What is community wealth?

Local Return exists to build community wealth. So what is community wealth, and why does it matter? 

A community’s wealth comes from the assets that it collectively owns or controls, and which the community uses to care for its place and one another. Community wealth is not just about monetary value that exists or is generated in a place. It involves: 

  • Multiple forms of capital — financial, yes, but also social, intellectual, natural, cultural, built, and political. 
  • Local ownership of these capitals, so that control and benefits remain in the place.    
  • Shared ownership, so assets are stewarded by and for the community and not just a few members.

Community wealth matters because it leads to community resilience (in the same way that personal wealth leads to personal resilience), a place’s ability to withstand challenges and persist, adapt, and transform itself.

So how do we increase a community’s wealth? We like this definition of community wealth building from Marjorie Kelly of the Democracy Collaborative: creating and using local assets to make a community more vibrant, developing assets in such a way that the wealth stays local, and helping families and communities control their own economic destiny.