Day 2 of our study visit, as part of DTNI’s Creating Resilient Local Economies project, and the delegation of staff and project participants attended the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES) Community Wealth Building Summit in Liverpool.
by Tiziana O’Hara
This event allowed us to reflect on community wealth building as a practice and identify the elements that we would like to see applied in Northern Ireland. The work of CLES has been central in developing a movement across UK and their five principles of community wealth building have helped them support local authorities to re-build the economy for social justice:
- Plural ownership of the economy
- Making financial power work
- Fair employment and just labour markets
- Progressive procurement
- Socially productive use of land and property.
It was clear that, in the majority of cases, local authorities in England are working with an under-developed social economy sector and there is much work to do to build this sector and the supply chain of goods and services – unlike in Northern Ireland, where community enterprises have been flourishing since the 1960s.
In the past four years, Northern Ireland has also been the scene of a quite radical reform of local government that focused on both the reorganisation of local councils and the transfer of some powers, such as local economic development, previously exercised and managed by central government departments.
The main challenge in Northern Ireland is to connect the work delivered on the ground by local community wealth builders with the work of the public sector, and align resources with the aim of amplifying community impact. There is recognition that the public sector is still well resourced when compared with other parts of the UK, and our approach is to explore new and alternative ways to engage with, as well as connect and build relationships between, the community enterprises and local government. To test this approach we have established two ‘Good Economy Partnerships’ in Antrim & Newtownabbey and Newry, Mourne & Down council areas.
Some priorities are to:
- explore how to adequately resource community enterprises
- introduce progressive procurement practices
- develop more pre-commissioning dialogue with community enterprises
- encourage community use of vacant and underused buildings and land
As we learned about the work carried out in cities such as Liverpool, London and Manchester, we are also aware of emerging issues pertinent to the rural aspects of the two areas we are engaging with. The main message we took from the Summit was that, in order to succeed, we need to connect all community wealth builders, no matter what sectors they are in.
If you are a community wealth builder and interested in continuing this conversation, please get in touch.