Community wealth building (CWB) is a system-changing approach to community economic development that works to produce broadly shared economic prosperity, racial equity, and ecological sustainability through the reconfiguration of institutions and local economies on the basis of greater democratic ownership, participation, and control.
A new model of economic development is emerging in our cities and communities. Offering real, on-the-ground solutions to localities and regions battered by successive waves of extraction, disinvestment, displacement, and disempowerment, it is based on a new configuration of economic institutions and approaches capable of producing more sustainable, lasting, and equitable economic outcomes. Rooted in place-based economics, with democratic participation and ownership, and mobilizing the largely untapped power of the local public sector and other anchor institutions, we call this emerging approach “community wealth building.”
Community wealth building stands in opposition to the prevailing model of economic development that puts the accumulation of private wealth and profit above the basic needs of people—entrenching and exacerbating racial, economic, and geographic disparities.
There is no one-size-fits-all model of community wealth building. Rather, it is a bottom-up approach that centers democratic ownership of the economy and community self-determination. This means that each local experiment with community wealth building might be different, based on the local context, ecosystem, resources, and politics.
What all community wealth building strategies have in common, however, is that they aim at improving the ability of communities and individuals to increase broad-based asset ownership, anchor jobs and resources locally, create broadly shared prosperity, and ensure local community economic stability and democratic control. Importantly, true community wealth building must be reparative and inclusive by design so that it delivers for those who have historically been the most excluded, marginalized and exploited.
Community wealth building is not simply about correcting some of the worst injustices of corporate capitalism, or about making marginal improvements in the economic health of a few isolated communities. Instead, it is about moving in the direction of a different political-economic system, linking new bottom-up forms of development with economic and political interventions at a variety of scales to create an economy in which all can flourish.
Community wealth building is economic system change, starting at the local level.
Tools and resources
The COVID-19 pandemic could become a moment of crystallization, with communities and governments working together to build a genuinely inclusive economy. But to do so, we need ambitious interventions, both at the national level and at the level of a new common sense, built upward from community.
Drawing on the work done in the Learning/Action Lab for Community Wealth Building, Stephanie Gutierrez explores how a systemic approach to inclusive local economic development needs a process of active translation to resonate with the traditional values at the core of Native communities.
In an era of persistent urban inequality and chronic unemployment disproportionately impacting historically marginalized communities and communities of color, new alternatives to the traditional economic development strategies are clearly needed. This report responds to this challenge by highlighting best practices in inclusive innovation from twenty cities across the country, and offering a unified vision of the underlying new paradigm of community focused economic development.
Introduction: The Kigoma-Preston Collaboration
Deepening inequality and “jobless growth” are global trends, raising concerns about a dominant economic system that concentrates wealth in relatively few hands.
The “Preston Model” is helping inspire a new conversation about the role of local government in catalyzing locally-driven economic revitalization and transforming patterns of ownership towards democratic alternatives.
Community Control of Land and Housing: Exploring strategies for combating displacement, expanding ownership, and building community wealth
How investments in the green infrastructure needed for climate resiliency can be leveraged to build community wealth with worker cooperatives and social enterprises.
Our broken economic model drives inequality and disempowerment, lining the pockets of corporations while extracting wealth from local communities. How can we reverse this?
Drawing on a decade’s worth of conversations with key leaders in the growing field, from cooperative developers and community activists to impact investors and social enterprise innovators, this book of interviews from the Democracy Collaborative dives into the front lines of the movement to build community wealth.
Low-income communities and communities of color, in challenging structural economic and social inequality, have historically grappled with tensions inherent to development. Who participates in, directs, and ultimately owns the economic-development process? This report draws on case studies of 11 different community economic development initiatives from across the U.S. to highlight a diverse set of powerful answers to this and other critical questions.
While many cities and communities rely on a “smokestack chasing” approach to economic development, others are starting to focus on a new approach to economic development that centers people and place. Instead of measuring growth by just revenue, this approach, coined “community wealth-building,” strengthens the local economy through broader democratic ownership and control of business and jobs.
An important shift brought about by the community wealth building movement is towards regionalizing and localizing financial flows and keeping money in communities through initiatives such as local currencies and community banks. This is now rapidly catching on in the UK.
The former CEO of a leading UK economic think tank will be central in helping build capacity to offer powerful new technical assistance to cities and local authorities pursuing community wealth building strategies.
The Healthcare Anchor Network (HAN) convened the “Anchoring Resilience: Aligning Supply Chains and Impact Purchasing for Community Health” summit to spark collaboration in the healthcare sector around onshoring and localizing production of PPE and other supplies, with an emphasis on equity, sustainability, and supply chain resilience.
As our housing crisis worsens during the COVID-19 pandemic, we urgently need new approaches and institutions that center permanent affordability, community ownership and control, and the long-term goal of decommodification.