From Slogans to Sound Strategy? The 2022 SURF Annual Conference

On the 25th August we attended the SURF annual conference – primarily through our work in our Connecting Equalities project, but also to network and connect across the broader landscape of:

“Community Wealth Building”- what is it??

CLES defines it as : “An approach to economic development that changes the way that our economies function, retaining more wealth and opportunity for the benefit of local people.”

What it is not about is growing the 3rd sector and community power into the delivery of more services within the public sector economy. The conference highlighted that it should not be about developing community and voluntary sector as a cost effective alternative to state services. It’s function instead is to embed practical action encouraging citizens, communities and the 3rd sector to play a greater role in ownership and control of assets within the commercial economy.

“Levelling Up”- What is it?

The Levelling Up agenda is a moral, social and economic UK government programme that purports to spread opportunity more equally across the UK.

Both are significant concepts in current times- particularly for communities who might benefit from turning concepts in to reality in order to generate wealth and opportunities at a local level.

What does this mean for our work with communities?

Whilst Community Wealth Building and the Levelling up agenda provide links to opportunities for challenging place-based inequality, questions still remain as to how centralised power across Scotland can fully translate into local power, to ensure communities are at the heart of making their own decisions and hold the purse strings.

Some key questions that remain to be answered in practice are:

· Do we need consensus on what Community Wealth Building actually is?

· How are the UK Government’s Levelling Up priorities integrating with existing regeneration funding and support programmes in Scotland?

· Does this represent a genuine shift in how we approach and deliver place based regeneration?