Local Wealth Building

The economy and traditional economic development is failing to work for everyone. Policy is too often focused on attracting investment, without acknowledging that profits and dividends are usually taken straight back out by investors, at the cost of local economies and people.

Who has wealth, who influences its flow, and who benefits from it are defining features of all economies. Over the past 10 years, CLES has been working with local areas and agencies on an alternative approach to the traditional economic model. In local wealth building the aim is to reorganise and control the local economy, so that wealth is not extracted but broadly held and generative, with local roots, so that income is recirculated, communities are put first and people are provided with opportunity, dignity and well-being.

Through local wealth building we are seeing a democratic, social and economic movement, which seeks to provide resilience where there is risk and local economic security where there is precarity. We are in a moment of great political and economic uncertainty and local wealth building work is fueling a movement people can get behind.

Local Wealth Building activities include:

  • Community wealth building
  • Use of pension funds for local investment
  • Re-energised local manufacturing
  • Community Land Trusts, to lock in wealth for local people
  • Foundation economy, where care, utilities and retail is repatriated to local cooperatives, local ownerships
  • New Municipalism
  • Community Business
  • Re-energised community economic development
  • Community Banks

CLES is at the forefront of local wealth building, working together with people across the globe.

Of importance is CLES’ work on developing anchor strategies. Anchor institutions commonly include local authorities, further and higher education providers, and housing organisations. Their purchasing power, and their links to the local community as employers and holders of land and property assets mean that they are ‘sticky capital’ on which new local economic approaches and social improvements can be based.

Much work on anchors has been pioneered CLES, who are at the forefront of policy and practice – this includes work in Belfast, Birmingham, Calderdale, Manchester, Oldham, Preston, Salford and ten cities across Europe to build local wealth.

Progressive use of commissioning and procurement by anchors is now acknowledged as a means to developing a dense local supply chain of local enterprises, including SMEs, employee-owned businesses, social enterprises, cooperatives and other forms of community ownership.


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