Background to Community Wealth Building

Community Wealth Building Background

Community Wealth Building History

Community Wealth Building is drawn from the work of the Democracy Collaborative in Cleveland, Ohio, a city which had seen a long and steady post-industrial decline during the previous 30 years.  The Community Wealth Building Approach reversed the decline by seeking to localise economic development.  This meant getting local “anchor institutions”  – so councils, hospitals, universities – to spend their money locally. It stopped capital flowing out of the local economy, producing a strong multiplier effect – as more money circulated in the local economy, more economic opportunities and investment was generated locally, leading to more opportunities and investment locally. 

The Preston Model

In the UK, the most well-known example is “The Preston Model” . Preston Council in Lancashire has led a radical rethinking of models of ownership, economic participation and procurement practice, across a partnership of local institutions. This has led to a shared commitment and strategic focus to develop a more generative local economy by addressing issues of wealth distribution and extraction across the local area. In 2018 Preston was identified by Demos and PwC as Britain’s most improved city demonstrating the enormous positive impact this can create. 

Preston isn’t alone, there are many other local authorities such as Wigan, Newham, North Ayrshire, taking a community wealth building approach and the devolved administrations of Scotland and Wales are making Community Wealth Building a national policy objective. 

Many of these institution-led approaches to Community Wealth Building work towards the following principles:

  • Shared ownership of the economy
  • Making financial power work for local places
  • Fair employment and just labour markets
  • Progressive procurement of goods and services
  • Socially productive use of land and property

The Oxford Model

Oxford has a very different wealth problem to the North West of England. In Oxford the issue is the distribution of wealth across the area, rather than the retention of wealth in the region.

To address these problems with distribution of wealth and opportunity, the Owned by Oxford project is piloting an approach to community wealth building which puts an initial emphasis on building and supporting the emergence of genuinely community-led economic activity, in specific geographical areas, and among historically disadvantaged minority groups, and in parallel developing the political consensus, then the policies and frameworks which can support these new models to survive and thrive in the wider economy. 

This has led to a number of additional principles for the ‘Oxford Model’ of community wealth building that we are developing:

  • Communities are best placed to understand and respond to their own needs and strengths 
  • Role of Owned by Oxford partners is to enable, support, build on and promote community strengths 
  • ‘Democratic’ enterprise remains a central goal but should be soft promoted – enable choice through timely advice, don’t dictate models
  • Lasting structures will be relationship based, and emerge from a shared learning process 
  • The partnership of local anchors organisations provides the link to strategic level opportunities and help shape policy based on learnings of pilot

The Owned by Oxford Project is part of CAG Oxfordshire, a co-operative owned by its members.

Registered as The Community Action Groups Project Oxfordshire Limited with the FCA, number 8117.

ADDRESS: Makespace, 1 Aristotle Lane, Oxford OX2 6TP