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As we wrap up and evaluate the Connect Fund in the coming months, we share some of the learning in this mini-series of blogs.  

Inspired by the work of our grant partners in the Challenging Power with Participation Funding strand we wanted to test out solving problems in the social investment sector with our own participatory model: ‘The Gathering Ideas Fund’. The Gathering is a two-day residential conference bringing together over 130 of the country’s most prominent social investors, infrastructure organisations, foundations and social enterprises. As the Connect Fund has a dual role of providing grants and helping to convene the sector, we saw the conference as a unique opportunity to host the fund, as too often sector conferences discuss the problems and not the solutions. We knew that we wanted the Gathering to have a grant budget behind it, then letting the participants take that control was the natural next step.  

The aim of the fund was to ensure that the challenges and ideas being discussed could be followed up to deliver real tangible outputs. The fund on offer consisted of 5 x £10k Grants to allow social investment funds or intermediary organisations to explore feasibility studies for ideas. 

What were we looking for? 

  • Ideas, research or pilots that strengthen the social investment market to be better suited to the charities and social enterprises 
  • Developed in partnership with another organisation 
  • Budget up to £10,000 

Wellbeing Protocol App  

We worked with an app called the Wellbeing Protocol for attendees to submit ideas and vote on their favourites. The ideas were shared on the app for all to view and voted on throughout the two-day conference. The voting allowed attendees to allocate points using quadratic system based on how much they liked each idea. This worked really well, ensuring a huge amount of engagement from participants, with 19 ideas submitted and a final five chosen collectively by over 100 people. 

The Winning Ideas

Equal Care Co-op Limited Care Shares Legal Framework 

Convene partners to design a transferable share offer capable of widening investor participation into both co-operatives and social enterprises. 

There are currently significant structural barriers to investment in co-operative societies, preventing growth and disincentivising founders to choose the co-operative structure. Equal Care Co-op have identified the problem as a barrier to their own growth and want to solve the market challenge for itself and other organisations. The goal of the project is to design a transferable share offer capable of widening investor participation into both co-operatives and social enterprises.  

New Philanthropy Capital Scaling patient and flexible capital 

Leveraging Trusts & Foundations to catalyse social investment.  

This project aims to address a capital gap within the social investment market by developing an investment structure that enables trusts, foundations, and/or other types of high-impact organisations to work together using the strength of their balance sheets to help lower the cost of capital through credit enhancements and loan guarantees, in order to raise additional long-term capital at scale.  

I For Change Ltd A Security Trustee suitable for Social Investors 

Explore the idea of a Security Trustee for the social investment market.   

As many social investment deals are secured loans where there is more than one investor, there is usually a need for a Security Trustee – a body charged with administrative tasks and realising the value of the security in a default scenario. Where a security trustee has been required, often one of the investors has volunteered to take on the role and accompanying responsibilities. However, experience to date with trusts and foundations, and social investment funds, is that people do not want to do it anymore: they volunteer to do it, experience a default, and say, “never again”. The alternative is a commercial security trustee paid to fulfil the role by the investors. Feedback from The Gathering participants is that they are not entities that ‘understand’ impact, and indeed may be associated with activities that generate negative impact (extractive mining was specifically mentioned). This project would like to explore the possibility of setting up a Security Trustee fit for the domestic social investment market, and disseminate the findings to the wider social impact investment sector. 

EIRIS Foundation Social Investment in Charity Pooled Funds 

Understanding the barriers and opportunities for Social Investment in Charity Pooled Funds. 

EIRIS will build on its existing research regarding responsible investment in charity pooled funds, exploring the current level of ‘social investment’ in charity pooled funds and scoping the barriers and issues that are preventing further social investment. Many charity investments have expressed a desire to hold social investments but various barriers are preventing the growth of the market.  EIRIS would like to research and document these levels and explore solutions to overcome barriers to growth. This significant pool of charity assets could potentially be part of a transformative shift towards more social investment and allow even smaller charities to access social investments. 

Business Under Development (BUD Leaders) Facilitating Black Brilliance – Demystifying Social Investment 

A workshop and materials to demystify social investment for Black and racialised entrepreneurs. 

The aim of the project is to dismantle the barriers faced by Black-led and racialised entrepreneurs to understanding and accessing Social Investment. This will be delivered by designing a follow-on process from capacity building such as a webinar/workshop/interactive web page/video series/downloadable documents. The goals of this project are for a better understanding of Social Investment for Black-led and racialised entrepreneurs, with more social investment opportunities taken up as a result.

