To make public ownership truly democratic, we need to transform the state

advance a new democratic form of management that values practical knowledge and skills of citizens and workers by involving both front line workers and service users in day to day decision-making. This requires a profound cultural shift in the attitudes and strategies of the public sector and in the consciousness and self-confidence of working people

The new UK Labour leadership should not abandon the party’s commitment to economic democracy. Hilary Wainwright 13 May 2020

NHS worker walks past the new Banksy art work. Democratising public ownership means valuing public sector workers’ knowledge. | Andrew Matthews/PA Wire/PA Images

This article is part of our Economy’s ‘Public ownership in times of coronavirus‘ series with the Trans National Institute

Today, multiple crises from pandemic to climate can clearly only be resolved through systematic public solutions and capacity. The people in the UK realise this yet find that after decades of austerity and cuts the majority of people are left vulnerable. Public health and collective security, financial and medical, has been destroyed. Even Conservatives are turning to the public sector for solutions to problems of public need. However, our experience in the UK indicates that the public sector itself needs to be transformed. Just because companies are ‘publicly managed’ does not mean that they maximise benefit for the people. Many publicly owned companies are managed in a hierarchical and unresponsive way without transparency and accountability.

We need to envisage more democratic and inclusive forms of public ownership. But how? And what opportunities and challenges does this involve? Critical lessons from the UK’s experience with post- 1945 nationalisation on the one hand and positive experiences of new forms of democratic management internationally on the other might bring us closer to an answer.

The undemocratic state

In the UK, the legacy of the command-and-control hierarchies of the post-1945 state frequently involved a narrow and elitist understanding of what public management entails. Without proper mechanisms for democratic control, it became a management model which ended up serving the interest of the ruling elite. Rather than opening a public debate about what ‘commonly-owned’ meant in practice, the nationalisations were mostly viewed as an efficient way to reconstruct the UK economy post-war. They were generally run on a commercial basis, partly to provide an inexpensive infrastructure for the private sector. With specialised professionals having operational responsibility accountable only indirectly to ministers, they faced little public scrutiny.

In many ways this opaque elite regime in the nationalised industries should not be a surprise, given the nature of the British state. The Labour Party inherited, generally uncritically, a state constructed and adopted to manage an empire, not to empower citizens – indeed the people were, and still are, legally ‘subjects’ not citizens. Here we touch upon a first condition for transformative public ownership; it requires a democratic state.

Conditions for new public ownership

Policy thinking in the Labour Party began to change in recent years, with the radical leadership of Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell. ‘We should not try to recreate the nationalised industries of the past […] We cannot be nostalgic for a model whose management was often too distant, too bureaucratic.’ At a Labour party conference in February 2018, John McDonnell, then British Labour Party’s Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, warned against the dangers of adopting a public ownership model with no explicit social objectives and without the democratisation of its means of administration.

To talk about the democratic structures of the state in relation to public ownership means to talk about a democratic constitution and its objectives. This matters, as there is a great difference between a constitution whose goal is to protect collective rights and strengthen the public sector, and one where public enterprises are seen mainly as a convenient way to increase the state’s revenue. In the former, public companies are a central means of intervention in the market and their investment strategies and employment policies are used to further social goals.

A good example can be found in Uruguay. Here, the vision of a democratic society is explicitly part of the constitution, social objectives written into the missions of public companies which are understood, by policy makers and the population, to be an integral part of the Uruguayan democracy.

Valuing citizen knowledge and capacity

Founded on pro-public, democratic principles, Uruguay’s constitution was strengthened after the successful struggle against a directorship. It establishes a fundamental framework for democratic public ownership. With this as a baseline, we will now turn to how democratic principles are translated to the managerial model of public enterprises. There are numerous experiments in establishing democratic governance in public enterprises, for instance ‘Workers on the Board’ can be a good step forward. However, such worker representation alone is not generally sufficient to change the balance of power between management and worker. A real change in the relations of production thus remains limited.

Going beyond board representation, the Labour Party seeks to advance a new democratic form of management that values practical knowledge and skills of citizens and workers by involving both front line workers and service users in day to day decision-making. This requires a profound cultural shift in the attitudes and strategies of the public sector and in the consciousness and self-confidence of working people. Those who produce knowledge should be at the core of the design and operation of services, as McDonnell argues, ‘nobody knows better how to run industries than those who spend their lives with them’. This radically democratising approach of the Corbyn-led Labour Party was very popular and there is every reason why the new leadership of the Party should continue to keep them in the Party’s programme for government.

