What is CED?

Community economic development (CED) is an inclusive and participatory process by which communities initiate and generate their own multiple bottom-line solutions to economic problems. Community economic developers focus on creating inclusive local economies, developing nourishing livelihood opportunities, building on local resources and capacities, increasing community control and ownership, enhancing the health of the environment, and encouraging community resilience.

While community economic development approaches can look vastly different in every community, many have five basic principles in common:  

The Five Principles of CED

1. Livelihoods Focused

Being “livelihoods focused” means that CED treats the economy as a tool for increasing the well-being and quality of life for everyone in our communities. Well-being is the ultimate goal of economic activity, not simply profitability and production. Along these lines, CED planning doesn’t just focus narrowly on the “economy”, but it also focuses on how various aspects of our communities intersect and interact with the economy. Using a “community capitals approach” CED considers how health, housing, political engagement, social standing, and many other factors both modify the ability of the economy to enrich livelihoods as well as becoming part of the outcomes of economic development itself.

2. Diverse and Inclusive

As much as economic development contributes to well-being, it is also a sorting mechanism for well-being. Historically, modes of economic development have privileged some groups over others, allocating benefits and losses unfairly. In Canada this has been most apparent in the imposition of colonialism by Europeans over our First Nations. However, it is also apparent in the focus of economic development on “major employers” rather than on “mom and pop shops” or subsistence businesses. Diversity and inclusion are essential to CED not only because they right historical wrongs, but also because they improve the ability for the economy to more equitably deliver benefits to everyone regardless of who they are or what their business is. This increases everyone’s capacities and makes both individuals and communities more resilient in a world of constant change.

3. Sustainable

The Nuu-chah-nulth phrase heshook-ish tsawalk is roughly translated as “everything is one” or “everything is interconnected”. The Nuu-chah-nulth and other Nations in this territory have long recognized that everything exists in complex systems that are interconnected and interdependent. CED integrates these insights into a systems approach which recognizes that any development must meet multiple bottom-lines of environmental sustainability, economic vitality, social equity, and cultural appropriateness. Being sustainable is more than just caring for the environment; it is fundamentally focused on maintaining a balance between natural and human worlds, both now and for future generations.

4. Place-Based

Traditional economic development can treat communities as “sites” or “spaces” for production and commerce, while in fact they are “places” that are rich locations of culture, environment, and people. CED uses a place-based approach which acknowledges that all development is local and must grow from local strengths and assets while serving local people. In CED, capacity building and investment is therefore aimed at improving the attachment that residents have to their regions, the ability of development initiatives to “fit” the desires and interests of residents, and return the benefits of that development to local residents and their families

5. Community Controlled

To ensure that economic and social development benefits local communities, it must be controlled by those communities. CED facilitates community control by utilizing grass-roots, bottom-up planning processes that integrate a multiplicity of voices. The foundation of community planning is supported in turn by the presence of healthy institutions that can engage stakeholders and bridge their visions and needs to senior levels of decision-making (governmental and otherwise). CED therefore focuses on both community empowerment and institutional development as tools for economic change.