TODAY (27th October), the Ministerial Advisory Panel on Community Wealth Building publishes a new report, ‘Recommendations to Advance Community Wealth Building in Northern Ireland.’ The report represents a milestone in the journey towards the establishment of a Community Wealth Building (CWB) programme in towns and cities throughout Northern Ireland. As such, it is also a representation of DTNI’s journey over the last six years, starting with the mapping of local economy and the contribution of our members, and evolving into the CWB agenda of today.
The panel – made up of Harry Connolly of Fáilte Feirste Thiar, Joe Guinan of The Democracy Collaborative, David Hunter former CEO of Access Employment Limited (AEL), Sarah McKinley of The Democracy Collaborative (Chair), and Brendan Murtagh of Queen’s University Belfast – has produced a series of recommendations shaped by the five pillars of CWB:
The report acknowledges that CWB ‘supports collective community ownership of, and democratic control over, the local economy.’ But that ‘to truly displace the extractive economy and all its ills, CWB must be properly supported and scaled.’
The good news is that decision makers appear to be ready to provide the cross-departmental commitment, as well as the requisite financial backing, that this requires.
Key recommendations include legislative support for a new Community Asset Transfer framework; a new social enterprise fund; the introduction of a Social Value Act; the auditing and repurposing of underutilised financial instruments for CWB; and a statutory footing for the real Living Wage.
Crucially, recognising that the principles of CWB are, as yet, relatively unknown beyond the departments of Finance and Communities, the panel also recommends the creation of a cross-departmental CWB Unit within the Northern Ireland Executive, ‘to promote, embed, and co-ordinate CWB across government.’
For DTNI members specifically, and for NI more generally, there is much to digest in the report, but also tangible objectives to get behind and start to work on. There is a recognition of the work that is being done at community level, and for the value that is brought to the economy by social businesses. There is an acknowledgement of the economic benefits that community anchor organisations bring to local places, and there is an attempt to democratise public service provision, for example, by exploring the potential of co-operatives and employee ownership.
We, at DTNI, recognise that these recommendations are informed by consultation and engagement, and that this must be ongoing. We will continue to lead in the interests of our members and the wider VCSE sector, as the CWB policy focus evolves.
As ever, we value the feedback of our members and encourage you to get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org with your comments.
The full report is available to download HERE