One year on from the launch of the Community Wealth Fund Alliance, Public Affairs Officer at Lloyds Bank Foundation, Rachel Cain, writes about the importance of putting communities at the heart of key decision-making on how money is spent locally. The idea is gaining traction across the third sector and is backed by 150 organisations.
As Brexit looms there is a profound need for a positive vision for the future. A movement is building around the idea of a Community Wealth Fund – a national, long-term initiative which starts with communities at a local level.
The Brexit conversation has highlighted and intensified the divisions that exist within communities. The phrase ‘left-behind communities’ is thrown around without much interrogation into its meaning and how to change things for the better – further alienating and dividing communities in the process. We know that there are places which aren’t benefiting from economic growth. We know that there are areas where jobs are scarce and uncertain, and where transport links are lacking. We also know that many communities have lost important social infrastructure – the places to meet which are vital for building the bonds that hold people together. Where is the vision for change?
Small and local charities like the ones we fund are often created with, by and for the communities they exist to serve. They are distinct in how they build trust, act as a foundation for change and take a person-centred approach which allows people to determine what they need to move forward.
These issues play out first and foremost at a local level and this is where change must start. One of the biggest challenges people face is feeling a lack of choice and control to shape and be part of the communities they live in. Civil society has a vital role to play in this. Small and local charities like the ones we fund are often created with, by and for the communities they exist to serve. They are distinct in how they build trust, act as a foundation for change and take a person-centred approach which allows people to determine what they need to move forward. They bring new resources into the community and act as the ‘glue’ which brings people and services together.
But even where this community infrastructure exists, it is underfunded and overstretched. Smaller charities in particular have lost up to 44% of their funding from public bodies at a time when demand is rising, leading to closure or reduced services. To realise a positive vision, there needs to be long-term strategic funding, targeted to the communities which need it most.
This is the vision of the Community Wealth Fund. An idea backed by an alliance of voluntary, public and private sector organisations. The campaign is calling for a new multi-billion-pound endowment, created from dormant assets, to invest in the communities where disadvantage is most acute. This fund will provide strategic funding focused on building capacity and infrastructure. The funding could come from the next wave of dormant assets from insurance and pension policies, bonds, stocks and shares, matched with investment from larger companies. Most importantly, local people will lead the way this fund is spent, reflecting what positive change in their area should look like.
A year since its launch, the Community Wealth Fund Alliance has been backed by 150 organisations across sectors and regions, and the idea is gaining traction. The answer to a positive vision for the future lies with the people who know their community best – they just need the funding and opportunity to put it into action. Read more about the idea, the research behind it and how you can get involved by signing up to join the alliance.