Community Wealth Building Timeline

We are part of a growing international movement around community wealth building.  For CLES, this work has a long history stretching back to 2005. The timeline, below, highlights some of our key moments on this journey.  It details the work we have been involved in, our inspiration, and how our knowledge, skills and experience have developed over time.

Community Wealth Building


The catalyst

Back in 2005, CLES was at the forefront of working and applying policy practice around regeneration, social and economic development. However, it had limits. Namely:

  • Regeneration resources were used merely to plug gaps in an economy, wealth was not redistributed and did not trickle down
  • Economic development policy was overly focused on inward investment and competition and failed to consider social outcomes
  • Gaps between rich and poorer areas remained.

The wealth system

CLES undertook extensive work undertaken in collaboration with the British Council around the future of cities, and how to make them more inclusive, economically and socially. We devised a practical process for thinking and analysing places as a system. Projects took place across the UK and interntaionally, including in Oslo, Moscow and Bogota.

Example: development of Future City Game with British Council.

Exploring community wealth and economic multipliers

CLES began exploring wealth and economic multipliers within place. This work was informed by work undertaken in collaboration with the New Economics Foundation (nef), as part of a ‘local alchemy’ project in the East Midlands exploring ideas around wealth and plugging the leaks. This deepened our practical understanding of how wealth and money flows within and outside of places.


Focus on public economy, wealth and public sector jobs

2006 – 2008

We developed work on the power of the ‘public pound’, in terms of where public institutions spent their money, who they employ, and how they use their assets.

Example: Value of public employment with APSE 


Deepening experiences of the flow of wealth: the importance of resilience


A step change in the local wealth building journey emerged, when we became interested in the concept of economic resilience, and the interconnected relationships between public, social and commercial economies.  Through funding from the Norfolk Trust and joined with colleagues from central government and local politics we embarked on a global study of local economic resilience. This gave us a ground breaking insight into the factors that make some places more economically resilient. Central to this was the idea that economic resilience was greater when wealth was locally harnessed.

Deepening collaboration

2008 onwards 

2008 heralds the beginning of the deep collaborations with local government on procurement spend, wealth and how we can use public money within local supply chains. This work was informed by theoretical knowledge from a range of places around the world, coupled to practical know-how on assessment and policy change.  Key work with Manchester City Council endures to this day.


Local wealth policy development


Our knowledge and skills developed around local wealth building was applied to policies in the fields of banking, food, cooperatives, and land.

Example: The importance of community anchor organisations to empowerment issues in the North West


Training and analysis

2010 Onwards 

Interest and demand in our work as well as a desire to increase learning and understanding of procurement and local wealth building, meant that we devised and delivered training for politicians, policy makers and practitioners.

Broadening experience of analysis and policy

2010 Onwards
We sought to broaden and amplify local wealth building within a range of different contexts. This included: Housing Organisations, commercial organisations, hospitals, stadia, government departments, regional organisations, social enterprise, and airports.

Example – Local Procurement: Making the most of small businesses 2012 and 2013


Social value and measuring impact

2011 Onwards

From the above we started to look at the wider social value of public sector procurement spend, with methodologies such as Social Return On Investment, and Cost Benefit Analysis.  This work, predated the English Social Value Act (2013) for which we lobbied for and supported.

Example: Delivering local economic value through Capital Programmes and Apprenticeships


Anchor institutions

2012 onwards 

Our work on local wealth building started to grow significantly in 2012, as we began to look at the range of Anchor Institutions with a stake in place. Our work seeks to explore the role of anchors through their procurement spend, employment, assets, and democratic responsibilities and activities.  This experience and understanding was bolstered by connections made with the Democracy Collaborative (TDC), based in the US, and a visit to there.  TDC are now firm friends and collaborators of CLES and remain an inspiration for our work.


Movement building

2015 onwards 

Our work on local wealth building has been developed through knowledge and experience. We are now looking to create a movement whereby local wealth building is at the fore of local policy and practice.

Example – development of GM social value network 

Example – commence URBACT network Procure


Role of community wealth building as part of a wider new political and economic thinking

2016 – onwards

Increasing community wealth building is part of a wider movement to create economic and social change. A key part of this is CLES’s work on a new social contract.

Key work: Forging a good local society: tackling poverty.