Collaboration from below: the experience of community wealth building

Since democratic public ownership for the 21st century involves collaboration between public institutions, citizens and workers, we can learn a lot from the experience of ‘community wealth building’ – a democratic form of community economic development with roots in the US. In the UK, the community wealth approach is now part of the so-called ‘Preston Model’ developed by the city of Preston after local authorities were let down by a private partner in a major regeneration project in 2008. Preston is now collaborating with other public authorities in the region to support local, unionised, and democratic enterprises. The model has been praised by both national and international media, and offers an important building block for further systemic change.

All in all, these experiences demonstrate that democratising public ownership requires more than institutional engineering. To shift the balance of power towards front-line workers and affected communities, we must also strengthen the role of worker’s and citizen’s organisations in shaping this transformation. These cannot be mere ‘participants’ – a democratic dynamic can only be realised if there is a conscious movement for industrial and service transformation coming from workers and communities themselves.

A longer version of this article appears in the TNI book The Future is Public, which can be downloaded free of charge here, and includes 15 full-length stories contributed by remunicipalists and de-privatisers around the world.

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Preston stats at a glance October 2017

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.

  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

Wealth building for our local economic recovery

Wednesday 16th September 2020by TOM LLOYD GOODWINTOPICS COVEREDCommunity wealth buildingcovid-19recovery

This article was originally published by LGiU

Economic recovery from Covid-19 looks set to be a long and painful process. Beset by business failure, huge levels of unemployment and social hardship, it will take government action on a scale unprecedented in modern times to safeguard the wellbeing of millions and drive the transformation required to build back better.

The public health crisis has seen an amazing response from communities, with energy and imagination that comes from solidarity, empathy and a genuine belief in the power of working together. This power needs to be harnessed, however. With the main economic crisis unfolding at pace, we now have private equity firms waiting in the wings to snap-up distressed business assets and take an even greater ownership stake in our economy. The stakes are high and to prevent us from falling into an “Amazon recovery”, where big businesses and corporate behemoths are the only winners, we must seek to animate the power of the community within the commercial economy.

Across the UK, a movement is growing of local leaders who are committed to leaving behind the failed model of trickle-down economics and who are focused on embracing progressive reform through community wealth building.

“community wealth building aims to retain as much wealth as possible in the economy – making it stick”

Emerging in the 2010s, community wealth building is a model of local economic development which tackles head on the challenges of building a long lasting and resilient economy. The approach is predicated on harnessing the power of local communities, with local agencies and institutions, to support local economies. As opposed to wealth being extracted by distant shareholders and owners, community wealth building aims to retain as much wealth as possible in the economy – making it stick.

At its core is a focus on locally productive forms of business. These “generative” businesses, such as employee owned firms, community business and social enterprise are firms in which wealth is both created and shared broadly between owners, workers and consumers, ultimately increasing local multipliers as wealth flows through to people and places.

“we call for the repurposing of existing business growth hubs and business support services to become new ‘community wealth hubs’”

Building on a community wealth building approach, we have recently published Own the Future – a guide for new local economies, which sets out how this approach can and must be mobilised to build genuinely inclusive local economies in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Crucially, we call for the repurposing of existing business growth hubs and business support services to become new “community wealth hubs”. These would provide an eco-system of financial, technical and social support. Here then, community energy would be channelled into the growth of employee ownership and new community-owned businesses to deliver goods and services hitherto delivered by extractive players in the private sector.

In harnessing community power to build back better, there is also a vital role for effective community engagement strategies to ensure diversity and inclusivity in rebuilding local economies.

“if ever there was a time to harness the power and energy in our communities to repurpose our economy, that time is now”

CLES is currently working with a number of local authorities to deliver recommendations as to how such strategies can be improved. An emerging theme from our recent work involves the crucial and evolving role that councillors must play in rebuilding trust, strengthening relationships with marginalised groups and creating more direct lines between people and power. Our work is also uncovering the important contribution of wider anchor institutions to the community engagement agenda. In Birmingham, Aston University Business School has secured funding from the European Regional Development Fund to support diverse and minority-owned businesses to enter the supply chains of major contractors/organisations with a view to building a more inclusive local economy. If ever there was a time to harness the power and energy in our communities to repurpose our economy, that time is now. Communities must be empowered to take the economy on as we rescue, recover and reform in the wake of Covid-19.

A green recovery for local economies

Friday 3rd July 2020by JONTY LEIBOWITZTOPICS COVEREDCommunity wealth buildingcovid-19green industrial revolutiongreen new dealgreen recovery

Covid-19 and the climate emergency both expose in different ways the fundamental lack of resilience in how we develop local economies in the UK. There has been a lot of talk about how we must “build back better”, but if we want a green recovery worthy of the name, it will mean confronting these underlying issues once and for all.

