Priorities for a changed world

In recent years our local economies have been buffeted by successive (and often sustained) crises: the Covid-19 pandemic, the cost of living crisis, rising energy and housing costs and the increasingly felt impact of climate breakdown.

We recognise that the old solutions are no longer fit for purpose and, in 2023, the CLES team spent some time working collectively to understand what is needed to support our communities into economic prosperity in this new era. In these discussions we identified three priorities for local economies in a changed world. We pursue our interest in these priorities in a number of ways:

Economic output and growth was, for a time, synonymous with falling unemployment, rising incomes and lower inequality, but this is no longer so. What is more, unencumbered economic growth and the climate emergency are deeply interconnected. In a number of places in the UK (and beyond), the penny has dropped, and some areas are now pioneering new economic approaches that centre concepts such as wellbeing and the foundational economy. Our work in this area aims to explore how progressive interventions in the local economy could be taken further and to identify clear pathways through which local and combined authorities can affect progressive change.
The programme of work consists of four key strands which we will be pursuing in activities over the coming years: new local industrial strategies, public service reform, progressive local planning and challenging market-led regeneration.
Over the last decade, community wealth building has grown to be a well established discipline in local economic development. But there is still some way to go, both until the approach is conceptually complete and for it to be a widely adopted practice. This priority centres on a number of core questions:
How do we move out of the community wealth building "comfort zones" around procurement and employment practice and explore more complex areas like land and finance? Who is community wealth building for - what role do the private sector, the community and national government play? How does community wealth building support efforts to address the climate emergency? Can it do more? How do we put the recirculation of wealth at the top of everyone's agenda, not just that of a progressive few?
Examples of activities on this theme include: looking at the role that approaches to land and speculative property development has in supporting or undermining the impact of community wealth building, how the new Procurement Bill can be used to further its spread and impact and the role of legislation in furthering progressive economic change.
To realise their potential, progressive movements, including community wealth building, must expand beyond institutional walls and actively involve people in their development and execution.​ To do this, we need more permanent mechanisms to enable citizen participation in shaping the economy - particularly as we consider the need for a just transition - and for holding anchor institutions accountable for their approaches to local economic development and addressing the climate emergency.​
Our work in this area focusses on supporting institutional powers to enable community-led economic development and just transition approaches, resulting in material changes to the fabric of local economies, building power and enabling alternative models of ownership to take hold.
Examples of projects we will be pursuing in the coming years include testing participative methods for developing economic strategy, energy systems and jobs of the future.

If you are interested in working with us on activities related to these priorities, or if you have a project which would help us develop our understanding of them, please get in touch.