Grants / Projects we are funding

Community Action Groups Oxfordshire – Building community wealth in Oxford: top down meets bottom up

Grant details


Awarded on:01/04/2021

Duration:18 months


Area of interest

Local economic resilience

Themes covered

Community resilience

How can we ensure that the assets of an area are shared better amongst those who live there? What role can large institutions play in supporting the place that they are based in? How can we support businesses with a more democratic outlook to thrive and improve their local communities? These meaty questions are being tackled in Oxford by a coalition working on a holistic community wealth building agenda

What is the issue?

Although Oxford is a city known for its wealth and academic prestige, it has some of the highest inequality levels in the UK and contains areas of severe multiple deprivation. The difference in male life expectancy is 16 years between the top and bottom performing areas, and Oxford is the UK’s most unaffordable city to live in as an average home costs around 17x more than the average annual salary. The current economic crisis will only worsen inequalities.

Too little of the purchasing power of Oxford’s big institutions is spent with local businesses, in particular democratic and community businesses that benefit our most marginalised communities. In addition, new democratic businesses in less wealthy parts of Oxford need start-up support. Existing local democratic businesses have extensive skills and experience to share with others, and are already doing so across the city, but this vital work currently lacks the resources and physical spaces needed to expand and reach its potential.

Working with a range of partners in civil society groups and closely with Oxford City Council, this project will trial a new approach to implementing community wealth building; working from the ‘top down’ and ‘bottom up’ simultaneously. The aim is to integrate bottom up community-led economic development of democratic businesses with better-known institution-led approaches to community wealth building.

What will the project try to achieve?

The project will aim to better utilise policy, procurement strategies, and assets from anchor institutions, including the City Council, to create an enabling environment for local and democratic businesses. Alongside this an improved ecosystem of support, resourcing and meanwhile spaces will be developed to enable new initiatives and community businesses to flourish to meet community needs. The partnership will pilot a new approach to build this ecosystem of support by embedding mentors in existing community hubs and working with existing community organisers, as well as maintaining close connection with council support, resources and assets.

Who might be interested in this project?

People working on or interested in Community Wealth Building from local authorities, locally-rooted institutions, and from co-operatives and community groups. Those working at the interface between community-led action and local authorities. Those working on co-operative development in marginalised communities, and with ‘meanwhile use’ of spaces for community benefit.