Community wealth building
There are sensible ways through which we can reorganise the UK economy, argues CLES CEO, Neil McInroy. He explains how a new urban economic agenda can be implemented and how it can help build a more socially just future.
All things must pass and the dominant urban economic model of the last few years is starting to creak, and a new progressive agenda is threatening to replace it. At its core is a rejection of liberal economics, a questioning of urban economic policy, and a desire to reorganise our city economies: social justice and environmental sustainability are not just hopes but central objectives.
A workshop session taking place in Manchester on Thursday 2nd November will introduce Community Wealth Building.
The Stir to Action Workshop delivered by CLES will focus on how historical and contemporary approaches to economic development, such as inward investment, have not always brought the benefits they should in economic, social and environmental terms. Community Wealth Building recognises that places do not necessarily need to attract new wealth to grow economically and socially – instead they need to harness existing wealth which comes through amongst other things: their anchor institutions; their procurement spend; their complementary currencies; their banking practices; and their community businesses. Harnessing this wealth more effectively will bring economic, social, and environmental benefits for their communities.
The Social Mobility Commission has confirmed what many have long known – governments have failed to significantly reduce inequalities. The Brexit vote and the subsequent soul searching has finally brought many of these issues to the fore. The growing sense of disenfranchisement in the country and increasing gap between “haves and have nots” is now penetrating mainstream discourse, prompting a political rhetoric of an ‘economy that works for all’ where the benefits of growth are shared among the ‘many, not the few’.
What we have been doing has clearly not worked
The UK economy has not worked for all for a long time. Indeed our economic models for decades have tolerated, and been somewhat unconcerned, by high levels of socio-economic inequality. What we have been doing collectively to address challenges of poverty and inequality over the past two decades have clearly not worked. In its report Social mobility policies between 1997 and 2017: time for change, the Commission argues that successive governments have failed to make social mobility the cornerstone of domestic policy, and that long-term progress has too often been sacrificed to short-term change. A piecemeal approach has bought some advances, but a failure to develop a holistic policy approach has meant that gains have been lost as efforts have waxed and waned.
CLES, the UK’s leading, independent think and do tank realising progressive economics for people and place, has today launched What Needs to be Done: The Manifesto for Local Economies.
What Needs to be Done sets out how central and local government, alongside business and civil society can develop policy, practice and action to:
CLES continues to undertake work around community wealth building and particularly anchor institutions in Preston, Birmingham, Oldham and across 11 cities in Europe.
This week, CLES Deputy Chief Executive, Matthew Jackson will be presenting the key findings of our recent publication ‘Community Wealth Building through Anchor Institutions’ to three audiences: the Salford Social Value Alliance, the Yorkshire and Humber Regional Policy Network, and the Lowestoft Commissioning Academy.
Neil McInroy, CLES’ CEO, joins actor and political activist Michael Sheen and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell to chair round table on the innovative work of Preston City Council and its partners around community wealth building.
Over the past three and a half years CLES, has worked collaboratively with Preston City Council and six other anchor institutions to put into practice progressive economics that truly benefits people and place. Now known as the ‘Preston Model’, the programme is succeeding in developing the local economy in Preston and the surrounding areas in Lancashire, through strengthening local supply chains and increasing the number of local jobs. The achievements have been published in a recent report by CLES, Community wealth building through anchor institutions.
As councils struggle with cuts, one Lancashire city adapted a pioneering grassroots approach from America to tackling inequality and keeping profits local.
What is Community Wealth Building, why is it important, and what has CLES been doing about it?
Over the past 10 years, CLES has amassed a body of work around Community Wealth Building and Anchor Organisations in Greater Manchester, Preston, Birmingham and 11 cities across Europe. This pioneering work is focused on building an economy where wealth – including the spend of local anchor organisations – is recirculated locally for the benefit of local communities.
The report from the RSA inclusive Growth Commission has now been launched – ‘Making our economy work for everyone’. Chaired by Stephanie Flanders, of JP Morgan Asset Management, this work sought to identify practical ways to make local economies across the UK more economically inclusive and prosperous. However, it is arguable that the ideas are limited in terms of wider social justice and economic resilience. Instead of making an economy work for everyone, it’s more likely that it will merely make our economy work for just a few more.
For many years, economic development has been a thin gruel for social inclusion; based overly on economic growth (sometimes at all costs), trickle down and spatial agglomeration. So, it is heartening that the commission seems to have partly picked up on the ideas of CLES and others (you can read our RSA submission here). This includes the understanding (if not a truism) that investment in social institutions and people is as important as investment in economic infrastructure; or, how the spheres of the economic and the social are not separate, but linked. They also highlight the excellent practical work CLES are engaged in: Community Wealth Building and Anchor Institutions.