Awards and recognition

SFU’s Certificate in Community Economic Development receives accreditation from EDAC

December 20, 2022
Ryan Watmough, program director, SFU CED

Since 2001, SFU’s Community Economic Development (CED) Certificate Program has educated professionals around the world on environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive economic development at the neighborhood, municipal, and regional scales. Taught by practitioners and academics in various aspects of economic development, SFU’s certificate in CED equips graduates with the connections, knowledge, and skills to enact change from local to global. In recent years, the program has become fully remote to meet the needs of today’s communities.

As of December 2022, the certificate in CED has received accreditation from the Economic Developer's Association of Canada (EDAC), recognizing the program’s crucial and rigorous programming.

In a Q&A with Ryan Watmough, program director of SFU CED, he shares his passion for CED and insights on the importance of community in economic development, and what this accreditation means for the program — and its graduates.

What attracted you to SFU’s Community Economic Development Program?

My first interaction with SFU CED was years ago as a student of the certificate program. I had just transitioned from many years in the mountain resort industry into the non-profit sector, wanting to build local communities, rather than exploit them for the benefit of international businesses. In my small town (Golden, BC), the local economic initiatives committee and elected officials didn't understand what the organization was intended to do, so they stopped funding it. Feeling this vacuum and pressure on the local nonprofits sector, I signed up for the SFU CED program in High River, AB.

Over 8 weekends, I travelled 4 hours each way to High River, to join others taking the certificate. The content and instructors filled the gap between my small-town upbringing, sense of community, and my MBA and project management training.

Believing so much in the program, I secured funding to bring it to Golden, and train more than a dozen local leaders on the principles of CED. Without a local economic development or CED office, together, we were able to create significant community collaborations.

In fall 2021, I was invited to join SFU CED as a mentor for the 2020/21 cohorts and in January 2022, I became the program director.

Our students arrive impressive. Their involvement, understanding and commitment to their communities is the resilient common thread. It’s an honour and pleasure to help curate their experience while in the program and align their passion, their profession and their skills into projects that will serve themselves, their organizations and their communities long after they finish the certificate.

What makes you passionate about community economic development?

Communities control their future — and informed communities can make the best of their opportunities.

CED is based on a foundation of trust between local residents and the organizations they form. If we can openly communicate, then we can understand gaps and overlap in the community and serve everyone better.

I get most excited when I see dedicated local leaders gain an understanding of CED concepts, develop confidence from their colleagues and instructors, and work on their complex challenges together.

Carol Anne Hilton and now Chief Leanne Joe’s economic reconciliation work helps to inform what we do, and how we support students. 

SFU’s CED Certificate Program recently became EDAC accredited. What is an EDAC accreditation and what does this mean for graduates of SFU CED?

SFU CED is the only post-secondary BC institution that is recognized for economic development training (aside from conferences and events through BCEDA). The 30 points available to our CED Certificate holders are the most allocated to any program from EDAC. This accreditation means that our graduates will finally be recognized for the relevant and rigorous study they have completed. 

Historically, many of our grads lead nonprofits, work in local,  regional or Indigenous government, and develop local solutions in small businesses. But very few of our grads have leadership roles in economic development organizations.

Economic development is changing and many of their practices are now looking inward, toward their community – like CED always does – rather than focusing on foreign investment opportunities. All economic developers are quickly realizing the necessity of environmental and social lenses, and corresponding goals, to make their communities sustainable. And they are finding investments and people are attracted to these livable, inclusive communities.

By February, we hope to have a couple more accreditation announcements, too. We are starting a new cohort mid-January and hope to see groups of individuals join us from communities of all sizes across Canada.

What is an Ec.D. certification?

Ec.D. is the national standard for professionalization. The Certificate isn’t the last stop on our students journey to receiving the Ec.D. accreditation, but it will provide a very powerful and efficient jumping-off point.

Our grads are also favourably considered for Cape Breton University’s MBA in CED, and receive 3 transfer credits, saving them $5,000 in tuition.

Why is now a good time to study community economic development at SFU?

Coming through a pandemic and other population health issues, facing climate change-related disasters, dealing with rising inequality, broken supply chains, and a multitude of macro-economic factors, means that we need to look to our closest, smallest networks – our communities – for support and collaboration.

Our program is accessible and doesn’t require students to have an undergraduate degree. This fully online program connects with people where they are and helps them make an impact in their community. Beyond this, we continue to build relationships with regional, provincial and national organizations that add value to the certificate and our alumni. While the current challenges may change, the principles of CED, and their new SFU network, will serve our students for their entire career.

The folks that started this program back in 1989 may have been ahead of their time. But the time for the certificate in CED Program is now.

Learn more about SFU's Certificate in Community Economic Development here.