Our reflections  

A live conference was the perfect playground for participation. By hosting the fund at a conference we already had our community defined and engaged (well, perhaps cajoled) into participating. As the goal of the fund was to benefit the sector, the attendees were perfectly placed to judge the ideas as they would be the ones affected by the projects. In our pilot we really saw the benefits of using the hive mind for grant making rather than relying on a small team to make decisions on behalf of others. 

Process is still important. The Barrow Cadbury Trust needs to uphold our legal and governance commitments to a high standard. We still needed to complete our financial and regulatory due diligence on the grants being awarded to the organisations but we looked at our own processes to ensure they were as streamlined as possible for the organisations participating. We also wanted to ensure that any reporting required is targeted, flexible to the project and not unnecessarily onerous.  

We would love to see more of this  

The final project reports will be available in June, so we look forward to sharing the findings and resources created from the fund. We look forward to seeing more examples of participation in social infrastructure work, with new technology like the Wellbeing Protocol there are so many more opportunities for decentralised decision-making in social investment and philanthropy – this is just the beginning. 

 

 

 

Increasingly, foundations are showing an interest in systems change work as a means of achieving greater impact when tackling intractable issues. In this new report ‘Funding for systems change: The story of Barrow Cadbury Trust’s Transition to Adulthood Campaign’, IVAR and Barrow Cadbury Trust explore the conditions needed for this model of working.

In this blog, Ben Cairns, Director at IVAR and Sara Llewellin, Chief Executive at Barrow Cadbury Trust, offer their reflections for others to sense check whether they have – or even want to develop – those conditions.

A white person with short grey hair and a beard, wearing a navy blue shirt and glasses

Ben

Increasingly, foundations are showing an interest in systems change work as a means of achieving greater impact when tackling intractable issues. From our point of view this is to be welcomed. In this report, IVAR and BCT have attempted to explore the conditions needed for this model of working. We offer this for others to sense check whether they have – or even want to develop – those conditions.

Telling the story of Transition to Adulthood (T2A) – Barrow Cadbury Trust’s collaborative criminal justice campaign making the case to policy makers, practitioners and sentencers for a distinct approach for young adults (18 to 25-year-olds) – presented an opportunity to press pause, and do a deep dive. It also felt like a good fit with our wider work on facilitating shifts towards more open and trusting grant-making.

As researchers, the story makes a compelling case for funders to be active in systems change. It might be different and difficult, but the gains can be profound and significant. But there is also much that may alarm those interested. The field expertise required to work in this way; the uncertainty and unpredictability around success; the open-ended nature of the commitment; the complexity of the collaboration – most or all of these are a far cry from traditional grant programmes. It reminds us that systems change isn’t for the faint-hearted, for people in a hurry, or for people who prefer order and certainty of outcome. It’s messy, it’s erratic, and you’re never really sure what’s just around the comer.

Our intention, though, is not just to deter or discourage. Trusts and foundations – with their wealth of assets and their independence – are uniquely placed to support systems change They have the money, the time, and the patience. They can afford to take risks, to shift power, to disrupt. To play a leading role, like Barrow Cadbury Trust, or to be a patient cheerleader. All of these choices – to do it well and thoroughly – are in their gift.

A white person with short light brown hair wearing glasses, a cobalt blue top, and a necklace

Sara

At Barrow Cadbury Trust we see ourselves as actors in civil society, not just supporters of it. We are rooted in the social justice values of Quakerism, although of all faiths and none. We work purposefully to tackle the root causes as well as manifestations of injustice, alongside coalitions and ecologies of others who share our desire for change.

However, working like this demands a number of conditions which are significantly different to those which many foundations can provide. By setting them out here we hope they will prove useful to others either considering or embarking on this kind of work for the first time. The most important of these is a long time horizon: real systemic or structural change takes many different hands working together over a long period.

Rest assured, we do not think that this is the ‘right’ or the ‘better’ way. It’s a way and it’s our way but there are many ways to assist changemakers and this is just one of them. What matters is that we each do deliberately and consistently what we can do best.

This is a joint blog being co-hosted on the Barrow Cadbury Trust and IVAR websites.

T2A Chair Leroy Logan MBE reflects on the findings of the Alliance for Youth Justice’s (AYJ) briefing paper on the transition from the youth to adult justice system – focusing on the experiences of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic young people.

A Black person with a grey beard, blue suit, and glasses

A spotlight on racial disparities

As the briefing suggests, young people who turn 18 while in contact with the justice system face a steep cliff edge. Studies show that this age is a crucial turning point where many young people begin to desist from crime with the right support and interventions. But rather than take advantage of this capacity for change, statutory services fall away. For Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic young people, the transition to the adult justice system can be even more challenging. 

