By Sam Doove
A standout feature of community wealth building as a framework for redesigning local economies is the many practical strategies it offers – strategies that can be applied at all levels from individuals through to regional or national. An emerging group of community wealth building advocates are those at the enterprise level. There is a strong history in Australia of local communities coming together to save local businesses and infrastructure that the community sees as essential. These range from service stations, to general stores, post offices to pubs. This typically sees local people pool their capital to fund the buy out of an asset, which is then owned and controlled by many. The very nature of these community action models means that many community wealth building principles are embedded in the business model that emerges.
We are however also seeing a wave of innovative entrepreneurs who are seeking to design enterprises that go beyond simply serving a market, to ones that are regenerative in nature – both environmentally and socially. Enterprises that give back more to people and place than they take. The five pillar framework of CWB – enterprise design, spending and supply chains, workforce, finance and assets, can be effectively applied at an enterprise level to help create these regenerative business models that entrepreneurs are seeking. Not only does this further local economic transformation, but it also creates layered enterprises that are embedded in place and resilient to
Our recent capability building workshop with over 45 participants of WWF’s Innovate to Regenerate Program demonstrated the desire and willingness for these innovation leaders to be a powerful driving force for community wealth building and local economic systems change. Where community wealth building at a council and regional level has dominated work in the space to date, this growing interest from entrepreneurs in regenerative ventures provides another path for policy makers and enablers to embed CWB principles into local economies. This lends itself to exploring the question of how government and other enablers can encourage more enterprises to understand and incorporate CWB into their business models as drivers of systems change.