Community wealth creation is a place-based and whole systems approach to improving prosperity in communities. In the system-based organizing perspective that we use at Rural Support Partners, community wealth creation is a big part of the “why” of our network support work. We support collective and collaborative efforts that build all the forms of wealth outlined below in rural communities.
All Communities Have Wealth
When you ask people to describe what makes their community a great place to live, play, and work, you are likely to hear things like a vibrant downtown; trails and open spaces for recreation; opportunities for people to come together in civic, faith-based and other organizations; access to quality health care, good schools, well-maintained and up-to-date infrastructure; good jobs and career opportunities. Together these assets define what it means to be a prosperous, “wealthy” community. Even communities that do not have a great deal of financial capital – persistently poor rural communities, for example – can have an abundance of other types of capital that can contribute to a better future.
The community wealth creation approach recognizes that it takes multiple forms of capital, controlled by communities and sustained over time, to build a thriving community. The starting point is a recognition that all communities have forms of capital that can be used to create a stronger community that supports all people. For example:
- Small farmers may have land that is sitting idle but, when connected to markets, can generate income and investment opportunities for these farmers.
- By building trails that connect public lake access on the edge of town to downtown businesses, a community improves both the health of current residents and its attractiveness to new families.
- Faith-based organizations come together to support a literacy campaign for low-income adults, marshalling resources to more effectively address a critical community issue.
Community wealth creation emphasizes that multiple forms of capital are needed to create a stronger community. It defines community wealth as the stock of all the capitals listed below. These forms of capital are the tools residents have to better understand the systems in the community and the building blocks to address complex issues. By understanding what capitals are strong, people and organizations can work to use that capital to strengthen other assets. The wealth matrix below becomes a tool that people and organizations can use to assess what exists in the community right now, plan how to grow other forms of capital needed to affect change, and then measure progress along the way.
Multiple Forms of Capital
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