This latest briefing from AYJ has cast a harsh spotlight on the failings of our justice system to address the racial disparities that have blighted many young people’s lives. From an early age, many Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic young people find themselves associated with criminal stereotypes. Labelling young people in this way is incredibly damaging, eroding self-belief and making it harder to move towards a pro-social identity. Once Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic children enter the justice system, they are less likely to be diverted, more likely to receive harsher sentences, and more likely to be sent to custody, sentenced or on remand, compared to white children. 

“Guilty before proven innocent… you kind of learn authority figures don’t actually care.” – (Young person) 

This can create a huge gulf in understanding and trust between Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic young adults and the professionals working in the system.  Sadly, these findings confirm what many of us working in the sector already expected. That’s why I welcome AYJ drilling down into the causes of this crisis, and what needs to change to deliver better outcomes. Too often, we focus solely on what’s not working and forget that we must create a roadmap for the future we wish to see. 

An over-stretched and under-resourced system

It’s clear that even with a diverse workforce, culturally competent training, and the best will in the world, the probation service is struggling to keep its head above water.  A professional quoted in the briefing had this to say: “Record levels of staff sickness, extended sick leave, people fleeing the service in droves – that then exacerbates every other issue we have. We can’t be ambitious, we can’t be progressive, we can’t make many changes if you’re barely able to keep the regime running.” There are many admirable professionals working in the system who want to do better for young adults, but they don’t have the time, resources, or support to implement creative approaches.  Without sufficient investment, the system can barely meet young adults’ basic needs – let alone support them to take steps towards a more positive future.  

Collaboration with the VCSE sector

In this depressing climate, the work of voluntary and community organisations has become even more vital.  Specialist Black and Ethnic Minority-led organisations have an intimate understanding of the communities Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic young people come from and how their experiences inform their behaviour and identity. As the research highlights, these grassroots organisations are well placed to provide nuanced support that recognises these young people’s overlapping needs – support that statutory services would struggle to provide. 

These organisations are also more likely to have lived experience embedded in their staff and support services, meaning they can provide peer mentoring and positive role models – both of which are essential components in facilitating the shift towards a pro-social identity 

Ring-fenced funding to commission specialist organisations

I believe that we could take this further by developing a model where specialist Black and Minority-Ethnic led grassroots organisations are commissioned to operate services in their communities. Funding would be ring fenced for these local organisations who have the expertise to deliver the best outcomes.  This model could be supported by local roundtables where information and knowledge are shared regularly so that young adults can access support from multiple agencies. Meeting in this way will also help criminal justice agencies better understand how these organisations are well placed to support young adults. Having buy in from all partners will be vital to the success of this model. 

The Newham Transition to Adulthood Hub is a great example of how this approach can work in practice. They have a wide variety of services in one space, so staff can consult each other on individual cases and referrals to different services are much easier and more efficient. Regular spotlight sessions are held where different teams share their expertise and explain how their services can benefit young adults.  

Grassroots organisations excluded from funding opportunities

Unfortunately, the AYJ’s report found that organisations with strong community links and knowledge are effectively excluded from funding opportunities. They lack the resources to compete with larger organisations who can meet the excessive commissioning processes and compliance requirements demanded by the Ministry of Justice and HMPPS.  However, many of these larger organisations lack the knowledge and cultural competence to successfully deliver these services. Shockingly, they often sub-contract their services at a lower rate to the very grassroots organisations that have been denied a place at the table. 

It is crucial that the Ministry of Justice and HMPPS immediately reform VCS funding allocation so that specialist Black and Minority-Ethnic led grassroots organisations can build the capacity of their services – ensuring every young person receives age-appropriate, trauma-informed, culturally competent services that reflect their entire lived experience. 

By Martin Coppack, Director, Fair By Design

It’s not every day that we see the financial services market reacting so strongly to what the regulator says on a relatively “niche” area, but one that affects many people: premium finance.

Premium finance is the loan and interest that insurance providers charge you if you can’t afford to pay for your car insurance all in one go, and pay monthly instead. It’s also used with other financial products.

Authority (FCA) is sending strong signals that it will tackle premium finance, with its Director of General Insurance Matthew Brewis effectively calling it a poverty premium this week:

“It is a tax on being poor. Those who are paying monthly are subsidising those who can afford to pay annually.”

It’s not the first time that Matthew Brewis has talked about the need for action on premium finance being used to charge people more for paying monthly. When we launched our latest report on insurance poverty premiums with the Social Market Foundation (SMF) last spring, Matthew said that the FCA had been engaging CEOs on premium finance. He said that the FCA expected the prices charged for paying monthly to be proportionate with the credit risk for the cost of providing that service. Matthew questioned why some consumers experienced such high rates, saying it was not “really apparent why’s it’s appropriate for APRs at 30% or above charged to consumers”. You can watch him here:

 

The Association of British Insurers, in turn, said they agreed on the need to collaborate with Treasury and the FCA on some of the issues identified in our report. 

