As part of our broader effort to encourage democratic, common asset, wealth building work, Community-Wealth.org has assembled this toolbox to bring together a range of practitioner-oriented materials that cut across the traditional divisions or “silos” that exist among different community wealth building sectors. We hope these materials encourage greater use and experimentation with different asset and wealth creation strategies. Through this toolbox we also aim to facilitate further conversation, connection, and collaboration among those now working as community wealth builders.
Please check back as we update our website quarterly for new additions to this section. We want to continually develop this toolbox and welcome your input on how to make these tools a useful resource.
How to Make These Tools Work For You
The materials in this section include manuals and other basic “how to” resources that are organized by wealth building strategy (e.g., community land trusts, cooperatives, employee ownership). Although some of the manuals may be fairly detailed, the materials in this section of our website, by and large, are not intended to be comprehensive. For in-depth information on a specific strategy, we encourage you to explore the other sections of this website. For instance, if you are interested in employee ownership, you may wish to review the materials in the ESOP section. There you will find a brief introduction, capsule descriptions and links to support organizations, examples of leading groups in the field, links to research organizations, and a wide range of both popular and academic articles on the topic. In other words, we hope these tools give you the basic information you need to be able to get started. And from there, who knows how far you may go!
Rules of the Road: Key Community Wealth Building Principles
Before beginning, we encourage you to review the general principles listed below. While not the “final word” in community wealth building, we believe these guidelines are important in organizing community wealth building programs and provide a sound basis from which to build a comprehensive community strategy.
- Identify and inventory the existing assets of your community. Leverage what you have.
- Focus on building local equity in everything you do. Ownership matters.
- Concentrate economic strategy on increasing the local circulation of goods and services.
- Work with existing anchor institutions (universities, hospitals, churches, museums, public utilities) to support your economic development strategy.
- Leverage funding from community and local foundations, anchor institutions and existing city and chamber of commerce business development programs to support wealth building.
- Implement a systematic local-preference procurement policy at all major institutions (especially hospitals, universities, local government, utilities and major corporations).
- Begin a “buy local” campaign directed at households and small businesses.
- Help retiring owners sell their businesses to their workers through pension-financed employee stock-ownership plans (ESOPs).
- Work across silos to produce new synergies and multi-sector strategies. Build community awareness of the need for a comprehensive, local community wealth–building approach.
- Expand Community Development Corporation (CDC) capacity to generate income (especially through property management, but through other business development as well).
- Develop land trusts early on to provide for permanent low- and moderate-income housing, both to stabilize neighborhoods in the short term and to avoid gentrification problems that success can bring.
- Attack efforts that strip assets away from communities or otherwise have wealth-reducing effects (e.g., predatory lending).
- Expand use of individual development accounts (IDAs), earned income tax credits and other related mechanisms that help low- and moderate-income individuals save and acquire wealth.
- Develop investment opportunities for low-income people by promoting shared-equity housing and affordable equity shares in community-owned enterprises.
- Work across the asset-development continuum to devise mechanisms that integrate individual or family asset-accumulation with community wealth-building strategies.
For a broad overview of the range of community wealth building tools, we suggest consulting this literature survey developed by Enterprise Community Partners:
Enterprise Community Partners, Free Online Resources for Community Development Practitioners, Columbia, MD: Enterprise, February 2007.
For information on specific community wealth building tools, please browse the sections below: