The Community Wealth Fund Alliance (CWFA) is made up of nearly 250 member organisations who are calling for the establishment of the Community Wealth Fund to invest in the most ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods. Here, Anna Bradley-Dorman, worker at Ramsey Million Big Local in Cambridgeshire, explains why they support the alliance.
Ramsey Million wanted to join the CWFA because we know that grassroots community-led development works. It takes time, determination, coordination and vision to revitalise a community – but without funding, it is impossible.
Research by Local Trust, one of the founding members of the CWFA, and Oxford Consultants for Social Inclusion (OCSI) has found that neighbourhoods which lack places to meet, an engaged community and connectivity – physical and digital – have worse socio-economic outcomes than other similarly deprived areas and are at risk of falling further behind.
The Community Wealth Fund would provide long term investment to the 225 areas identified as ‘left behind’ and put residents in charge of the spend, enabling them to build community confidence. It would allow local people themselves to have power over decision making and the future of their community.
Due to many years of neglect and broken promises, engaging communities will not be easy. But money alone is not the answer.
Local people need to feel in charge of their own lives and destiny, and decisions need to be taken ‘with them’ and not ‘to them’.
Through Big Local, I’ve seen how this way of working has enabled the community in Ramsey to influence the changes that were needed. It has enabled individuals, businesses, statutory, charitable and voluntary organisations to work together to create lasting change.
Given what we’ve learned as a Big Local area, Ramsey is excited to be joining nearly 250 organisations from different regions and sectors that have come together to support and promote the proposal for a Community Wealth Fund.
What communities can achieve if given power and resources
We’ve seen the difference that £1m investment has brought to our community in Ramsey. Above all, it has given residents who previously felt disenfranchised a voice in local decision making. Our plan for The Pavilion is one example among many of how investment can empower residents to bring about much-needed change for their community.
The Pavilion is envisioned as much more than a building: it will serve as a community and sport hub, a place where our area can begin to rebuild and develop itself through collective activities. Importantly, the idea for The Pavilion was in response to what Ramsey residents themselves identified as a need in the area.
In 2019, we appointed an award-winning architect and gained planning permission, but we did not have the funds in place to start to build. Initially, we were unsure of how we were going to prove to potential funders that The Pavilion is necessary to our community, and that we were able to see the project through to completion.
This is where the Big Local investment in our community paid off: we could show that investing in our community has been successful and can lead to positive outcomes.
From the Dog Café that is addressing social and rural isolation, to our worker training programmes that provide qualifications and confidence to local youth, we can show that investment in our community works.
A grant from Cambridgeshire County Council, combined with the investment from Ramsey Million, meant that after seven years of planning, The Pavilion is finally ready to be built. The Pavilion will be located at the Ramsey Cricket Club, in the town’s area of need.
Without this investment, it would have been difficult to make the case for The Pavilion. But, with appropriate investment, we are making the creation of resident-led civic infrastructure a reality.
One of the interesting consequences of the input of long-term funding into Ramsey is that it has generated further investment, as is true for other Big Local areas. Investment in communities can be a catalyst for change, as success will breed success.
Ramsey Million Partnership and our locally trusted organisation (LTO), Ramsey Neighbourhoods Trust, want other areas to benefit in the same way Ramsey has from being part of the Big Local programme. A Community Wealth Fund will allow this to happen on an even bigger scale.