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The Preston Model and Community Wealth Building

With the economic crash of 2008, Preston was faced with a grim economic and social outlook. The research of Dr Julian Manley on how co-operative values and principles have been successful in Mondragón, Spain, came to the attention of Preston City Council who funded UCLan to research into how co-operative developments in Preston could help to increase local economic investment.

Together, the University of Central Lancashire and the City Council created a research pipeline to feed into council policy and generate new, alternative economic solutions for the city. The remedies adopted have become part of what is known as the ‘Preston Model’.

As a result, the Preston Model has become a worldwide reference model for Community Wealth Building and instrumental in transforming the economic fortunes of Preston. Community Wealth Building works on many levels as part of a socio-economic transformation of urban places. It increases local economic investment by changing public spending and the spending behaviour of large employers, persuading them to source their supplies locally whilst still looking for quality at the best price, and encourages quality employment and the development of co-operative businesses that are governed according to co-operative principles that promote citizenship and democracy. Driving these developments is the Preston Cooperative Development Network, of which Dr Manley was the founding Chair. Consequently, local procurement has increased since 2012 from 39% to 79.2% in 2012/13 - 2016/17, an increase of £200,000,000. This has acted as an economic lever and, according to the Price Waterhouse & Cooper’s joint report with Demos, Good Growth for Cities, “Preston emerged as this year’s top improver”. The research team’s ongoing work continues to bear on the long-term development of the Preston Model, through the creation of a Co-operative Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Project in 2020, with the collaboration of co-operative business experts from Mondragon, Spain, and a Preston Cooperative Education Centre, with the support of Union-Coops UK and the Co-operative College in Manchester.

Manley’s research is also influencing how universities nationwide and internationally are developing civic engagement for the future. The Preston Model of cooperative partnership between town and university has extended to Sapporo, Japan, with a delegation from Hokusei Gakuen University visiting Preston in 2019. Furthermore, Manley’s research has directly influenced the development of Bermuda’s national economic and social policy. The Times Higher Education awards recognised the research work of Manley’s team with the Centre for SME Development at UCLan and Preston City Council resulting in the university being one of the six finalists for the award of Outstanding Entrepreneurial University of the Year 2019.

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