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Regional and Economic Development via Community Wealth Building

by | Apr 30, 2021 | Community Wealth Building

This article is written by Meaghan Burkett

Community Wealth Building is a regional and economic development field and movement.

It’s a system changing approach that works to strengthen our regions and communities by improving local outcomes, from development and economic activity, that occurs in the region. It aims to create an inclusive economy and produce broadly shared economic prosperity, social equity, and ecological sustainability. It stops wealth and control flowing out of our communities, towns and cities and redirects control, ownership and benefits to the people that live and work in that region and place or to the people that love and rely on that product or service. It makes financial power work for local places and anchors industry and jobs locally. It provides an alternative solution to traditional regional development that relies on attracting business and investment to a region and trickle-down benefits that have resulted in wealth and resource extraction, disinvestment, displacement and disempowerment.

Community wealth building is not simply about correcting disadvantage and inequality, or about making marginal improvements in the regeneration of a few isolated communities. It’s based on a new configuration of development and economic institutions and approaches capable of producing more sustainable, lasting, and equitable outcomes built on locally rooted and broadly held ownership. It reconfigures the system to create greater democratic ownership and participation (1).

It is about moving in the direction of a different development and economic system, linking bottom-up forms of development with economic and political interventions at a variety of scales to create communities and economies in which all can flourish (1). It provides a new solution that moves us beyond capitalism, socialism or communism, local versus global, free-market versus command economy. It acknowledges the strengths and weaknesses in each of these approaches and then offers an advanced development model by combining the benefits of each of these. 

Community Wealth Building is a 21st century solution for regional development, community development and local economic development.  It can create prosperous, diverse, stable, resilient and adaptive local economies and communities. And most importantly, it provides practical, on-the-ground solutions that you can start adopting and implementing today.

Key principles and objectives

Regional and economic development via community wealth building involves the following key principles and objectives:

  • Place-based – focuses on place;
  • People-centred – empowers the people that most value and rely on it;
  • Inclusion & diversity – creates an inclusive economy and society that works for all;
  • Ownership & control – enables broad investment, ownership and a stake in the local economy, infrastructure, land and enterprises;
  • Wealth & capital – makes financial power work for local places and people;
  • Local value capture and multipliers – optimises economic and social outcomes;
  • Anchors – anchors industry and jobs locally;
  • Collaboration – based on interconnected relationships and partnerships.


Benefits and Outcomes

There are many benefits and outcomes that community wealth building offers and leads to including:

  • Gives stakeholders an actual stake;
  • Enables whole-of-place partnerships and improves local cohesion;
  • Strengthens democracy;
  • Increases individual wealth and wealth diversification;
  • Increases income security;
  • Improves economic and social equality;
  • Seed’s innovation;
  • Increases regional economic diversification, security and resilience;
  • Increases regional prosperity and the municipal tax base;
  • Increases local outcomes and benefits from economic and development activity;
  • Inspires and enables long-term and transformational change;
  • Creates prosperous, connected, diverse, stable, resilient and adaptive local economies and communities.

Ethical Fields works with partners to design and activate community wealth building strategies, enterprises and initiatives. We work with government, regional development agencies, enterprises, community organisations and leaders, land holders, industries and professional associations. Please get in touch if you’d like to explore and/or adopt regional and economic development via community wealth building. 

We also invite you to join an Australian CWB Community of Practice for organisations and individuals interested in and/or actively implementing community wealth building development strategies in their region and community. Join for networking, events and sharing innovation, projects, programs, initiatives, investing and more.