Community Wealth Building

Community wealth building (CWB) is a place-based approach to local economic development, which redirects wealth back into the local economy, and places control and benefits into the hands of local people.


Developed initially by the Democracy Collaborative in the United States, and championed in the UK by the progressive economics think tank Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES), CWB aims to ensure the economic system builds wealth and prosperity for everyone.

There are five core principles to CWB:

  • Inclusive Ownership – Developing more local and social enterprises which generate community wealth, including social enterprises, employee-owned firms and co-ops.
  • Spending – Maximising community benefits through procurement and commissioning, developing good enterprises, fair work and shorter supply chains.
  • Workforce – Increasing fair work and developing local labour markets that support the wellbeing of communities.
  • Land and Property – Growing the social, ecological, financial and economic value that local communities gain from land and property assets.
  • Finance – Ensuring that flows of investment and financial institutions work for local people, communities and businesses.

CWB in Scotland

The Scottish Government is committed to exploring the potential for CWB as an approach to delivering inclusive growth across Scotland, with six key projects in development across a range of contexts in Scotland starting with Ayrshire.  Neil McInroy, former Chief Executive of CLES has been seconded into the Scottish Government to help embed this way of working in our economic development, and support these six projects.

CWB in Scotland is growing in different ways, through locations, sectors and projects detailed below and shown in our CWB infographic.


North Ayrshire Council pioneered CWB in Scotland, and the Ayrshire Growth Deal includes a £3m SG funded project to support implementation. There is also the advancement of CWB in other parts of Scotland and SG is supporting the development of CWB action plans in Tay Cities Region (Fife Council), Glasgow City Region, Clackmannanshire, South of Scotland and Eilean Siar (Western Isles).


Major sectors have roles as anchor institutions through their spending, investment, employment and use of physical assets, and we are seeing the NHS, Universities, Colleges, the housing sector and Police Scotland consider how they can play their part in CWB.


Scotland has a strong track record in delivering projects which link to different aspects of CWB. These can be found all over Scotland, some examples include Midsteeple Quarter in Dumfries, West Harris Community Trust, Scotland’s growing number of employee-owned businesses such as the Jerba Campervans in East Lothian, and examples of innovative procurement and commissioning practice such as Perth & Kinross Council’s “Community Benefits Wish List”.

To showcase some of this fantastic work, and to help people understand what CWB can look like in practice, we are building a library of case studies.

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