Stephen Cotterill: Why a Community Wealth Fund could effect genuine change

10 Sep 2018 Voices

A Community Wealth Fund could bolster local initiatives to effect genuine social and economic change. I live in a close-knit community in central Brighton. It’s an amazing city, but not without its problems. Homelessness and drug abuse have been exacerbated by national and local cutbacks to funding for vital services.

Brighton Pier

Credit: Eric Hossinger

What I have noticed over the last couple of years is a determined effort by small community groups to tackle problems on their doorstep. In the area of Hanover where I live, a local group started fundraising to provide “starter packs” for people being moved off the street and into temporary accommodation. Another helps local restaurants redistribute leftover food to the homeless. Small services that drastically improve people’s chances of changing their lives. And initiatives such as these are happening across the country.

However, funding these projects is tough and although the drive and passion of these groups is undeniable, they often lack the skills to create real sustainable income. Imagine the transformational impact that a £2bn fund could have on the lives of the most vulnerable in our communities.

Last month place-based funder Local Trust published a report making the case to use £2bn in unclaimed financial assets to create a Community Wealth Fund. These funds have already been identified by the Dormant Assets Commission and have been earmarked for charity. Shrewd investment and corporate buy-in could see the fund swell to £5bn, the report suggests.

The Local Trust paper has been backed by an alliance of charity bodies and calls for the establishment of an “independent and credible task force” to take its proposal forward. At the time of publishing, Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of NCVO, said: “In the wake of the Brexit referendum and Grenfell, there’s a real sense that something really ambitious is required to address the feeling of being left behind that some communities feel.”

On their own, these communities will struggle to make the real change needed. It would be criminal to miss this opportunity to pool these funds to effect genuine social and economic change.


More on