The Shadow City Minister Tulip Siddiqi MP spoke at the same launch event and agreed action was urgently needed. Tulip pledged to make the case for any incoming Labour Government to prioritise tackling how expensive it is for people on low incomes who pay monthly for their insurance: “Too often it’s just more expensive to be poor, which is not how we want the country to be run”.   

What is the impact of premium finance on people on low incomes?

Our latest research with the SMF shows that over half of people in poverty are finding it difficult to pay for their insurance during the cost-of-living crisis – leading some to give up insurance as they prioritise food and energy bills.  

This research described how paying monthly for car insurance can cost £160 more a year than paying everything upfront. These extra costs have a knock-on effect on take-up amongst people on low incomes. Zahada, who has lived experience of this issue, explains how she had to pay monthly for her daughter’s car insurance because they didn’t have all the money to pay upfront. That has cost them an extra 10%, or around £200. You can hear directly from her in this video: 

We want to see action 

We have an opportunity to end this poverty premium for good. There are strong signals from the regulator and, we believe, increasing willingness from industry to collaborate. In an election year, we are calling for political parties to make addressing the poverty premium part of their commitments. We want to see a UK where everyone pays a fair price for essential services and where it doesn’t cost more to be poor. 

This blog has been cross-posted with the kind permission of the Diversity Forum 

The Diversity Forum is delighted to have secured additional funding from The Connect Fund for the co-creation of a data dashboard to reflect the diversity of the social investment sector. This project is being run in collaboration with our valued partners at For Business Sake, Clearview Research, Access – The Foundation for Social Investment, Big Society Capital, the Pathway Fund, Shift Design and Social Investment Business.

This project has been initiated in response to several requests seeking best practice for data collection around the diversity characteristics and a recognition of multiple intermediaries working on very similar goals. Our intention for the project is to improve the standards of data collection in the sector, setting expectations for best practice and facilitating a way to achieve this that is both accessible and inclusive by co-creating diversity data collection – in terms of content (what data is collected), process (how the data is collected), practice (how the data is used) and communication (how the data is visualised and shared).

We aim to do this by using a Design Thinking approach to centre individuals in social enterprises and social investment intermediaries, particularly those from marginalised backgrounds, to ensure a balance between accessibility and accountability and to ensure the data collected can be purposefully applied to improve goals around equity, diversity and inclusion. Our aims and intended outcomes for the project are as follows:

  • An accessible digital dashboard to portray the diversity of social intermediaries within the sector that can be updated on a regular basis

  • A baseline of good practice regarding appropriate questions for diversity characteristics for use within the sector

  • A user-led, co-created data collection method for the diversity of social investment intermediaries to regularly input diversity data that has the potential to be scaled for use with social enterprises

  • An evaluation report to indicate how this dashboard can feed into wider equity, diversity and inclusion work in the sector and practical recommendations for how our pilot can be scaled for wider use in future .

We are keen to engage with others working on diversity data collection to learn from your experiences and to integrate and collaborate our methods with as many others as possible across the sector. To get involved, ask questions or learn more about the project please reach out to us on [email protected].

Helen Mills from the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies (CCJS) shares her thoughts on how joint enterprise laws disadvantage Black and minority ethnic young adults. CCJS is a member of the T2A (Transition to Adulthood) Alliance, a Barrow Cadbury Trust campaign that makes the case for a distinct approach to young adults in the justice system.  

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A call for meaningful action on joint enterprise was made in the House of Lords some weeks ago, amid new evidence that current laws act in a discriminatory way and require a parliamentary response.  Parliamentarians from all three main political parties raised questions following Lord Woodley asking the government: 

“What steps they are taking to address concerns that joint enterprise case law operates in a harsh way against young black men.” 

New data 

The question followed new data on joint enterprise released by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) last month. The data is the first official research in over a decade about joint enterprise, the common term for the set of legal principles that allows more than one person to be prosecuted in relation to the same incident. 

The CPS monitoring pilot, which tracked homicide and attempted homicide in six CPS areas, found Black young men aged 18-25 were the largest demographic prosecuted. Referring to the findings, Lord Woodley said: 

“Black people are 16 times -I repeat, 16 times- more likely than white people to be prosecuted for homicide or attempted homicide under joint enterprise laws. It is absolutely shocking, as I am sure your Lordships all agree. Does the Minister therefore agree that this proves indisputably that joint enterprise is being used in a racist way by prosecutors, and basically as a dragnet to hoover up black urban youth?”  

The CPS findings confirm those of previous studies. Last year research from the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, supported by the Barrow Cadbury Trust, found these trends have been consistent over at least the last decade.  

