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What is Community Wealth Building?

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Community Wealth Building is about ensuring that workers are paid a Living Wage, that employers invest in skills and training, that financial institutions invest in the productive economy rather than financial speculation and it is about exploring alternative methods of economic organisation and economic governance.

You can find articles addressing issues around community wealth building and the role of co-operatives at the London school of Economics and Political Science and Co-operatives UK.

Four basic principles

Community Wealth Building is an approach, developed initially by the Democracy Collaborative in the United States, which aims to ensure the economic system builds wealth and prosperity for everyone.

The US approach is built around 8 basic principles, however the UK has focused on four main elements:

  • Wealth that's there - harnessing the power of the money that anchor institutions are spending on procuring goods and services. Aiming to localise as much of that spend as possible, securing investment in local supply chains and improving local economic competitiveness
  • Workforce - maximising the benefits of investment in staff by building a skilled and committed workforce and providing an exemplar to local businesses. Paying at least the Living Wage to all employees and encouraging staff to spend local and save local, including through Credit Unions.
  • Land, Property and Investments - using anchor institution assets to lever in additional investment, to encourage the development of new businesses and support new methods of financial intermediation. To consider asset transfer to community or private sector interests where this best serves the interests of the wider community.
  • Economic democracy - supporting the growth of alternative models of economic governance which give citizens greater investment in and control over their economic future. This can mean the development of new co-operatives as well as other ways of helping people feel ownership of assets and decision-making processes.

What are anchor institutions?

Anchor institutions are those institutions in the local area that cannot relocate to another part of the country. They are things like local councils, universities and colleges, local housing associations, and the local emergency services, which are all invested in their local area and promote community well-being for that area.

They also spend substantial amounts of money that is retained within the local area. While most of their employees are likely to live within the local area, and spend their wages there, they also have significant procurement and investment spend which can also be spent locally.

They have a collective interest in seeing their local area improve. The question is, how can they best co-operate to ensure this happens? 

Where can I find out more information?

Preston has been at the forefront of implementing the principles of community wealth building in the UK.

We have collaborated with our colleagues at the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES) since 2013. In May 2019 Preston City Council and CLES produced, How we built community wealth in Preston, which provides an overview of our progress and achievements. 

A key aspect of our work with CLES has been the analysis of the spend of anchor institutions.

Together we have published two publications, which track and review this work.

To view these download Icon for pdf Community Wealth Building through Anchor Institutions [167.39KB] and Icon for pdf The role of Anchor Institutions [381.04KB]

If you wish to find out more about Preston's experience, please register your interest in joining us at a Community Wealth Building workshop in Preston in 2020 by sending an email to

The workshop will bring together key players who have been involved in community wealth building in Preston and provide an update on our plans going forward.

Further details about this event will become available soon.

Unfortunately due to capacity constraints we cannot meet individual requests for interviews, meetings and presentations or facilitate academic research projects.

Procurement and the URBACT Partnership  

Procurement is just one tool that can be used to benefit the community.

We have developed our work on procurement through leading the Procure URBACT network involving 10 other European cities.

The project has sought to develop best practice on procurement and social value, consistent with both UK and EU procurement law.

The baseline report and the technical report of procurement law for the project can be accessed by downloading Icon for pdf Creating a good local economy through procurement - procure network partners and URBACT [645.79KB] and Icon for pdf Creating a good local economy through procurement - Pre-meeting briefing notes [286.78KB]

Utilising procurement is partly dependent on the application of the UK's Social Value Act

Procurement is just one tool that can be used to benefit the community. To view an overview of our procurement activity to support community wealth building in Preston please download Icon for pdf CWB and Procurement Activity in Preston [1016.91KB].

Related Video

The Centre for Local Economic Strategies has made this video to explain how Community Wealth Building works.

They say too many people are facing rising poverty, inequality and financial insecurity while the powerful few get wealthier. Although rivers of wealth flow through local places, traditional economic development, focused on investment, diverts it, with profits and dividends often being extracted by investors.

Local wealth building is an alternative; it is a collaborative approach that builds locally controlled economies which put communities first.

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