Owned by Oxford Report

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.

Read and Share the Owned by Oxford Report

Get in touch: info@ownedbyoxford.org.uk

Barton Retrofit Project Secures Funding!

Barton Retrofit Project Secures Funding!

We are thrilled to have been awarded funding from Transtion Together via The National Lottery Community Fund to further develop the Barton Retrofit Cooperative. This project aims to upskill local tradespeople and residents in Barton to improve the energy efficiency of their homes, saving money, saving energy, improving health and regenerating the existing housing stock.

Why Retrofit?

Much of Barton’s existing housing stock is 1950s pre-fabs. Retrofitting will help to improve the property’s energy efficiency through the addition of new technology or features, futureproofing these homes for the next generation and saving residents money on their energy bills. 

There are different ways to retrofit a house, varying from single-room improvements to whole house retrofits. From simple draught proofing and improving ventilation to new renewable technologies such as solar panels and heat pumps.

Well retrofitted homes are also healthier environments that can reduce the risk of poor internal air quality related illness. This reduces pressure on the health service. Retrofitted homes are comfortable, use less energy and put less pressure on the power grid.

Retrofitting the UK’s housing stock is essential, especially if the UK is to reach net zero by 2050. The Barton project will create a community owned and community led enterprise that will meet the needs of the local people and their homes.

The project is being run by local Councillor and activist Jabu Nala-Hartley as part of her work with Owned by Oxford and Community Action Groups Oxfordshire. Jabu lives in, and represents Barton Residents, and is keen to hear from anyone interested in getting involved in the project.

Want to Get Involved?

The project is looking for local tradespeople that are interested in gaining new skills in retrofitting. On the job taining will be provided by local retrofitting experts. They are also looking for residents interested in learning about energy saving measures to help spread the message to Barton residents.

If you are interested in getting involved, please email Jabu at info@ownedbyoxford.org.uk

Funding from The National Lottery Community Fund, distributed by Transition Together, has helped us to deliver this project. Thanks to National Lottery players for making this possible.  Look for more information about Transition Together at https://transitiontogether.org.uk/

Your Story: Blackbird Leys Belonging & Community Ownership 

Thank you to everyone who came to the Your Story event on Wednesday 23rd November in Blackbird Leys at the Owned by Oxford Dome – a pop-up space for conversations about Community Wealth Building.

The event provided a space to share stories about the life in Blackbird Leys, people’s relationships with community spaces, and explore what appetite and commitment there might be for greater community involvement in the use and control of spaces within the community.

We heard a fantastic range of stories, which all really demonstrated the deep sense of belonging that already exists in relation to the community assets in the neighbourhood.

One thing that came through clearly was how much people valued the community centre and the vital role it has played in community life over a number of decades.

We heard how its use had changed and how different groups influenced and shaped the activities on offer over time.

We heard how the organisations currently using the centre are constantly evolving the uses, introducing new ways for the spaces to be used, including clothes swaps, bingo nights, and community meetings.

And we found an appetite to be more involved in the running of community spaces, but that this was tempered with a feeling that people could only afford to contribute their time where it would be genuinely meaningful. They felt they couldn’t afford to spend precious evenings or afternoons to hear about the plans of others, but this might be different if they saw a chance to take part in the planning: whether that was developing ideas around a new community centre, organising to take on a new community asset, or developing new uses for the current spaces.

“This place carries a lot of memories for me. Four of my children [now grown up] are on the mural in the Glow Hall so it means a lot and I’ll feel the loss when it goes. Finding new spaces that could be community owned would be great but I’d like to see us make full use of the spaces we currently have. The uncertainty around it isn’t helping.”

Taking Inspiration from the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation

Ever wondered what the economy would look like if it made equality and equity it’s driving goal?

The Basque town of Arrasate, home of the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation, offers a hugely impressive living example:

  • A globally-competitive, worker owned company where the wage ratio between the lowest and highest paid member never exceeds 1:7
  • 35,000 member owners benefitting directly from the capital growth of the company
  • Responsible for 25% of all patents in the Basque region
  • Lowest unemployment rates in Spain
  • And a comparable Gini coefficient (measure of inequality) to Finland and Norway – without the high taxes

All made possible by embedding its social purpose deeply into the fabric of the company. As our guide Ander Etxeberria put it “This is not utopia. It’s a machine for making good jobs.”