Local economies are, right now, between a rock and a hard place: the rock – an unprecedented economic collapse, with mass unemployment, business failure, and social destitution for many; the hard place – the looming threat of climate emergency, with every new hot day a reminder that the clock is ticking towards ecological collapse.

It is true that our responses to these crises will have to be vast, working at the national and global level. But the local dimensions of these two major ruptures must not be ignored. Just as the old saying goes that “all politics is local”, it is also true that the jobs lost to Covid-19 or the busting of a river dam, happen in real places and to real communities.

“localities have no choice but to boldly confront both issues, head on”

This means that localities have no choice but to boldly confront both issues, head on. Rather than waiting for enlightened action from Parliament or the UN, localities must be at the forefront of protecting their interests and their communities; and must do so urgently.

For CLES, the question is how can local economies play their part in tackling the climate emergency at the same time as responding to Covid-19?

That is why today we are launching A Green Recovery for Local Economies; a new publication that seeks to answer this question. In this paper, we call on localities across the UK to adopt a green recovery after Covid-19 and to develop recovery packages centred on social, economic, and environmental justice.

We believe that there are three broad principles that localities should follow in order to deliver this imperative.

1. A new local economics

CLES has previously argued that the current local economic development model pursued by almost all places in the UK is insufficient to meet the major economic, social, and environmental challenges we face. This is now doubly true in the era of climate emergency, in which the logic of growth and accumulation means that economically and environmentally extractive business models are left unchallenged, and, that tackling the climate emergency is at best relegated to be a second tier priority.

“Instead of “greening” the same old economic model, localities need to fundamentally embrace a new approach”

Localities that talk a good game on the climate whilst also expanding economic practices in sectors such as coal or aviation are effectively taking one step forwards, two steps back. Instead of “greening” the same old economic model, localities need to fundamentally embrace a new approach to local economic development that is rooted in the principles of the Green New Deal and community wealth building.

2. A green industrial strategy

Once a locality has embraced a new approach to local economic development, we need to look at the tools available to bring about the deep change needed in our economy to meet net zero targets. This is primarily a sectoral challenge, compounded by the mass unemployment and social destitution that will come from the Covid-19 crisis. By identifying key green sectors, and developing pipelines to reskill those facing unemployment, localities can replace the jobs lost to Covid-19 with green jobs that offer workers a “just transition” into the green economy. This work should be primarily realised through a new approach to local industrial strategy.

3. Harnessing the community wealth building toolkit

The emergence of the community wealth building movement in the UK has been a lesson in perseverance. Despite the infertile soil of extractive economics, austerity, and centralisation, localities have managed to drive ahead with progressive practice that helps alleviate real pain, and also shifts the dial towards good local economies for all.

“local leaders have been unafraid to confront orthodoxies in economic development thinking”

We now need to urgently bring the lessons from community wealth building into the movement for climate and environmental justice. This refers to both the spirit of community wealth building, in which local leaders have been unafraid to confront orthodoxies in economic development thinking, even when national government and powerful vested interests act in opposition. But it also means learning from specific policy lessons, most notably about the economic power of anchor institutions. In the publication, we outline how the community wealth building “toolkit” can be harnessed in this way, for example by using progressive procurement techniques to animate local food co-operatives, or to empower local suppliers to adopt carbon-friendly practices.

“This is a movement imbued with resolve”

Community wealth building has always been about using the power of local people and institutions to collectively resist the forces of extraction, and instead build an economy that values people over profit. This is a movement imbued with resolve, strengthened by a decade of lessons learnt, and an international network of thinkers and doers.

It is time to turn the attention of this movement to fight the biggest challenge facing all of us – the climate emergency. This will be the greatest challenge yet for the movement, and CLES looks forward to taking it on with our friends wherever they may be.

Own the future: a guide for new local economies

Monday 6th July 2020by FRANCES JONESTOPICS COVEREDbuild back betterCommunity wealth buildingcovid-19Own the future

Build back better. It’s a powerful phrase, but as post-Covid-19 economic policies begin to emerge, those three words are starting to ring hollow.

Based on what we have seen so far, there is little reason to think that what will transpire over the coming months and years will build back anything other than a worse economy than the one we had before. We will continue along a path that delivers on GDP but leaves a stain of rising in-work poverty, that creates a gulf between property owners and renters and that is accelerating rapidly towards ecological disaster.

However, an alternative exists. Emerging in the 2010s, community wealth building is a people-centred approach to local economic development that CLES and others have advanced in the UK and internationally over the last 10 years. Drawing on this body of work, CLES is today publishing “Own the future: a guide for new local economies” – a practical guide for how mainstream local economic development can and must be reimagined for the post-Covid-19 world.

