Julie McLachlan, Senior Manager for Economic Policy at North Ayrshire Council, blogs on community wealth building in North Ayrshire, anchor institution collaboration and the lessons learned from their journey so far.
As we emerge from Covid-19 we need to build back better, fairer and greener. That is why we have launched our Community Wealth Building strategy – the first of its kind in Scotland – to put forward a new economic model to support North Ayrshire’s economic recovery and renewal.
It is no secret that North Ayrshire has some of the highest levels of social and economic deprivation in Scotland. In 2019, the Centre for Progressive Policy’s Inclusive Growth Community Index identified North Ayrshire as having the lowest inclusive growth score in Scotland. With longstanding economic challenges combined with the climate emergency, it is clear that the current economic model is not working and it’s not working for places like North Ayrshire in particular.
That’s why we’ve chosen a different path. Our Community Wealth Building strategy sets out how we will become Scotland’s first Community Wealth Building Council. Our mission is to enhance local wealth and the creation of fair jobs, maximising the potential of all our places through working in partnership with our communities and businesses, alongside wider local and regional anchor institutions.
We have six ambitious objectives to deliver Community Wealth Building:
- Community Wealth Building Council: We will work across all our services and wider local and regional partners to implement Scotland’s first approach to Community Wealth Building
- Procurement: We will use our spend to actively encourage and support a growing, diverse and resilient local business base, and to support our net zero carbon ambitions
- Fair employment: We will encourage the creation of fair and meaningful jobs with progression opportunities to unlock the potential of our residents
- Land and assets: We will support the wider regeneration of our communities by maximising all of our land and assets including through alternative uses for community and business benefit
- Financial power: We will invest locally and encourage regional and national institutions to invest in our communities
- Plural ownership of the economy: We will support the creation and sustainability of a range of business models including SMEs, social enterprises, employee ownership, cooperatives, municipal activity and community enterprises.
Working collaboratively with other anchor institutions in the region will be key to achieving the change we desire. Anchor institutions are organisations that are rooted to an area. Typically, they employ a lot of people and have real buying and spending power.
What constitutes an anchor institution will depend on the scale of the local economy and the geography of the local place. They include local government, the NHS, colleges and universities, but can also include small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), community organisations and charities.
We’ve brought North Ayrshire and Ayrshire’s leading anchor institutions together and formed a Community Wealth Building Commission. Our aim is to embed the principles of Community Wealth Building within major regional anchor institutions to support a more inclusive economy. The Commission recently celebrated a major landmark with the launch of an Anchor Charter.
The Ayrshire Community Wealth Building Anchor Charter commits local and regional anchor institutions to a range of pledges across the five pillars of Community Wealth Building (procurement, fair employment, land and assets, financial power, plural ownership of the economy) and a ‘sixth pillar’ of climate action. Our mission is to improve collective wellbeing and create a strong, resilient and inclusive local and regional economy.
We’re still at the first stage of our journey and Community Wealth Building is a long-term ambition for the Council. We have reflected on some of the key lessons from our work so far and would highlight the importance of the following factors for those looking to begin this journey:
- Strong leadership, setting a vision and getting buy in
- Educating anchors institutions and senior leaders on what Community Wealth Building is and the role they can play in creating a more inclusive economy
- Engaging ‘bottom up’ with local businesses, social enterprises and community organisations
- Being prepared to rethink the way we traditionally do things
- Valuing challenge and feedback - for example, we’ve set up an Expert Advisory Panel to challenge us and ensure best practice.
North Ayrshire Council are one of 12 members of the Inclusive Growth Network. To access further resources and learning from the network, click here.