The Preston Model

August 2013 – Ongoing


Following the failure of an economic development plan based on attracting inward investment, Preston City Council saw the need for a new approach to address the growing needs of the city and its people. In 2013, they enlisted CLES to help make it happen.

How we built community wealth in Preston: achievements and lessons

Impact (so far)

Since 2013, over £70 million has been redirected back into the Preston economy; £200 million invested into the Lancashire economy; spending behaviour within public bodies has been transformed; and, new tools for a fairer economy have been developed. The Preston Model has received national attention from press, government and towns and cities up and down the country, and it is shaping the narrative around what a new post-Brexit, devolved economy can look like.

Preston stats at a glance October 2017

  1. Wealthier local economy – the public services now spend £74 million more in Preston than they did in 2013; and £200 million more is spent in wider Lancashire.
  2. More democratic economy – anchor institutions have a greater affinity to the local economy and its residents.
  3. Positive behaviour change of both strategists and procurement practitioners.
  4. Put Preston on the map –  as a place of progressive local economic development. Preston is at the forefront of community wealth building work in a UK and European context.
  5. Methodology innovations – a new way of measuring spend and shaping the development of business and cooperatives in the local economy has been developed.
  6. Collaboration between 8 local anchor institutions
  7. EU wide collaboration – 10 other EU cities engaged through the Procure network.
  8. Movement building


Preston experienced significant challenges when a major developer withdrew from the city and Preston’s economic development plans were dashed. The city needed a new approach, so Preston decided to pursue a vision to re-imagine the way in which economic development could be pursued. By drawing on learning from community wealth building activities taking place in the UK and beyond, Preston decided to challenge trickle down economics and instead harness the potential of its existing wealth within local public bodies, or anchor institutions. CLES, who was already developing community wealth building and progressive procurement strategies with UK cities, was invited to work collaboratively with Preston to explore options for its local economy.

CLES’ approach

Our challenge was to address the diverse challenges facing Preston. Building on our knowledge of Community Wealth Building initiatives in Cleveland in the US and Mondragon in the Basque Country, and our existing work in a UK context, we worked to find a unique solution for Preston.

We have rooted ourselves in Preston and have cajoled change through engaging with Preston City Council and a range of partners. Our primary emphasis has been upon changing minds and behaviours politically, in policy terms and practically for the benefit of the local economy – away from placing less emphasis on cost alone, towards a consideration of social value. We have engaged senior stakeholders in each institution, undertaken spend analysis, advised on what needs to change in procurement processes, and reviewed progress. CLES has been at the heart of a collaborative movement with our approach shaped by our experiences and values.

We have been involved in the wider aspects of The Preston Model too, including Living Wage and corporate social responsibility policies.


Preston City Council, CLES and University of Central Lancashire, Lancashire County Council, Preston’s College, Cardinal Newman College, Lancashire Constabulary, Community Gateway Association


“CLES have been great partners bringing an added dimension with their professionalism and knowledge.  It was clear we sought transformative change within our local economy and CLES have joined us at the cutting edge of that transformation.”

Matthew Brown, Leader of Preston City Council

“We have been working with CLES for more than seven years and their involvement has been invaluable in providing both a critical eye and a practical solution to our ambitions for a more inclusive and alternative local economy. Their recognised expertise, knowledge and professionalism has also been instrumental in the success of the European URBACT III Procure network to educate and share good practice in how procurement can create a good local economy. This collaboration has helped us to realise the emerging “Preston Model” and the continuing work around community wealth building.  (And they are very nice people to work with!)”

Preston City Council’s Project Lead for Procure

Find out more

Read our Preston publication.

Visit our Community Wealth building Centre of Excellence.

Read about our EU work. 

Get involved

Subscribe to our mailing list to keep up to date with community wealth building developments.

Get in touch to find out how we can help you to:

  • Draw together anchor institutions into a collective partnership
  • Analyse the existing impact of anchor institutions
  • Shift your processes and practices around procurement
  • Review change in behaviour
  • Facilitate wider networks