Calls for the CPS to monitor joint enterprise prosecutions date back to a Justice Committee brief inquiry in 2014.  However, the CPS only agreed to monitor joint enterprise prosecutions earlier this year following legal action by the campaign group JENGbA. Their case drew on several Barrow Cadbury Trust funded research publications, including Dangerous Associations and the Usual Suspects 

Next steps 

In Thursday’s debate, Lord Marks of Henley on Thames questioned the use of racialised ‘gang’ strategies in the prosecution of groups. Several peers also raised concerns about the high threshold for appeal faced by those convicted under controversial laws.   

Pressed about what the government is doing in response to the data, Lord Bellamy conceded: 

“It is an essential part of our criminal law to have a joint enterprise doctrine. The question is: where are the edges to the doctrine?” 

He set out plans for the CPS to extend its monitoring of joint enterprise across England and Wales and to review its guidance on ‘gangs’. Both are welcome. However, neither are new actions, having previously been agreed in the legal settlement reached with JENGbA.   

Helen Mills, Head of Programmes at the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, who are currently supported by Barrow Cadbury Trust on this issue, said: 

“We welcome the questions Lord Woodley and other peers are raising about young adults and joint enterprise. They demonstrate significant concerns, and questions about joint enterprise are a cross party issue. This requires the government to step up and commit to a comprehensive inquiry to address whether the current laws and practices underpinning them are fit for purpose, and what a fair, just approach to prosecuting groups looks like. They should not be to be dismissed by government as simply a legal matter to be left to the courts.” 

Can involving the public in economic policy-making help the UK tackle the cost-of-living crisis?

An innovative new project sought to answer that question by offering a group of UK citizens the opportunity to create their own fiscal policy recommendations addressing the challenges of soaring living costs.

The Citizens’ Economic Council on the Cost of Living saw 39 members of the public come together for a series of workshops over a three-week period, drawing on insight from leading economic experts to support their discussion. They worked through various policy scenarios on spending, taxation and public investment and developed principles that they felt were important for government to factor in to decision-making.

The Council’s final recommendations included:

· Crisis-response spending packages should focus on outcomes for the most vulnerable first;

· Windfall taxes are an appropriate response to windfall profits, but investment and small businesses should be protected;

· Taxation should be made fairer by rewarding work and focusing the burden more on unearned income and wealth;

· Targets for national debt/deficit reduction should not stifle state investment strategy.

The study, designed to test the potential of deliberative democracy in UK economic policy, was led by King’s College London and Ipsos.

Dr Christopher Holmes, project director, said: “Economic policy decisions taken now will affect every UK citizen for years to come. That’s why it’s important to find new ways for citizens to be properly represented in the debate.

“In our current era of populism and political polarisation, it’s urgent that we try to rebuild trust in the policy-making process. The Citizens’ Economic Council showed how we might actually do this at a national level.”

Reema Patel, project manager, said: “The democratisation of economic policy is crucial if people are to feel part of the important decisions economists make. Deliberating about issues such as the cost of living, tax, spend and investment is central to creating a more inclusive and participatory future for economics.”

Deliberative democracy seeks to strengthen democracy by embedding ordinary citizens in decision-making processes, and the research team hopes that experiments such as the Citizens’ Economic Council will become a permanent feature of the political landscape in the UK. Experiments in other countries including Ireland and France have shown that such approaches can increase trust in democracy among citizens and foster greater openness to the views of others. The project has received funding from the Friends Provident Foundation and Barrow Cadbury Trust and is overseen by an advisory board which includes Sir Robert Chote, chair of the UK Statistics Authority; Lindsay Judge, research director at the Resolution Foundation; and Geoff Tily, senior economist at the Trades Union Congress. Find out more about the project.

 Conrad Parke from CLES blogs about community wealth building in Birmingham.

The Economic Justice Action Network pulls focus on community wealth-building and how we might amplify this approach in our efforts to tackle the root causes of economic injustice.  

Introduction 

In our Action Network meeting on 4 October we adopted the lens of community wealth-building as a route to engage with the topic of economic justice. We began the session in small groups, orienting ourselves around how we might collectively define economic justice. These included:  

  • Equality of opportunity and access to services and resources 
  • Allowing people to function in a society regardless of their circumstances 
  • The importance of treating people as of equal worth – everyone has value and insights 
  • ‘Allocative efficiency’ – using resources fairly and wisely 
  • Economic justice must link to other areas of justice  
  • No matter who you are you should have dignity and a fair life 

(These contributions and definitions will be collated and shared publicly as part of our suite of Action Network resources).

We then moved onto the topic of community wealth-building, where I introduced this progressive approach and its potential to re-model the economy in the city of Birmingham. During the meeting, many questions surfaced about community wealth-building (CWB). I have tried to provide some answers to those questions in this blog. 

