Wealth for all: Resources for Community Wealth Building
What is Community Wealth Building and why do we need it?
In the face of increasing inequality and the surge in food and fuel prices, communities and individuals are grappling with unprecedented economic challenges. In response, it is imperative to implement strategies that not only address these immediate concerns but also foster long-term economic growth and resilience.
First emerging in the 2000’s, community wealth building (CWB) emerged as a key strategy in the face of compounding challenges, with the primary goal of keeping wealth and investment in communities. Defined by the Democracy Collaborative, “Community Wealth Building (CWB) is an economic development model that transforms local economies based on communities having direct ownership and control of their assets. It challenges the failing approaches that have been widely accepted in American economic development for too long, and addresses wealth inequality at its core.” CWB recognizes that our dominant economic systems are not working, and that new approaches are needed that centre the needs and experiences of local communities. CWB is also a practical response to these challenges and an opportunity to reimagine local economic development, with an emphasis on local benefits for local people.
The pandemic exacerbated the pre-existing inequalities within vulnerable groups, including Indigenous peoples, women, and people of color, who are already facing greater inequality, barriers to employment and accessing basic services prior to the pandemic. For instance, among Indigenous individuals aged 24 to 54, the employment rate stands at 72.8%. In comparison, the employment rate for non-Indigenous individuals in the same age range is higher at 82.5%.
Community Wealth Building and SDG 8
During the UN General Assembly held in 2015 , the concept of decent work, along with the four pillars of the Decent Work Agenda—employment creation, social protection, rights at work, and social dialogue—became fundamental aspects of the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Decent Work is now enshrined in the 2030 Agenda in SDG 8. It is essential for workers so that they are paid and treated fairly and can support their families. In addition, ensuring decent work involves the following elements: implementing living wage regulations that are adjusted to inflation rates, workers’ right to unionize, and fair treatment and protection for temporary or seasonal staff members.
Decent work plays a vital role in both CWB and SDG 8, which centres around fostering economic transformation. As defined by the International Labour Organization (ILO), Decent Work is more than a job, it encapsulates the aspirations of people in their working lives. It includes opportunities for meaningful employment with fair income, workplace security, and social protection for all. Achieving SDG 8 requires a comprehensive overhaul of the current financial system to address escalating debts, economic unpredictability, and trade tensions, all while championing fair wages and equal employment for everyone. For most Ontarians, this means earning a minimum living wage of more than $20 per hour and equal opportunities for disadvantaged groups.
The five principles of CWB, prioritize shared ownership, progressive procurement, socially focused finance and land use as well as decent work. These principles form the core of CCWB strategies and help those implementing them prioritize fairness, inclusivity and prosperity for all while ensuring sustainable practices are in place.
At its core, CWB is all about conducting community economic development in a sustainable manner, ensuring that resources remain within the community through local, democratic, and inclusive enterprises.
Community Wealth Building at Work
In Ontario, a growing number of communities are exploring the opportunities for CWB. Community wealth building strategies, including community land trusts, social finance, and community benefit agreements, among others. For example, the Parkdale Neighbourhood Land Trust achieved their goal of removing a rooming house from the profit-driven market in Toronto with support from the local government. A coalition in Windsor Ontario developed a community benefit agreement (CBA) for construction of the Gordie Howe International Bridge. Work in Windsor and across southern Ontario inspired research by the Windsor-Essex Community Benefits Coalition, supported by the Atkinson Foundation, to explore opportunities for CWB in mid-sized cities. The Eglinton Crosstown LRT project included a precedent setting CBA Toronto that led to over $8 million in local procurement and over $8,000,000 in social procurement.
Social and sustainable procurement is another core principle of CWB where the process of acquiring goods and services can help an organization achieve strategic social, economic, and workforce development goals. Fostering inclusive economic development and enhancing the overall well-being of the community. For instance, the City of Toronto Social Procurement Program aims to create jobs and drive inclusive economic growth in the city. The program utilizes supply chain diversity and workforce development initiatives in the City’s procurement processes.
As communities seek to recover from the aftermath of the pandemic and the current rise in inflation, it is clear that traditional approaches are not enough to establish more inclusive and equitable economies. Although CWB emerges as a key strategy to solving these compounding challenges that local communities face, it is important to keep in mind that CWB is not a “one size fits all” approach and will require communities to tailor it to their particular needs.
Tools & Videos
The CWB toolbox includes a variety of different approaches that leverage local policy, investment and innovation to keep wealth in the community, create opportunities for decent work and support local enterprises.
This video shows how and why Community Land Trusts are so important to their local community. Kensington Market Community Land Trust and Tapestry Community Capital acquiring new properties in response to real estate pressure and address the need of the community.
A short video on the importance of achieving Decent Work and all the SDGs.
Dr. Audrey Jamal talks about the benefits of Community benefit agreements