The Cooperative Councils Innovation Network recently sponsored a visit to Mondragon for a delegation of local government councillors, including Owned by Oxford’s, Simon Grove-White. More about the trip here:

To find out more about the Mondragon model and explore how we can help these ideas take root in the UK context, sign up for the CCIN’s 10th Annual Conference in Telford on November 24th

Community Markets: Blackbird Leys

Community Markets: Blackbird Leys

One of the biggest challenges for new community enterprises in Oxford is finding an affordable place to trade. High rents and business rates create a very high ‘cost of entry’ to the local economy.

So the Owned by Oxford by Oxford project is really excited by the potential for markets to provide low cost, temporary spaces that can catalyse new initiatives, whilst also creating a social space that brings together different parts of the community. If those spaces are owned and managed by those communities, even better!

We’re delighted to be helping Transition Lighthouse CIC to set up a new community owned market in Blackbird Leys. The market will be open to all but will put an emphasis on providing Oxford’s African-Caribbean community with products and services that might otherwise be difficult to find in the city, as well as offering local social and community organisations a way to connect with local people.

Expect to hear more on this exciting initiative very soon!…

The markets team meet at Blackbird Leys Communtity Cemtre to discuss the project

Why Community Markets?

The potential for markets to support Community Wealth Building has been highlighted in recent reports by Markets 4 People – a collaboration between researchers at University College London, the University of Leeds, the New Economic Foundation, and the Centre for Local Economic Studies (CLES), as well as the National Market Traders Federation (NMTF) and the National Association of British Market Authorities (NABMA).

Their work helps evidence our belief that markets are a fantastic tool for supporting the emergence of community led economic activity, along with many other positive social outcomes, including:

  • Access to good quality, healthy and affordable fresh food.
  • Opportunities for social and cultural interaction.
  • Relatively low-cost and accessible trading spaces.
  • Serving low-income groups; black and minority ethnic groups; migrants and refugees; elderly people; socially isolated and other vulnerable groups.

They’ll soon be publishing a new toolkit aimed at community market operators, helping them to navigate some of the challenges in setting up and running a market.

Have ideas? Get in touch

If you’re a community organisation that’s interested in setting up or being part of a new market, and would like to know more about what’s involved, why not get in touch with us to discuss through info@ownedbyoxford.org.uk

Set up a power station; retrofit a neighbourhood – Communities tackling the energy crisis

Residents can now by power from solar panels installed on the roof of their Roupell Park flats at a fraction of the current price cap, thanks to a local Energy Buying club.

Set up a power station; retrofit a neighbourhood – Communities tackling the energy crisis

We were delighted to be featured in the latest blog from the Transition Together. In a round up of brilliant community driven and owned initiatives to respond to the energy crisis. The Barton Retrofit Coop was hifghlighted as a case study.

The blog written by Chris McCartney says:

In Oxford, the Barton Retrofit Coop is being set up to offer new skills and jobs for local people, focusing on effective fabric-first insulation for the 1950s prefab council houses which make up most homes in the area. “Our aim is to start small and build one community retrofit team, then expand and create new teams, and then replicate the model in other communities,” said project lead Jabu Nala-Hartley from CAG Oxfordshire (another Transition group). 

This approach will bring major energy-saving home improvements into the reach of many more people and spread the skills needed to accelerate community-led insulation. Often neighbours live in similar houses, with the almost identical layout, materials and retrofitting challenges. It would be faster, cheaper, easier and more accessible to find solutions together rather than each household doing their own legwork and research. 

The blog gives other examples of community lead inititaives such as generating their own energy and buying energy together to sharing energy saving tips.

Transition Together supports the Transition movement across Britain to develop and grow. We do this through helping groups to connect and learn from one another, amplifying inspiring stories, giving out seed funding grants and running workshops and events. We will also support the emergence of a democratically representative structure that can coordinate the movement across England and Wales.

Building community wealth from the ground up: Owned by Oxford at the Playground for the New Economy

Building community wealth from the ground up: Owned by Oxford at the Playground for the New Economy

On a beautiful sunny day in July, Owned by Oxford’s Jabu, Simon and Dianne headed down to Selgars Mill in Devon to attend a festival with a difference. 

Hosted by Stir to Action, the Playground for the New Economy festival programme includes panel discussions, workshops, sustainable food, and live music, all centred around the theme of what a different type of economy could look like – and how we can get there. 

Find out more about Stir to Action here.

The three-day residential setting creates the space for people with an interest in a more regenerative and democratic economy – community builders, activists, entrepreneurs – to build and form relationships, make connections, and challenge each other as a sector.

