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Productive community assets: generating the benefits

June 22nd 2020

Community assets are essential parts of what makes a place and a community. They are valued for their contribution to the social, cultural and community life and well-being of a place and people. What is less articulated and explored in discussions of these assets is their economic value – their potential and capacity to generate local, shared wealth.

This paper explores some of the current understandings, experiences and opportunities of community assets. The context in which assets operate, survive, and thrive has changed markedly since the global economic crash of 2008 and subsequent downturn. With a serious recession following the global pandemic now inevitable, harnessing the economic potential of assets, especially for local economies most exposed to downturn, is more pressing than ever.

We suggest that there are several factors that are central for harnessing the economic potential of community assets for local wealth building:

  • Better community rights and control: While there has been progress on this in other parts of the UK, it has remained relatively under explored in Wales. A better set of rights and frameworks for community ownership or control can help new forms of community innovation and regeneration can emerge.
  • Detection, understanding and promotion of economic value: Community assets are well understood to have social and well-being merits yet their economic potential  often appears secondary. There is scope for the economic potential of assets to be emphasised more, and the need to develop their potential recognised.
  • Measuring and demonstrating social impact: Not all assets generate a profit but many generate social value. . A comprehensive understanding of social value can help to reveal the impact of assets and where their latent productive potential may lie.
  • Anchor institutions as enablers: Anchor institutions have powers of ownership, control, planning and strategic oversight of some community assets. By pooling resources and sharing risks and rewards, they are well placed to spot opportunities for innovation and follow them through to unlock economic potential.
  • Natural resources as community assets: Natural resources are increasingly emerging as assets with productive potential. With their growth,  the benefit to communities and their opportunity to harness and control them must also grow.

By taking these steps, communities will be better placed to unlock the full benefit of assets and share the benefits equitably. So too will anchor institutions be able to play a critical role in asset protection and development. With communities and community assets in the spotlight as part of the response to challenge and crises, the chance to support them to thrive in new and better ways is not to be missed.

Report format:PDF

Language: English

Pages: 18

Cost: Free

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