Council, Oxford City Council, Universities, and larger businesses – to support authentically community-owned and run enterprises as part of the journey to a new economy for the city, one that puts people, planet, and wellbeing before profit.
The project work has been led by Community Action Groups Oxfordshire and delivered by a small, part-time team employed across a number of organisations, and focussing on:
- supporting and incubating grassroots enterprises,
- raising awareness of community wealth building,
- influencing policy and practice,
- and mapping the community-led economy network across Oxford.
Community wealth building is still a new and unfamiliar economic practice for many stakeholders in the city. Owned by Oxford has facilitated important discussions as well as providing opportunities to test out and innovate and raising awareness of progressive economic approaches across a range of organisations.
Our project has raised the profile of the rich and dynamic ecosystem of grassroots enterprises, community research, and knowledge that already exists within the city. But there are significant gaps in appropriate support, training, and resourcing for this ecosystem, and the structural inequalities around access to funding and assets remain barriers to growth and sustainability.