As Stir to Action founder Jonny Gordon-Farliegh says, “It’s about having big conversations in small rooms.”

Owned by Oxford came to learn and contribute to those conversations, but also to share and celebrate the work of our project so far with a workshop on the theme of “building community wealth from the grassroots up”. 

Following an introduction to the project we split into groups to explore three areas:

  • Redirecting power and resources to grassroots enterprises
  • Empowering community: our plans for the Barton Community Retrofit Coop 
  • Participatory place making: approach, authenticity, engagement. 

Our team were blown away by the interest and enthusiasm generated. Luckily we were in The Barn, rather than a “small room”, with more than 50 delegates joining in the conversations over the course of the session. The discussions highlighted a lot of shared experience across the networks and many new connections made – we’re looking forward to following up and collaborating over the next few months. 

Our takeaway? Wow – such solidarity and positivity! We came away energised and even more convinced of the importance of the Owned by Oxford grass-roots-led model. Next year we’ll bring a minibus and stay for the full three days!

Photo: © Pete Millson 2022. petemillsonphotographer.uk 07768 077353 — 12 July 2022.

Calling all Barton Tradespeople and Residents: WE NEED YOU

Calling all Barton Tradespeople and Residents: WE NEED YOU

Owned by Oxford (ObO) are piloting a community energy saving project in Barton. 

This will promote simple, home energy saving actions to residents and help them to reduce their energy bills.This is the first step to setting up a community-owned Retrofit Cooperative for Barton. We are looking for local people to get upskilled in retrofit techniques to help us deliver this project.

Calling local builders and tradespeople

Do you want to get FREE, on the job training in retrofit and energy saving building techniques?” Whatever your trade – carpentry, plumbing, electrician or general handy person – we’d like to hear from you.

We are setting up a Retrofit enterprise in Barton and need local people to get involved. Once set up, this will offer paid on-the-job training mentored by experts in the field of retrofit.

Calling local residents!

We are looking for local people who’d like to work with us on promoting simple home energy saving action. This will be paid work, £10.50/hour, with flexible hours available and training given.

This is a great opportunity to learn about and promote energy saving in your local community. You’ll be working with a supportive team of local and national experts, gaining exposure to cutting edge ideas on energy efficient building methods, as well as simple and cost effective ways to reduce bills and keep homes warm.

Interested? Get in touch via info@ownedbyoxford.org.uk

We will also be holding information events in the local area, to be kept updated sign up to our mailing list.  

Owned by Oxford at Aspire’s ‘The Inclusive Economy in Action’ event

Owned by Oxford at Aspire’s ‘The Inclusive Economy in Action’ event

Oxfordshire organisations gather to explore how to realise a more inclusive local economy by working together

Blog Post written by Aspire Oxford

Organised by Aspire Oxfordshire in support of the Oxfordshire Inclusive Economy Partnership (OIEP), the Oxfordshire Social Enterprise Partnership (OSEP) and Oxfordshire’s Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLEP), ‘The Inclusive Economy in Action’ event took place at the Ashmolean Museum on 4th May 2022.Over 65 delegates representing businesses, public sector partners and community organisations from across Oxfordshire joined the event to explore how their organisations could take practical steps to become more inclusive and have an even greater social impact.

Alongside opportunities to procure services and products with social value in mind, to support efforts to tackle digital exclusion, to empower employees to volunteer for local good causes and to recruit inclusively, the event delegates also heard from the ‘Owned by Oxford’ community wealth building project in Oxford City and gave their feedback improve the Inclusive Economy Partnership’s new Charter set to be introduced to the county.

In attendance were speakers from a number of local organisations, including from OSEP, the Getting Oxfordshire Online and Owned by Oxford projects, Amey, and the Team Oxford and Hire2Inspire teams from Aspire Oxfordshire.

Jeremy Long, Chair of the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLEP) and co-Chair of the Oxfordshire Inclusive Economy Partnership, said:

“The commitment of everyone, and their organisations, came across very powerfully. There is much to do to continue to publicise what is already happening here in Oxfordshire, and to help such initiatives expand their reach.”

Baroness Jan Royall, Principal of Somerville College, Oxford University and co-Chair of the Oxfordshire Inclusive Economy Partnership, said: 

“This excellent event was a real injection of energy to our crucial partnership. There is so much to build on, so much to do, but a lot of people who are willing to collaborate.”

Share this page