A light in the dark

Think tank: CLES

Author(s): Tom Lloyd Goodwin; Victoria Bettany; Pawel Swiatkowski; Sarah Longlands

November 18, 2022

This report from UK think tank CLES looks at progressive frontiers in local economies.

Critiques of traditional and mainstream economic approaches are well established. In 2021 CLES published a provocation that advocated for a community wealth building approach to empower local areas and communities to maximise their existing skills, talents and capabilities in the pursuit of greater economic democracy. But we wanted to know more about what mainstream economic development practice looks like right now. How is it seeking to address the intersectional challenges that local economies currently face? What is the true potential for the adoption of more progressive interventions? This paper seeks to answer these questions. The paper presents our findings from interviews and discussion groups conducted with senior officials in UK local authorities. We interpret these findings, concluding that while practice has started to shift towards the pursuit of more inclusive local economies, scepticism should remain as to whether this shift will be sufficient to address the scale of the challenges we now face. The paper concludes with suggestions on how local economic development practice could adopt a more progressive approach, outlining five imperatives for action.