Owning the economy

Plenary session: 10.00am

In our opening session we will set the context for the day and for community wealth building in 2020. More than ever before, there is a need to reset our economy and reform local economic development by placing the practice of community wealth building, and the ownership of our local economies, at the centre of our recovery effort.

Delegates can expect to hear more about the running order for the day as well as an overview of the challenges and enablers for community wealth building in these exceptional times. Alongside the session chairs, we will be hearing some of the many and diverse voices of policy makers, thinkers and practitioners who are pioneering this approach, about the growth of the movement and the potential it holds for real change towards a more economically, socially and environmentally just future.

Even before the onset of the pandemic, local, regional and national governments across the UK were embracing community wealth building as an approach to build fairer, more resilient and sustainable local economies. Covid-19 has exposed even further the vulnerabilities and fundamental flaws in our economy, not least regarding work and supply chains. Our speakers will summarise practice from across the UK from the last 12 months and discuss the role that community wealth building has played in our places, and the outlook for recovery through local economic reform.


Gill Steward, Chair, CLES

Gill is an experienced and skilled public sector leader. She has held two local government Chief Executive roles at West Sussex County Council and the London Borough of Bexley. She was part of the team that very successfully led the development and implementation of a new unitary Council in Cornwall, she has been a Chief Executive of a police authority and held a further four executive director roles covering a wide range of services. Including finance and the wider corporate centre, environmental, community and neighbourhood services, street scene, highways and public realm, fire and rescue, leisure, arts and culture, economic growth, regeneration and housing. Gill has extensive experience of establishing public sector wholly owned companies and has extensive experience of working with communities to enable them to take a greater role in running services and managing community assets.

 Neil McInroy, Chief Executive, CLES

Neil oversees the running of CLES and the development of the organisation, including collaborations with other bodies. A leading commentator on economic development and public policy, Neil has featured in Local Government Chronicle’s annual top 50 most influential people in local government. He has been involved in public sector policy and delivery for over 25 years.

Neil has collaborated with a broad range of local, regional and national governments and agencies across UK and in Europe, Asia, US and Australasia. His particular skills are in strategic policy, local economic and social research, analysis and development; research methodologies and facilitation.

David Bright, Director of Grant Making, Open Society Foundations

David joined the Open Society Economic Justice Foundation as director of grants in October 2016. He has worked on international development since 2001 in various roles in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Prior to this, he worked in business development throughout Europe for 12 years.

David’s previous role was head of economic justice at Oxfam. This work included setting policy and practice around economic development for marginalized populations and influencing investment in agriculture and in urban livelihoods.  His commercial career has included roles with Unilever, Masters International and multi-national corporate stationer Guilbert. David is a member of the Unilever Sustainable Sourcing Advisory Board and a trustee for VIVA, an international nongovernmental organization supporting vulnerable children.

Sarah McKinley, Director for European Programs, The Democracy Collaborative

In her capacity directing TDC’s European Programs, Sarah is building transatlantic partnerships to develop new community wealth building models and learning exchanges to advance the democratic economy in the UK and Europe. During her time at TDC she has managed the Learning/Action Lab for Community Wealth Building, a multi-year initiative supported by the Northwest Area Foundation, assisting five organizations in Indian Country to create social enterprises and employee-owned companies. She has a background in community development and has worked with community development organizations at different levels, including with the Greater Southwest Development Corporation, a Chicago-based community development corporation, and the National Alliance of Community Economic Development Associations in Washington DC.

Mike Hawking, Policy and Partnerships Manager (Work), Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF)

Mike leads JRF’s work looking at how local economies and labour markets can lift more people out of poverty. His work looks at how people in poverty can benefit from, and contribute to, economic growth. This has a particular focus on the role of cities and city regions in creating jobs and improving their quality. It has included work on labour market interventions, education and skills policies, and neighbourhood connectivity.

Prior to joining JRF, Mike was an advisor to the directly elected Mayor of Lewisham and has worked on housing and social security policy for charities and housing associations in London and Leeds. He has an MSc in Social Policy from the London School of Economics.

Miatta Fahnbulleh, Group Chief Executive, New Economics Foundation 

Miatta has a wealth of experience in developing and delivering policy to empower communities and change people’s lives. She has been at the forefront of generating new ideas on reshaping our economy inside government and out. Prior to joining NEF she was Director of Policy & Research at the Institute of Public Policy Research. Her work has included the development of policies from devolution to local economic growth, housing, energy and climate change and transport, driving forward the Government’s economic devolution agenda in England, and localism and local economic growth. Miatta has a Masters and PhD in economic development from the LSE and a BA in PPE from Oxford.

Danielle Cohen, Development Manager, Power to Change

Danielle joined Power to Change in January 2018 and runs our place-based approach in the West of England Combined Authority, Suffolk and Liverpool City Region.

Her career background spans urban renewal, community engagement, corporate responsibility and business ethics. She holds an MSc in Human Ecology with a focus on inclusion in community environmental initiatives. Prior to joining Power to Change, Danielle was Deputy CEO of Better Bankside, a central London Business Improvement District.

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