“Once again officers are being asked to dust off their lists of “shovel ready” projects”

Last week’s announcements of accelerated infrastructure spending were wearingly predictable to anyone familiar with mainstream economic development in England of the last decade. Once again officers are being asked to dust off their lists of “shovel ready” projects, to compete against each other to demonstrate that their scheme will have a transformational impact on GVA, job growth and property values. To play this game all parties have to suspend what many know to be true and buy into the outdated notion that once investment capital has been secured, wealth, jobs and opportunity will trickle down for all to share. The reality is that over the last decade this approach has done nothing of the sort. In the face of unprecedented economic challenge, we urgently need to reset local economic development and equip it to build a new economy: one which functions to create human and environmental wellbeing.

“Community wealth building aims to retain as much wealth as possible in the economy – making it stick”

Community wealth building is a model of local economic development which tackles head on the challenges of building a long lasting and resilient economy. The approach uses the combined power of communities, businesses and institutions to advance higher proportions of spending and investment in our economies, so that it benefits local people and organisations. As opposed to wealth being extracted by distant shareholders and owners (as is often the case with hard infrastructure investment), community wealth building aims to retain as much wealth as possible in the economy – making it stick. At its core is a focus on forms of business which are locally owned and create a multiplier effect of benefits for local people, employees and communities. These “generative” businesses include SMEs, employee owned firms, community businesses and social enterprises – organisations who generate wealth that is retained in the community, rather than being extracted out to distant shareholders.

“Now is clearly the moment to seriously mobilise”

The community wealth building movement is growing and, with Scotland recently becoming the first national government to adopt the approach, now is clearly the moment to seriously mobilise a decade of community wealth building work by local government, citizens, businesses and a host of anchor institutions. In “Own the future” we describe the practical mechanisms for this mobilisation to take place. We set out two roles for local authorities which, taken together, constitute a powerful model for progressive local economic development:

  • The analyst – developing and maintaining a deep understanding of the underlying state of local economies and the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • The anchor and agent of change – acting as an economic anchor for their place and using that power to push forward post-Covid-19 economic recovery and reform.

In the guide we provide practitioners with comprehensive actions to advance these roles under five themes (building the generative economy, finance, land and property, spending and workforce) before providing worked examples in key sectors for how to bring together these tactics and levers.

In setting out these actions, we recognise that they go against some of the prevailing winds of the policy and financial framework of the UK government. That is why, throughout the guide, we supplement our practical prescriptions for action with information on the national policy changes which are needed to truly realise reform.

“This is the approach we must take”

We are under no illusion that the proposals set out in this guide will be easy. They constitute a profound reimagining of ten years of mainstream economic development practice and run counter to the thrust of much UK national policy. But if we are to build an economy that works for communities, that works to address climate change and creates resilience where there is risk and precarity, then this is the approach we must take.

Own the Future – In practice

Friday 17th July 2020by FRANCES JONESTOPICS COVEREDCommunity wealth buildingcovid-19Own the future

While the easing of the Covid-19 lockdown accelerates, a yawning gap is opening where we urgently need a national plan for economic rebuilding.

There can be no substitute for this – the crisis has shown it will take government action on a scale unprecedented in modern times to safeguard the wellbeing of millions and drive the economic transformation the pandemic has shown to be so critical. But below the radar of UK national policy debates a truly progressive economic response is being forged which foreshadows the approach we so urgently need.

Below the radar of National Policy

Across the UK a movement is growing of local leaders committed to leaving behind the failed models of trickle-down economics and ready not just to recover, but to embrace progressive reform through community wealth building (CWB). Last week, we published Own the Future – a guide for new local economies, which set out how these ideas can and must be mobilised to build genuinely inclusive local economies in the wake of the pandemic. Importantly, this was not an abstract prescription for what local government should be doing, it was a description of what pioneering local government is doing. In this blog we describe five places where CLES is working – spanning local and national government – to apply the ideas we set out in Own the Future.

All these places we describe below were committed to community wealth building before the pandemic hit, recognising the profound dysfunctions in their local economies and committing to intervene to address them. In collaborating with them to develop plans for economic recovery and reform we are building on these diagnoses, recognising that the present crisis makes the case for community wealth building all the stronger.

Wigan – Reimaging how local economies can work

In Wigan, CLES is working with the Council to put the five principles of community wealth building at the heart of Covid-19 recovery plans. In this the Council is developing a bold economic approach which builds on the underlying conviction of the much-celebrated Wigan Deal – that power should be shared with citizens and solutions codesigned. To apply this ethos to the economy, using all the firepower of the local state to advance it and underpinning this with a commitment to return economic power to citizens represents a reimagining of how we can make local economies work.

