Five Principles of 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:    


  • Plances human flourishing at the center of economic activity
  • Integrates human and social development as essential to economic development


  • Sustains economic reconciliation with marginalized populations 
  • Creates economic opportunities for people at all levels and capacities
  • Improves community resilience with redundancy and agility


  • Uses systems thinking, acknowledging that financial and social progress must be in line with environmental stewardship
  • Analyzes impact and success with multiple bottom lines


  • Builds off local assets and strengths
  • Encourages local industries and local purchasing
  • Builds capacity in local gaps or weaknesses


  • Engages in participatory planning with a broad range of stakeholders
  • Builds capacity in local institutions to lead innovation
  • Elevates and integrates community-level planning with senior levels of decision-making

1. Livelihoods Focused

Being “livelihoods focused” means that CED treats the economy as a tool for increasing the quality of life for everyone in our communities. Human and social development is critical to economic development, and is the purpose of the economy itself. Well-being is the ultimate goal of economic activity, not simply profitability and production.

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. 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 deliver benefits more fairly and efficiently. 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.

4. Place-Based

Places are more than spaces of production, they are rich locations of culture, environment, and people. CED uses a place-based approach which acknowledges that all development is local and must be entwined with local strengths, assets, gaps, and weaknesses. Capacity building and investment in CED is therefore aimed at improving the economic and social development of places, and strengthening circular economies which continue to 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. 


Further Reading

These principles and ideas have been informed by a great number of writers on the subject of community economic development and social economies. A few foundational texts include the following: