Community Wealth Building is currently a niche concept, with a tactical advantage. Over the coming months we predict a bigger system shock than COVID-19 will “flick the switch” and Community Wealth Building will undergo an increase in popularity due to systemic change. So much so that it will become the “new” normal. Or just ‘Normal’.
The benefits to people, communities and environments will be profound. In many cases the transition from the current system to the new may even be enjoyable!
The likelihood is better work via ownership, safer investment returns and demonstrable impact.
Ian McBurney (bHive) 2020
The death of the “Me Economy” is giving rise to the “We Economy”.
What Factors Into Community Wealth Building
Community Wealth Building is a multifaceted phenomenon.
What follows is a simple model for Community Wealth Building that views this local, distributed and regenerative economy as a pyramid.
Each “layer” of the pyramid is supporting and/ or supported by other layers of the pyramid.
At the base of this framework are the ‘3 Essentials for Ecosystem Building’ i.e Relationships, Enterprises and Infrastructure. This is the domain usually of economic development agencies, Local and State Governments.
The central stone of the pyramid is of course Enterprise(s). These will be Enterprises where stakeholders have an *actual* stake. This key function in Community Wealth Building is the domain of community entrepreneurship and is exciting as a stand alone pathway.
The Community Wealth Building pyramid consists of 3 building blocks.
The Pinnacle Stone is the apex of the Community Wealth Building pyramid. It consists of 2 parts – the Context and the Culture. The position and name of these factors shed some light on their importance.
The Green and Growing Pyramid
As the current “Me Economy” dies it causes a void that the “We Economy” needs to fill.
This requires new relationships, enterprises, ownership and funding models.
You can see this already playing out as the coal and gas fired centralised energy behemoths like AGL, Origin, Energy Australia etc aren’t substituting sources of coal for sources of solar. Instead they are finding themselves replaced with new energy sources and hundreds of community-owned energy co-operatives and companies.
This is the domain of incubators, entrepreneurship and technology driven innovation.
The Future-Friendly Pyramid
As the “Me Economy” aka conventional or current system breaks down the ‘champions’ of this system will talk about the necessity of these existing systems. Anyone considering alternatives will be accused of taking us back to the stone ages.
The “We Economy” must not argue this stupid point. It’s a red herring.
Instead we must focus on the enterprises, infrastructure, instruments and capital that is required in the future.
Whereas accelerated returns on capital was once the be-all and end-all of investment. You can already see the desire for capital to have impact beyond just a financial return.
The Future-Friendly Pyramid will be the domain of impact investors, local investors and the crowdfunding instruments that emerge to align the interests of stakeholders and capital.
Bringing It All Together
Community Wealth Building is as an exciting alternative economic narrative to the one that is breaking down in front of our very eyes.
There is good reasons to believe that Community Wealth Building will become the “new normal” of wealth building in a relatively short period of time.
- As a consumer being able to spend my money, expend my labour and invest where I live is compelling
- As an investor being able to invest alongside the community de-risks that investment. It makes it easier for investors at the early stage to envisage the Enterprise(s) or piece of Infrastructure that are using their capital will be – because of the community – successful.
- As an employee being able to work closer to home and doing more meaningful work is likely to turn pay-check employees into engaged stakeholders.