Councillor Keith Cunliffe, Wigan Council’s deputy leader, said:

“The impact of the Coronavirus crisis has brought the importance of Community Wealth Building into an even sharper focus.  The principles of CWB will form the basis of our future recovery plans here in Wigan Borough. Our collaboration with CLES is helping us establish Wigan’s own unique version of CWB. It will be the catalyst to put more economic control in the hands of local people and in so doing create an inclusive economy which nurtures and sustains all citizens.”

Lewes – Mobilising council assets for a sustainable local economy

In Lewes, the Council put the twin goals of community wealth building and sustainable transition from fossil fuels at the heart of its Corporate Plan in 2019. Here again, the pandemic has given renewed impetus to this work with the council collaborating with CLES and local partners to seize the moment to build back a socially and environmentally sustainable local economy.  These plans are heavily focused on mobilising council assets – including land, property and council housing investment – to shape and grow businesses and organisations which will create economic opportunities and lifelines to the people of Lewes.

Zoe Nicholson, leader of Lewes District Council said:

“We can emerge from the adversity of the pandemic by seizing the opportunity to change course and create something better than before. Working with CLES to bring about a profound reset of the Lewes economy is at the heart of how we will go about this – utilising Community Wealth Building ideas and practice to build a greener economy and address the inbuilt inequalities in our existing economic systems.”

Wirral – Embedding Own the Future ideas into a turbocharged community wealth building agenda

In Wirral, which hosted the 2019 CWB Summit, community wealth building has been the defining characteristic of the local economic approach for several years. Three years into the relationship with Wirral, CLES is now supporting the council to explore how to embed Own the Future ideas into their Covid-19 recovery planning. Wirral Council published a Community Wealth Building Strategy in early 2020, which included plans to develop anchor procurement; repurpose local business support resources to focus on community wealth building; and to participate in a North West Community Bank. The challenge is now to turbocharge these ideas in the new economic context and ensure that CWB principles are at the heart of building a more generative and sustainable economy.

Janette Williamson, Cabinet member for Finance on Wirral Council said:

“Covid has devastated our communities and local businesses.  It has laid bare the fault-lines in traditional, liberal economics. Wirral has already begun its Community Wealth Building journey with the launch of our strategy in February 2020, and with our Community Bank.  We will focus on progressive procurement, partnership working and the best use of assets to benefit the community. My vision for the Borough is that we embed the values and vision of CWB to underpin our local economic recovery strategy. We must put the community at the heart of our post-Covid regeneration and work with local independent businesses and social and creative enterprises to ensure we keep wealth within Wirral. CWB will help us build an ethical, healthy and resilient local economy going forward.”

Scotland and Wales – shifting national economic development policy

In Own the Future we described how the existing UK-wide policy frame and emerging recovery approach acts to inhibit rather than enable community wealth building. We also recognised the varied policy picture across the UK. It is therefore particularly encouraging to see both the Welsh and the Scottish governments embrace these ideas over recent months and both begin work with us to shift the frame of national economic development policy.

Scotland is the first national government to adopt community wealth building and it is seen as an important plank of how Scotland can deliver on its wellbeing economy aspirations. Community wealth building is highlighted in the Higgins report; produced by an independent advisory group established by the Scottish government to advise on Scotland’s economic recovery in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. With a pilot project underway in North Ayrshire and a number of other areas expected to get on stream within the next few months, the mobilisation of community wealth building is happening fast, assisted by the part time secondment of CLES CEO to Scottish government.  The focus straddles all 5 pillars of community wealth building and it is set to affect change to how mainstream infrastructural investment, business and community development policy and practice is delivered in coming months.

In Wales the procurement pillar of CWB is seen as an important aspect to the protecting and rebuilding of the Welsh economy. Work is underway by CLES and Welsh colleagues to understand where all public spending on goods and services in Wales goes, and how that presently aligns with vulnerable economic sectors and businesses within the welsh economy, in light of the Covid-19 crisis. Moving forward, CLES are working with Public Service Boards to assess that spending, and how it could be potentially repurposed to vulnerable enterprises and local economic sectors.

A growing movement

The actions of the organisations described above demonstrate that a profound reimagining of ten years of mainstream economic development practice is well underway. Through our Centre of Excellence for Community Wealth Building CLES is working with these and many other organisations – spanning local government, the NHS, the social and housing sectors – to accelerate and scale up the mobilisation of this practice. If you want to join this movement and build an economy that works for communities, addresses the climate emergency and creates resilience where there is risk and precarity, we would love to hear from you.

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