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UK partnership works to diversify community wealth building and the cooperative sector

Centering community and place Redesigning the enterprise

The city council of the United Kingdom town of Preston has commissioned development cooperative Stir to Action to deliver a groundbreaking new program as part of its community wealth building initiative, focused on providing targeted support for Black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) organizations in the city, stimulating cultural awareness and interest in worker-owned businesses.

With BAME communities suffering disproportionate impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, and systemic racial inequality in the spotlight in recent months, the project, “Community Anchors: A Co-operative Recovery,” is designed to develop lasting economic security through democratic business ownership. 

Community wealth building is where local authorities and anchor institutions (such as universities and hospitals) redirect their spending towards locally owned businesses in order to increase local wealth. Preston city councillor Matthew Brown, a fellow at The Democracy Collaborative, helped pioneer the community wealth building effort in the city. It has become a widely recognized approach for tackling inequalities and supporting local economic development.

Despite the success of community wealth building, as with the wider cooperative movement, there have been some difficulties in ensuring that businesses reflect the diversity of modern Britain and work in the most marginalized communities. Though specific demographic data is currently not available, some estimates put the proportion of BAME cooperatives as less than 2% of the sector as a whole.

In Preston, the “Community Anchors: A Co-operative Recovery” program will be co-produced with the groups that will benefit, including BAPS Hindu Mandir, Preston United Youth Development Programme, and Preston Windrush Generation and Descendants UK. The program will support local organizations to become “community anchors” that can promote the cultural relevance and benefits of co-operatives through awareness-raising activities, and also signpost their members and users to the latest funding opportunities and business support. The six-week program of webinars and learning circles starts at the beginning of November and ends in early December with plans for next steps and post-program support. 

More information and program endorsements can be found on the Stir to Action website.

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