Planning & Visioning

Community Engagement

Financial Capital

Keeping it Local


Adaptation to Change

Learning from Experience


What is Leadership?

The most successful community economic development strategies often combine local government and community leadership.

Government leadership is about multiple levels of governments making the financial and political commitment to economic development, taking reasonable risks, having a vision for the future and helping create and support community leaders.

Community leaders can be non-governmental organizations, individuals, faith groups or business associations. Leaders are willing to put in time and effort for the common good of the community. They often possess the skills, knowledge, passion or power to bring about change. Leaders have a vision for the community and the drive to see it through.

Why Leadership?

Why Community Leadership?

Strong leaders in a community can ...

  • Challenge conventional thinking and initiate change
  • Connect diverse community members and projects
  • Raise the profile of the volunteer sector in media and government
  • Fill the gap in rural community services through volunteer time and effort
  • Provide the energy and drive to help communities through economic crises
  • Offer an insider perspective, local experience and a personal stake in the issues
Why Government Leadership?

Strong government leaders can...

  • Help a community maintain a competitive advantage in a rapidly changing global economy
  • Inspire other community members to get involved
  • Differentiate between short and long term priorities, which help a community act strategically (proactive vs. reactive!)

How Do You Encourage Leadership?

Strategies for Community Leaders

All communities have leaders. Community leaders can support one another, and strive to work effectively with their municipalities to enact change.

  • Learn who makes decisions and how they are made in your municipality.
  • Find out whether there are already adequate opportunities for community participation, such as committees and consultation events. If not, talk to government leaders about creating or improving them.
  • Trust your own knowledge and have the confidence to challenge and debate with decision makers.
  • Motivate unlikely leaders by setting clearly defined goals, interesting meetings, responsibility and recognition.
Strategies for Government Leaders
  • Assess the strengths and weaknesses in determining your community?s capacity for community economic development
  • Consider investing in a part time or full time economic development officer or a municipally funded economic development agency
  • Trust staff to make informed recommendations, and avoid council micro-management
  • Create committees of council and task forces to better engage and utilize the expertise of local residents
  • Provide community volunteers with capacity building opportunities to increase effective participation such as workshops on how to run meetings, resolve conflict, recruit and retain volunteers, fundraise and so on
  • Reach out to individuals, such as students, who may not be aware of their potential role in community economic development
  • Seek out and facilitate partnerships with other levels of government and community groups

Looking for More? Please see page 41 for more resources on Leadership.

Community Spirit Leads the Way

Ste Anne de Prescott, in Northwestern Ontario, is one of the few municipalities that can boast of a well run, active economic development program fully operated by volunteers. It all began with the threatened closure of the local credit union. Through public meetings that consistently had upwards of 50 people in attendance, the community established goals and priorities, including establishing an economic development committee.

The economic development committee has had numerous successes, including a study on agricultural diversification with a resulting new crop (sunflower) and business (bird seed), a study on manure digesters with two digesters subsequently built, town beautification efforts, a youth leadership camp, aiding in the re-opening of the only general store, the creation of a welcome package for new residents, and the introduction of high speed internet. Visit

A Simple Solution: Volunteer Roster

La Centrale in Hearst, Northeastern Ontario, is a community-based business that organizes local events. They actively recruit and maintain a roster of volunteers and organizations looking for volunteers, which makes it easy for both parties to find what they are looking for.

Youth Councils Overcome Negative Stereotypes

The Y-NOT Youth Councils are an excellent example of rural youth engagement and capacity building. This project is successful because it is run by youth, for youth. The councils create an opportunity for youth to come together socially and learn critical skills. They learn from their own mistakes, and must work together, often overcoming obstacles such as very different backgrounds and income levels. They are creating a positive image for youth, who are often branded with a negative stereotype. They often host community-wide events, such as music and film festivals, which are open to people of all ages. At the political level, town councils have also found it useful to consult with youth councils on certain policies. Visit

A Clear Commitment to Innovation

Much can be learned from the Town of Marathon, a small town of 4000 in northwestern Ontario. The current town council has made a commitment to community economic development by re-instating the economic development office, as well as establishing a municipally- funded economic development corporation. The town is now taking the lead in seeking out new options for a recently closed mill, including development of biofuels, and they are also working towards a model of sustainable community-governance for their local forest. In partnership with a neighbouring municipality and local First Nations, they aim to ensure that their forest is managed sustainably, with local residents receiving the benefits. Visit



DOWNLOADS: Best Practices Guide (6.6Mb), Resource Materials (3.7Mb), OPPI Article (7.5Mb)