What is community wealth-building? 

Community wealth-building is a progressive approach to economic development which sets out to retain more wealth and opportunity for the benefit of local people. It is a system-changing approach that works to produce a greater sharing of economic prosperity by ensuring that a greater proportion of wealth is retained and re-circulated in the local economies so that everybody benefits (also known as the ‘Local Multiplier Effect’, see below).  

This approach is an alternative to simply letting money drain away into the pockets of distant shareholders and the vaults of off shore banks. It is also an approach that recognises that there is more to the economy than the private sector. Community wealth-building sees the public sector, voluntary sector, social care sector and all other ‘sectors’ as having equal importance to the private sector, in terms of both keeping the economy moving and creating economic opportunities we can all benefit from.  

Why community wealth-building? 

I would argue we need CWB because we live in a city with some of the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods in the country, some of the highest levels of unemployment nationally, plus a multitude of other significant indicators of economic inequality. This is despite Birmingham experiencing almost uninterrupted economic growth for the past 20 years. In fact, if you could take Birmingham’s GDP (gross domestic product – read the previous blog for reference) and divide it amongst every working person in the city it would result in an average income over £58k per person whereas the real average income is more like £28k per person*! This suggests that about half the wealth created in Birmingham is then leaving it. Where does it go? Mainly to shareholders, profits for big businesses, people who work in Birmingham but live and spend their money elsewhere, and the inflated salaries of the already super rich. Or, to put it another way, the problem underpinning Birmingham’s economic injustice is not a problem of needing to create yet more wealth, but a problem of where that wealth flows. That is why we need Community Wealth Building. * *Economic Output in Birmingham 2020, Birmingham City Council. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is the ‘Local Multiplier Effect’? 

The local multiplier effect is the additional economic benefit generated for an area by increasing the amount of money spent, and is then recirculated, in that local economy. For example, it occurs when money is spent through local businesses and then those businesses, in turn, use that money to either buy locally themselves or pay wages to local people. In other words, a chain reaction in local economic activity.  

How does community wealth-building work in practice? 

CWB works in practice by thinking a bit harder about the economic assets we have at our disposal and then working (‘sweating’) those assets harder to create greater local benefit. For example, the largest employment sector in the city is health with over 91,000 jobs* and yet we rarely look at the NHS as an economic asset. In addition, University Hospitals Trust Birmingham alone spends £1.5b a year on goods and services.  

A community wealth-building approach asks the questions: 

  • How can we help these organisations become economic assets for the city?  
  • How do we direct more jobs within these organisations to communities where they will make the biggest difference?  
  • How do we direct more of these organisations’ spend to local businesses, thereby adding the greatest social value? 

*Workplace Employment in Birmingham 2021, Birmingham City Council 

What are the other benefits? 

As well as all the recognised wider social benefits of addressing poverty (improved health, reduced crime etc.) the CWB approach also aims to develop much stronger local economic ecosystems which, in turn, can help build stronger communities, and create greater social cohesion and stability. In addition, by actively working to source jobs and spend locally it reduces the carbon miles spent on travelling to work and increases the likelihood of participation in ‘active travel’ – both of which are good for the environment. 

How do we measure community wealth-building? 

The big picture for CWB is to measure how much money is being retained in the local economy. I currently estimate that about half the wealth created in Birmingham leaves the city, amounting to  approximately £15b a year. An increase in the wealth retained by the city of just 10% would mean an extra £1.5b for the Birmingham economy, which translates (very roughly!) to about 50,000 more jobs. A different way to measure is to look at the spend and recruitment patterns of large institutions (health trusts, local authority, universities, colleges, housing associations) to see what proportion is ‘staying local’ and whether this proportion is increasing.  

How do we monitor the social value of community wealth-building? 

I would advocate for a simple approach. So for jobs I would monitor whether recruitment rates are increasing in communities where people are traditionally seen as being trapped in low income and insecure employment. Then, we need a rebalancing in the workforce with more people in work from traditionally under-represented groups in terms of age, gender, disability, ethnicity etc. As for spend, I would track whether an increase in local spend is also being reflected in an increase in spend-through to businesses that represent greater social value by their very nature – i.e. small or micro businesses, social enterprises, co-operatives, etc. 

Which cities are doing community wealth-building well?  

CWB has been adopted as national policy by the devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and N. Ireland. In England it is being adopted at local authority level with two of the leading authorities being seen as Preston and Greater Manchester Council. In Europe I would recommend taking a look at Rotterdam in the Netherlands. But the real home of CWB is actually Cleveland, Ohio in the USA. Here is a link to Cleveland’s Evergreen initiative, where the aim is to create meaningful jobs, employee ownership and profit-sharing opportunities in the locality.  

