The Preston Model: building community wealth, co-op by co-op


The Alternative UK is interested in stories of local flourishing - where people in towns, districts, cities and regions turn to each other, and find new strengths and resources among themselves, while the clash and clatter of national politics goes on around them. Our friends at Flatpack Democracy are the poster-kids of this approach. 

But we've just come across a different method of building up local power - called The Preston Model. Here's a short video about it:  

In a nutshell, the city council of Preston has started to promote “community wealth building” - as The Guardian calls it, "a way of tackling inequality by ensuring the economic development of a place is shared more equally among its residents".

The Preston Model is based on a prior American experiment, the Cleveland model, in which co-operative enterprises are jointly owned and operated by members for their mutual benefit. In Cleveland, they "set up worker co-operatives to supply local institutions – such as hospitals, councils and universities – in order to keep profit localised. Redirecting local spending for community wealth through the use of worker co-operatives. Cities around the world suffering the negative effects of globalisation are looking to it to help them recover."

Preston's adaptation was different, working with established business as well as brand new coops. But it's had a transformative effect. More from The Guardian:

 "The Preston Co-operative Network already includes Link, the UK’s first educational psychologists’ co-operative and the beginnings of a local food co-op. Kay Johnson, director of the Lancashire and Region Dietary and Education Resource, is piloting an open food network to connect growers directly with local people in disadvantaged areas, where there is often little access to fresh produce.

“The co-op model means that as the the project scales we can create jobs at the hubs,” Johnson says. She has joined forces with Neil Hickson, who runs a community farm in nearby Burscough. “People in cities are the hardest ones to reach,” Hickson says. “For us, taking a vegetable box to central Preston might not be worth it, but if there was a food hub it might be worthwhile – not profitable, but economically viable.”

By creating an education system that promotes co-operatives and networks to support them, Preston, like Cleveland, is aiming for systemic change. While they realise this may take decades, there are already some signs it is paying off. Preston had the joint-second biggest improvement in its position on the multiple deprivation index between 2010 and 2015. In 2016 it was voted the best city in north-west England to live and work."

More on The Preston Model from Renewal and The Next System