EDAS Community Wealth Building Open Session 2

The EDAS Community Wealth Building Open Session 2, welcomed practitioners from across the field of Economic Development to listen to speakers from the USA, where Community Wealth Building originated. The session drilled down into four locations which are successfully advancing CWB strategy and activity, as well as the role of the American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding and ideas under development for Federal US CWB legislation.


• Liz McEntee, Chair, EDAS
• Neil McInroy, Community Wealth Building Advisor, Scottish Government
• Sarah McKinley, Director of European Programmes & Next System Project Representative, Democracy Collaborative
• Anne Tate, Professor, Rhode Island School of Design
• Nneka Onwuzurike, Consultant, Office of Equity and Racial Justice
• Julie Wilson, Associate Professor of Communication Arts, Allegheny College


Recording of session

Click on the video below to play. You can download the slides here.


Poll results

View the PDF of our poll results here.



Key points from speakers

Neil McInroy, Community Wealth Building Advisors, Scottish Government – Introduction
– Neil began by outlining the similarities between Scotland and the US: 1. Traditional economic development is failing 2. Deindustrialisation has affected many communities 3. There are deep rooted issues of poverty, class and racial injustice 4. Failures in regeneration – it’s not enough 5. Municipality – considering economic development on a local level.
– There are four objectives that The Democracy Collaborative are focusing on both in Scotland and the US: 1. Growing networks 2. Supporting pilot projects as deeper dives into CWB strategies 3. Linking CWB to other policy areas and government departments 4. In the US drafting federal CWB legislation and working with congress – parallels to the introduction of Community Wealth Building Bill expected this parliament, in Scotland.
– There are also a few differences between Scotland and the US that affects Community Wealth Building: 1. Injustices are more extreme 2. Deindustrialisation is often worse 3. Wealth extraction from communities is stronger 4. Antipathy to state intervention is stronger 5. Social and racial solidarity brings stronger community ties 6. Less ideological inertia; more of an experimental “do it” attitude.

Sarah McKinley, Director of European Programmes & Next System Project Representative, Democracy Collaborative
– Sarah began by outlining the beginnings of Community Wealth Building. A term coined in the early 2000s, the aim was to bring existing forms of community initiatives into one approach and strategy, a holistic way of thinking about economic development the democratises the economy – both national and local.
– The 2010 project in Cleveland Ohio (the ‘Cleveland Model’) was designed to benefit both employees and the local community. The Evergreen Cooperative is overseen by a community board, and entity which also receives some of the profits which are then reinvested in the community. It can also purchase local businesses and firms due to go out of business and bring them into the cooperative. The overall effect supports community wellbeing and reverses the previous disinvestment.
– Moving forward, it’s time to scale up. No longer just a project, this approach can be used as an economic development strategy to build and strengthen local economies.

Nneka Onwuzurike, Consultant, Office of Equity and Racial Justice
– As the third largest city in the US, Chicago suffers from stark racial wealth and health gaps which is where a lot of economic development activity is targeted. Equity became a focus for local government with election of the new Mayor – the question was: what could equitable economic development look like?
– The previous strategy saw wealth building programmes focused on jobs, it was missing analysis of who owns and controls assets in the community. A new strategy and tools were required, but with the best CWB models being community driven, what was the role of the City?
– Four areas of focus were decided: education and awareness, city levers, city policies and investment partnerships. The tangible aims of this were: to shift power to the community, to build an ecosystem as opposed to funding a small number of large projects, having key projects as proof points which will shift policy and gain allocated City budget.

Anne Tate, Professor, Rhode Island School of Design
– Anne began by setting the scene of Somerville’s current position. A dense, historically working class city affected by deindustrialisation, received an influx of students and artists because of lower rents and living costs. The City then became a vibrant place for startups and creative industries and is now attracting large amounts of investment from tech companies who want to base themselves there.
– The challenge for Somerville differed slightly to other cities. The aim is to figure out a structure that taps into the incoming investment streams, to directly benefit the communities. The main focuses in the strategy are: 1. Create a network of support for cooperatives and startups 2. Work with anchors (universities and hospitals) 3. Create jobs pipelines 4. Use land trusts and other mechanisms to drive down rents (residential and commercial).
– Somerville benefits from both progressive representation and progressive communities. A real life example was one new development proposing elements that the community didn’t want. The community fought, said what they wanted and they won. This is an example of the ultimate aim – to align community needs and wished with the incoming investment and growth.

Julie Wilson, Associate Professor of Communication Arts, Allegheny College
– Meadville is a midsize city located on the rust belt. It’s predominantly white, largely conservative and the poverty rate is high. Once a booming place “tool city” that thrived throughout the great depression, it’s been starkly affected by deindustrialisation. There is a lack of living wage jobs, affordable housing, and municipal capacity. It also struggles to maintain precious community assets.
– Whilst representation and community are largely conservative, there is a “progressive edge” to Meadville, born from a pride in place and community spirit that’s transferred to its community assets as well. This is now also translating to new municipal leadership with more cooperative involvement in the local authorities and on the city council.
– The opportunities are: reframe assets for local enterprise, manufacture through worker-ownership, redirect anchors to collaborate on CWB, establish more cooperatives as vehicles for new economic development initiatives. There are also challenges: cultural inertia – “we’ve always done things this way”, lack of investment and resources, political attitudes – “this is socialism”, and leadership among the ownership class.