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Community wealth building

Community wealth building (Cleveland Model)

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.

Learn more

What is Community Wealth Building?

Traditional economic development wastes billions of dollars of taxpayer money to subsidize the profit of corporations with no loyalty to the communities who foot the bill. But there’s an alternative: community wealth building, which focuses on building collaborative, inclusive, and locally controlled economies. Learn more in this animated explainer video. 
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Traditional economic development wastes billions of dollars of taxpayer money to subsidize the profit of corporations with no loyalty to the communities who foot the bill. But there’s an alternative: community wealth building, which focuses on building collaborative, inclusive, and locally controlled economies. Learn more in this animated explainer video. 

Community Wealth Building: Eight Basic Principles

Based on Ted Howard’s remarks to the recent Alternative Models of Ownership conference, we’ve distilled the eight basic principles behind community wealth building—a transformative approach to local economic development—into this handy one page guide.

CWB: 8 Basic Principles

Based on Ted Howard’s remarks to the recent Alternative Models of Ownership conference, we’ve distilled the eight basic principles behind community wealth building—a transformative approach to local economic development—into this handy one page guide.

Tools and resources

A community celebrating a solar array

Resources for community partners

How to advance community wealth building in your geography
A view of the US Capitol

Resources for local government

Getting started on advancing community wealth building through local policy
A joint event podium for the Cleveland Clinic and Evergreen Energy Solutions

Resources for anchor institutions

How anchor institutions can leverage their resources to build community wealth
An aerial photo of an urban community

Resources for funders and financial institutions

How to support the community wealth building ecosystem

Key readings

Owning the Future: After COVID-19, a new era of community wealth building

The COVID-19 pandemic could become a moment of crystallisation, 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 upwards from community.

An Indigenous Approach to Community Wealth Building: A Lakota Translation

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.

Cities Building Community Wealth

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.

Building community wealth globally: The Kigoma-Preston collaboration

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 Cleveland Model: How the Evergreen Cooperatives Build Community Wealth

The Cleveland Model brings community economic development and the purchasing power of anchor institutions like hospitals and universities together into a single coordinated strategy to build democratized wealth and cooperative business ownership in low-income neighborhoods. 

The Preston model: An overview

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

This report seeks to broaden awareness, discourse, and adoption of community control of land and housing strategies among various stakeholders who have a genuine desire to see stable, healthy, equitable, and sustainable local communities flourish.

Building Resiliency through Green Infrastructure: A Community Wealth Building Approach

How investments in the green infrastructure needed for climate resiliency can be leveraged to build community wealth with worker cooperatives and social enterprises.

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The Case for Community Wealth Building

Our broken economic model drives inequality and disempowerment, lining the pockets of corporations while extracting wealth from local communities. How can we reverse this?

Conversations on Community Wealth Building

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.

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Community Wealth Innovators

Working with leading practitioners in the field to document the inspiring new models and critical lessons learned in on-the-ground efforts to build more inclusive and equitable local economies.

Educate and Empower: Tools for Building 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.

An Anchor Strategy for the Energy Transition

An Anchor Strategy for the Energy Transition

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.

The role of regional cooperative banks in community wealth building

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 latest

The role of regional cooperative banks in community wealth building

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.

Building the democratic economy, from Preston to Cleveland

In June 2018 The Laura Flanders Show released a special report, “

The Preston model: An overview

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 Wealth Summit

The summit is a week of virtual learning and place-based organizing to rebuild local economies around shared ownership and racial justice.

Racial & Ethnic Economic Inequality and the COVID-19 Pandemic

The Democracy Collaborative prepared a report, created for the Healthcare Anchor Network, that looked at how racial and ethnic disparities in the economy are showing up in the COVID-19 pandemic and in the public policy response to the pandemic. The report also covers how the economic effects of the pandemic will likely impact racial and ethnic inequality.

International research project launched to explore role of healthcare institutions in local economies

The Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES) and The Democracy Collaborative (TDC) will today announce the launch of a joint research project to explore the role of the NHS within local economies across the UK.