How do new arrivals into areas impact community wealth-building? 

I cannot claim to be an expert on this issue but from my own experience I think new arrivals frequently add a real dynamism to a local economy by creating businesses that serve the specific needs of that community (food, fashion, legal services, etc.). They can also bring much needed skills. I was involved in a project that in just three years found 350 new arrivals in Birmingham with overseas health qualifications such as nurses, midwives, paediatricians and even an eye surgeon.  

Where in Birmingham feels ready for action and change on community wealth-building capacity? 

I have written about the need to look at the big institutions in the city (hospitals, universities, colleges etc) as economic assets. These are sometimes referred to as ‘anchor institutions’ because they are not going anywhere. However, to unlock these assets for a local community it is essential to also have ‘community anchor institutions’ that can act as the link between local people and opportunities that exist within big institutions. By ‘community anchor institution’ I mean the type of local organisation that has the reach and trust in local communities that big institutions do not have. Therefore, areas in Birmingham that are ready for CWB are those areas that are rich in local community anchor institutions. 

You can read more about community wealth-building here and you can contact Conrad if you’d like to discuss community wealth-building further via email. If any of this content piques your interest then you can join us at the next Action Network meeting, taking place on Wednesday 29 November, 11.30-2.30pm in Birmingham. Refreshments and lunch will be provided. Please sign up via this link if you would like to attend. 

 

“I’m less scared to discuss the economy in Birmingham and the local area.” Fiona

“Brilliant facilitation and complex ideas delivered in a simple and accessible way.” Emma

Shift Birmingham- a course for changemakers

On a sunny day in June, an inspiring group of changemakers from across Birmingham gathered at Soho House in Handsworth for the last session of People’s Economy’s Shift Birmingham. Over the last year this diverse group from across the city has met monthly to explore how power and resources in the city can be rebalanced to help their communities thrive. Apply now for the next Shift Birmingham, starting in January.

We’ve played ‘GDP bingo’, and learned from each other about different ways to keep money local. We’ve puzzled over how to address Birmingham’s housing crisis, and marvelled over what other cities and countries are doing to provide better quality jobs to their citizens.

Learning, getting confident, and making connections

Learning about the economy can sound daunting, boring, or even pointless, but even participants who had their doubts at first, really enjoyed getting a general grounding on these crucial issues that affect them and their communities. They found the special focus on what’s going on in Birmingham very helpful, and they’ve told us that the approachable style of facilitation made it easy to engage.

They also found it invaluable to meet and share experiences with others from across the city with different backgrounds and experiences. Getting together in person in the few face-to-face sessions was definitely worth battling with Birmingham’s traffic! Chatting over a coffee and a cake meant there were plenty of opportunities to share ideas and experiences.

“It has been uplifting to meet others working toward a fairer society.” Clare

Crucially, participants’ understanding and confidence leapt up after the course. See below for a snapshot of this.

“I feel I now hold a better understanding of how economics affects us as individuals and as communities.” Florence

Taking action

The group have started to use what they’ve gained in the course to make change in their communities.

“It’s tough to explain to decision makers how they should be doing something different, if you don’t have the grounding that the course provides – to be able to explain to them that sometimes they should be trying something different.” James

Bonus sessions supported them to translate their learnings into action, for example on how to craft stories about their work and engage with journalists. They had the opportunity to work with the West Midlands division of Global, a major radio broadcaster. One participant was interviewed about the impacts of the 2023 Spring Budget and five of the cohort are due to appear in a week-long special about Shift Birmingham and the connections they’ve built within the programme.

In April the cohort got a chance to meet with the leader of Birmingham City Council and put their ideas for a better Birmingham to him, and they were invited to a special performance of the play “All Our Money” by Stan’s Cafe, about how the council spends its budget.

People’s Economy is now supporting the group to continue to meet to translate the course learnings into action. With the extent of Birmingham City Council’s financial crisis now very clear, this work is more needed than ever.

People’s Economy is grateful for funding from Barrow Cadbury Trust and Birmingham City Council’s Neighbourhood Development Support Unit that enabled us to offer this course for free.

The future of Shift Birmingham

Following the success of the course, People’s Economy is running Shift Birmingham again from January 2024. Find out more about it here. The deadline to apply is November 2nd.

Clare Birkett is the Editor for the People’s Economy.  This blog is cross-posted with Clare’s permission.

Individuals and communities in Birmingham are coalescing around the theme of economic justice and seeking to build a local economy that truly serves the people says Anna Garlands of Huddlecraft – the Network’s facilitator – in this cross-posted blog.

