Community Wealth Building
The founding People’s Economy Lab cohort convened local economy leaders to create a core set of ideas for a community-centered economy that works for everyone. The Lab has since evolved to explicitly center Black, Indigenous, and communities of color, but the focus remains the same: Advancing a Just Transition from an economy that extracts from most of us, especially BIPOC communities, to one that is controlled by all of us and creates shared wealth and well-being. One set of tactics for this work has been summarized as “Community Wealth Building.”
People’s Economy Lab promotes Community Wealth Building as a transformative strategy to close the racial wealth gap. We believe that Community Wealth Building empowers BIPOC to build wealth within the current economy and to drive transformation towards the just, equitable, and regenerative economy we seek to build.
What is Community Wealth Building?
Community Wealth Building (CWB) is an economic development model, described by The Democracy Collaborative, that transforms local economies by giving communities direct ownership and control of their productive assets. CWB is a way of organizing our local economies to ensure that they genuinely work for all people. The crises we face, such as the racial wealth gap, are driven by the extractive nature of our dominant economic system, which is characterized by concentrated ownership, community disinvestment, attacks on labor, environmental degradation, and structural social and racial injustice. CWB addresses these realities by laying the groundwork for an economic system where broad and democratic ownership support equity and social and racial justice.
How does Community Wealth Building advance a Just Transition?
A Just Transition requires us to building a regenerative economy based on the caring and sacredness of relationships to each other and the planet upon which we depend. To achieve this we must “shift economic control to communities,” “democratize wealth and the workplace,” and “drive racial justice and social equity.”
CWB provides a powerful framework and set of tactics to achieve this. It’s an approach to full systems transformation that “focuses on developing alternative economic institutions, approaches, and relationships and connecting them to each other; creating interventions at various scales throughout the system; and making a conscious effort to reset social relations, build a new politics, and construct a counter hegemony based on moving beyond corporate capitalism” (Community Wealth Building: The Path Towards a Democratic and Reparative Political Economic System).
Community Wealth Building Strategies for Seattle
In 2022, People’s Economy Lab was selected by the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods to provide research, analysis, and expertise and to recommend a set of coordinated strategies to address the racial wealth gap and advance BIPOC generational wealth building. During the course of our work, we helped convene the Generational Wealth Initiative Community Roundtable; presented research and conducted workshops with the Roundtable and City of Seattle staff; conducted community participatory research with three community-based organizations representing Black, Latino, and Indigenous communities; recommended the CWB model and specific strategies for Seattle; developed a report of findings and recommendations and supported the development of nine BIPOC-led CWB pilot projects funded with $1.3 million over two years.
The six CWB strategies we’ve recommended for Seattle are:
- Broad-based Worker Ownership
- Community-controlled Capital and Access to Affordable Capital
- Community Ownership of Real Estate
- Progressive Procurement
- Equitable Small Business Ecosystems
- Wealth Retention and Asset Building Programs
People’s Economy Lab partners with Front and Centered on the New Economy Washington Frontline Community Fellowship program, which supports entrepreneurs from communities of color who are integrating the principles and practices of a Just Transition.