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This Guide represents the findings and best advice that we have been able to discern from practitioners and community members who provide leadership in their own communities. We have distilled many insights into a series of best practices for community economic development. These are intended to help rural communities deal with the effects of a stable or declining population.
Using this Guide
As you start to use this Guide, you will see that there are a series of components that reflect the lessons learned from the experiences of successful communities. These are presented using an analogy of the structure of a house. You need to appreciate this structure and its various components to then work with the Guide in the context of your community. You konw your community best!
Be aware that there is no one single approach to developing your community. This Guide provides a "road map" that will be helpful. You however need to be selective and work with those actions that will be of most value to you and your community. Some of the communities that we spoke with have been working on their approach for more than 25 years. Change takes time. Although this Guide is intended as a standalone document, there are additional Resource Materials that you may find helpful. You can find them at www.waynecaldwell.ca.
There are many ways to think about the process of community economic development. During this research project, we found it useful to put the different pieces of the process into the diagram of a house. It is a both a whole entity and a number of smaller components, which work well when fitted together.
The roof of the house helps a community set their vision of the future.
At the top of the house is quality of life, which is what this whole process of community economic development is about. Rural communities are engaging in community economic development in order to improve the lives of their families, friends and neighbours.
Sustainability and creativity are two guiding principles which help rural communities think about how they want to undertake community economic development. They provide a mind-set, or a way of thinking, that will impact all of the decisions they make.
The walls of the house help a community decide on what actions to take.
Creating the walls of the house are the building blocks of community economic development. They are the specific actions and activities that communities can do to help achieve their goals.
On the outer walls are two important pieces of community economic development: planning and evaluation. Many municipal leaders feel that these go hand in hand. These are the before and after pieces, which help you aim for and measure success.
Specific activities in the house are localization, building partnerships and capital, adapting to change and community engagement. Although different communities will choose to prioritize these building blocks in different ways, they are all important in their own way. Each community will decide how they will use these activities to their own benefit.
The foundation of the house helps a community recognize who will take action.
The foundation of the house is leadership - both by municipal governments and by citizens, organizations, business and others. Without leaders, community economic development simply will not happen. The impact of individual champions can be key to success.
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