Community Wealth Building in Birmingham

(2016 – ongoing)

CLES has been working in Birmingham with seven participating anchor institutions, establishing an anchor network and deploying the UK’s first “community wealth builder in residence” to support progressive practice in relation to spend, workforce and the use of land and property assets. 


  • Birmingham and the wider Black Country is a place of stark inequality. While Birmingham has seen significant growth driven by investment in the city centre in recent years, the breadth and depth of deprivation in the city and beyond remains extremely high. 
  • Economic success for a few is failing to translate into economic benefits for many, with low pay a persistent issue. In 2016, 42.3% of children in Birmingham lived in households classed as in poverty, and 16% of all employees across Birmingham’s five biggest employers were low paid. 
  • The Birmingham Anchor Network has been established in an attempt to reduce inequality across the city and beyond. The Network was officially launched in September 2019 and first the “community wealth builder in residence” was appointed February 2020. 
  • In 2022 the Birmingham Anchor Network committed to a minimum programme of 10 years. 

Community Wealth Building in Birmingham 

Established the Birmingham Anchor Network 

The network supports participating organisations to maximise the benefit they bring to the Birmingham economy both individually and collectively. CLES has worked closely with seven anchors to explore and identify opportunities to use their combined budgets of over £4bn and workforce of over 40,000 to generate better outcomes for Birmingham’s residents. By collaborating on work in key areas of procurement, employment and management of land and assets, these anchors are learning how they can play a greater role in shaping a more just city economy. The objectives of the network are to: 

  • provide advice, technical support and training to anchor institutions to build their capacity to harness their spending power, role as employers and asset owners to stimulate equitable local economic development; 
  • bring anchor institutions together to collaborate on shared priorities, amplifying the impact of their individual anchor institution activity; 
  • extend take-up of community wealth building approaches among anchor institutions in Birmingham and the West Midlands through advocacy activities; and, 
  • work alongside CLES to pioneer new forms of community wealth building in the UK. 

Created a full-time dedicated post for community wealth building 

Participating anchor institutions have jointly funded a full-time “community wealth builder in residence” to spread good practice, drive forward innovative changes through the delivery of specific, targeted projects and act as the conduit between the Network and other partners who can help unlock their economic potential. 

How the Network operates 

Overtime, the Network has learned it can operate in several different ways to help deliver successful community wealth building outcomes: 

  • Targeted projects – Four of the Network partners are currently working together to deliver ‘I Can’, a project that has so far resulted in over 450 job offers from the NHS to previously unemployed Birmingham residents. 
  • Partnership bids – Three of the Network partners submitted a successful bid for Partnerships for People and Place funding which has resulted in a project supporting over 180 school leavers from six schools based in some of the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods in Birmingham. 
  • Ecosystem development – All of the Network partners are collaborating to support the development of an ‘Impact Coalition’ in East Birmingham which will make it easier for anchor institutions to target employment and procurement opportunities in this part of the city. 
  • Joint Policy Development – Procurement leads from each of the Network partners are working together with Anthony Collins Solicitors in preparation for the introduction of the new Procurement Bill in 2024. The aim of the work is to develop a shared response to the opportunities in the Bill we should make it easier to support locally based SME’s. 
  • Sharing good practice – All the Network partners are currently delivering capital investment programmes of one type or another. One of the partners is now leading on a piece of work with top Tier 1 developers to share good practice on delivering social value through construction projects and for adopting a shared approach across the Network.