Introducing Community Economic Development
Charles Betterton, MSCED
“Community development is the process by which the
efforts of the people themselves are united with those
of governmental authorities to improve the economic,
social and cultural conditions of communities, to
integrate these communities into the life of the nation,
and to enable them to contribute fully to national
progress. This complex of processes is, therefore, made
up of two essential elements: the participation by the
people themselves in efforts to improve their level of
living, with as much reliance as possible on their own
initiative; and the provision of technical and other
services in ways which encourage initiative, self-help
and mutual help and make these more effective." --
United Nations' definition.
primary goal of community development is to help people improve
their economic and social conditions. Community economic
development, a subset of community development, is a
people-initiated strategy that seeks to develop the economy of a
community, region or country for the benefit of its residents.
Community economic development strategies seek to develop efficient,
productive and profitable ventures and programs within the context
of a community’s social, cultural and political values. Community
Economic Development (CED) is said to consist of three main
principles: Self-Help; Empowerment and Capacity Building. CED
strategies include issues such as:
local ownership of economic resources;
* citizen participation; and
* building the capacity of people to participate in and manage
the development process.
The idea of self-help is one of several distinguishing
features of community development theory, practice, and
ideology. Self-help is based on the premise that people
can, will, and should collaborate to solve community
problems. In addition to the practical problem-solving
utility of this perspective, self-help builds a stronger
sense of community and a foundation for future
collaboration. Self-help is emphasized not only as a
goal to be achieved in and of itself, but also as a
strategy for the accomplishment of broader development
objectives. Helping communities achieve a capacity for
self-help is fundamental to both the theory and practice
of community development.
Self-help embodies two interrelated features: (1) it is
expected to produce improvements of people's living
conditions, facilities, and/or services); and (2) it
emphasizes that the process by which these improvements
are achieved is essential to development of the
community. The "developed community" is both improved
and empowered as a result. Thus a self-help approach not
only emphasizes what a community achieves, but more
importantly, how it achieves it. Another way of stating
this is to distinguish between development in the
community (the improvements) and development of the
community (how these improvements are achieved). --
Excerpts from Community
Development Perspectives edited by James A.
Christenson and Jerry W. Robinson, Jr. Iowa State
University Press/Ames 1989.
Click here for the
expanded definition of Self-Help in Community
“Empowerment is another concept often discussed but not
always practiced. In broad terms, empowerment is
enhancing the possibilities for people to influence
those persons and organizations that affect their lives.
Empowerment involves recognizing and nurturing the
unique strengths and competencies of people that derive
from the wisdom of their everyday experiences.
Empowerment also entails strengthening social networks
and community institutions by promoting a diversity for
approaches to deal with social life."
"An important route to empowerment is building local
capacity. When a community and its people are empowered,
they have the capacity to articulate their needs; to
identify actions to solve these needs; and, to mobilize
and organize resources in pursuit of community defined
goals. When the people of a community come together to
visualize a common future and then work together to
achieve it, there develops a recognition that everyone
-regardless of education, job, race, background or
whatever -- has something important to contribute to
that process. Indeed, the greater the diversity of the
participants, the richer the vision and the more
effective its accomplishments." -- Excerpts from a
speech given by Lorraine Garkovich before the Twentieth
Annual Conference of the Community Development Society,
LOCAL CAPACITY BUILDING
The rationale for local capacity building bears
repeating here: local governments alone simply do not
have the human resources to cope effectively with the
changing social, political, and economic environments
which they now confront. If the base of human resources
that local governments can draw upon is not expanded,
then communities and people will never achieve the
quality of life they want and deserve.
The three general types of strategies for local capacity
building are: (1) expanding the base of citizen
involvement; (2) enhancing the leadership pool; and (3)
enlarging the information base of local communities.
While each is important, it is together that they
establish a solid foundation for citizen participation
in community development. These strategies have multiple
purposes and outcomes. They contribute to capacity
building by nurturing and strengthening local
organizations, by generating citizen interest to
participate in community decision making and actions,
and by increasing the vehicles for citizen involvement."
-- Excerpts from Community Development Perspectives
edited by James A. Christenson and Jerry W. Robinson,
Jr. Iowa State University Press/Ames 1989
Ultimate Destinyland have a
shared vision that includes reaching, serving and blessing millions
of underserved people and helping create and save jobs. Our strategy
for accomplishing that is to provide expanded access to some of the
world's best development training programs, partly through a network
of Community Economic Development Empowerment Resource Centers™ as
Our programs are based on about 40 years of experience in designing
and implementing innovative new ways to help Expand the Circle of
Success. We know from personal experience that many if not most
leading training companies focus just on the top 10% to 13% of the
our work as community organizers and community economic development
specialists, the cofounders of Ultimate Destinyland conducted
visioning, planning and strategic planning exercises for non-profit
organizations and communities. Two of the main questions we usually
include and the top three answers to each one revealed through
The Three Round Method of Brainstorming
are provided below:
What are the greatest problems affecting the quality of life in
Inadequate citizen involvement in community affairs.
Inadequate leadership throughout government.
Lack of community unity, cooperation and collaboration.
What corrective measures can be taken to address those problems?
Develop more community-based programs.
Expand church and community involvement.
Provide access to resources and successful models that will
enhance self-help, empowerment and capacity building for
individuals and organizations.
response to those results, several model Community Resource Centers
have been established and Ultimate Destiny is launching the
Expanding the Circle of Success campaign to help establish a network
of locally initiated non-profit Community Economic Development
Empowerment Resource Centers
“After twenty-five years of serving in various management
capacities in community and economic development programs at the
local, state and national level, I can attest to the significance
and relevance of these CED Principles. Many communities are
discovering that the principles and practices of community economic
development provide a framework and formula for addressing the root
causes of major concerns such as crime, drugs, gangs, quality of
schools, increasing multi-cultural diversity and the need for jobs.
CED also helps communities manifest more of the positive qualities
presented by Arthur Morgan in his booklet on
The Great Community.” –
Betterton’s project for the 1990-1992 Community Economic
Development Masters program at Southern New Hampshire
University was to promulgate CED principles and
practices. The fact that he turned down a HUD Community
Builder Fellowship worth $250,000 in 1998 (when he was
earning less than $25,000 a year) to continue the
non-profit community empowerment work he and his team
had underway at the time demonstrates his commitment to
what he and his classmates defined as the foundation of
CED: self-help, empowerment and capacity building.” —
Michael Swack, Professor, the Carsey Institute,
University of New Hampshire and founding Dean,
School of Community Economic
Development, Southern New Hampshire
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