As summer drew to a close this year, a group of bold and curious individuals came together in a room in Birmingham to participate in a “Kick Off” session for the Economic Justice Action Network. This Network, initiated and curated by Barrow Cadbury Trust and facilitated by Huddlecraft, seeks to tackle the root causes of economic injustice in Birmingham and beyond, pulling focus on the systems that perpetuate and amplify inequality within the city. The room was packed out with folks with varying associations with the theme of economic justice, all eager for meaningful change, all ready for action and all keen to learn more about how the Action Network could facilitate the systemic shifts we want and need to see.

When we talk about economic justice within this space, we are referring to a sense of economic fairness. Everyone having enough money to live. Everyone having access to the essentials of life: clean air, good public services, suitable housing, positive health care experiences, access to green spaces and, ultimately, equal life chances. Economic justice is about changing our social and economic structures so that people aren’t disadvantaged by their position in society, for example gender, ethnicity, class or disability. Economic justice is ensuring that the decisions that are made by those with power and the money that is generated in Birmingham, benefit everyone, not just those with power. It is about protecting the environment for future generations and it is halting the trend of the growing gap between rich and poor.

The Action Network has emerged because we recognise that the way Birmingham’s economy is structured does not deliver economic justice. There are areas of persistent poverty, wide disparities between the most and least affluent sections of the population and, as in other areas, structural racism, sexism and other–isms prevent many people attaining a decent standard of living and others being ill-rewarded for the work they do. Statutory agencies recognise the long-standing problems of economic exclusion and their strategies reflect a desire for change. However, things are not moving far or fast enough, and new solutions are needed.

Because we are all part of the economy, we should have a say in how it works and be able to challenge those in power on their economic choices and values. But what do we actually mean when we talk about ‘the economy’?

In his presentation at the Kick Off event, Joe Earle from People’s Economy shared that the economy is a relatively modern invention. It gives value to items that fit into the gross domestic product (GDP) framework — a monetary measure of the market value of all the final goods and services produced in a specific time period by a country or countries. Within this GDP framework, much essential work is ignored, for example unpaid care work, key workers and ‘low skilled’ workers. GDP also fails to provide a good measure of health, wellbeing or justice. It is crucial that we broaden our view and consider the economy as a system. It is about resources; money, buildings, land, food, energy, people’s time, it is about how they are used for different purposes, and how decisions about distribution of those resources are made.

It is also crucial for us to consider interconnected economic systems at different scales. How and where is the Birmingham economy impacted by broader UK economic systems? How do global economic systems affect the UK? We need to understand and examine how Birmingham’s economic system is shaped by government and corporate decisions, as well as by cultures and behaviours formed and developed outside of the city.

Birmingham’s economic system is like an iceberg. The unjust outcomes are visible but much of how the system operates and the conditions that uphold it, are hidden below the surface. In order to create the change we want to see, we first need to understand the system to explain why the system operates in a particular way and then develop interventions which can bring about change.

When thinking about the entrenched power and ideas which uphold Birmingham’s economic system, working for change can feel like a daunting and unlikely prospect. The good news is that systems are not static, they are changing all the time, and there are already many people doing important work to change our economic systems in all sorts of ways. We want to amplify and build upon this work.

The Action Network is a place for alliance-building, learning, developing ideas for change and action.

The Action Network is folk coming together to build a shared, working understanding of the economy - learning about how the current system perpetuates inequality; how adopting an intersectionality lens can widen our approach; how alternative economic models and systems can be imagined and implemented in Birmingham. The Action Network is people coming together to dissect, examine and map out the existing economic landscape in the city, identifying and engaging levers of change. The Action Network is seeding and cultivating an interconnected web of citizens, grassroots activists, change-makers and disruptors from across the city, all sharing a common view that change is possible and the need is urgent.

We recognise that no single sector  -  the public sector, private business or civil society  –  can change things alone, but that we need to work together, harnessing the ideas, experience and energy of individuals and organisations to make Birmingham a city that works for everyone.

The Action Network is open to anyone with an interest in making our economy work better for local people. What you will have in common is:

  • a willingness to have conversations and work with a variety of people who you otherwise may never encounter;
  • an energy and excitement for learning about the economy and how we can imagine design fairer, regenerative and distributive economic systems;
  • an appetite for action and creating change within the spheres you are affiliated with;
  • the ability to attend Action Network meetings every other month, where possible.

We have been delighted to see so many people from a broad range of sectors and backgrounds attend the Taster event (July) and the Kick Off meeting (August). There is clearly an appetite for spaces to connect, learn and explore these issues and we will be welcoming new members throughout the coming six months.

The next meeting will be taking place on Wednesday 4 October and we would be delighted to see you there. Refreshments and lunch will be provided. Please sign up via this link if you would like to join.