Community Wealth Building - Timeline Stories

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.

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.

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.

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

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