Community Economic Development
Introduction to Community Economic Development by Charles Betterton, MSCED

After living in intentional communities for many years and working in community and economic development, I discovered the field of community economic development (CED). Within months of learning about the CED Masters program at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester, NH, I entered the only graduate degree program in the field in 1990.

Through the CED program, I learned that the primary goal of community development is to help people improve their economic and social conditions. Community economic development, a subset of community development, is a people-initiated strategy that seeks to develop the economy of a community, region or country for the benefit of its residents.

Community economic development strategies seek to develop efficient, productive and profitable ventures and programs within the context of a community’s social, cultural and political values. The strategies include issues such as:

* local ownership of economic resources;

* citizen participation; and

* building the capacity of local people to participate in and manage the development process.

This introduction to the significant differences in CED helped me understand why so many traditional approaches to community and economic development fail. It is primarily because they lack the comprehensive focus and the commitment to self-help, empowerment and capacity building inherent in community economic development.

During an introductory class in the CED Master’s program, my classmates and I developed the following list of the root causes of the problems that threaten our society:

* The “Me Generation”
* Getting away from God
* Lack of spirituality
* Lack of common vision
* Absence of wisdom
* Focus on accumulation versus circulation
* Spiritual and cultural disintegration and the
* Lack of an appropriate values system and ways to express it.

The following month we considered potential solutions to these problems by reflecting on the values of community economic development which we described as including:

* Active citizen participation in government and community
* Focus on human development and community development
* Building collaborative partnerships
* Local resource utilization
* Application of cooperative principles
* Retention of wealth in the neighborhoods
* Seeing personal and organizational goals within the context of community and society
* Consideration and appreciation of multicultural differences in religion, race, values, perspectives and communication
* Enabling people and communities to empower themselves
* Recognizing a spiritual underpinning, a sense of oneness

After twenty-five years of serving in various management capacities in community and economic development programs at the local, state and national level, I can attest to the significance and relevance of these CED Principles. Many communities are discovering that the principles and practices of community economic development provide a framework and formula for addressing the root causes of major concerns such as crime, drugs, gangs, quality of schools, increasing multi-cultural diversity and the need for jobs.

My team and I have observed that there are three primary factors that determine the level of success we realize in life as individuals and organizations. I believe these are the clarity of our vision, the definiteness of our purpose and the appropriateness of our attitudes and actions. We also believe these three success factors are applicable at the community level. We are therefore committed to helping provide expanded access to resources for personal and community empowerment. Over the past few years, we have discovered and collected a wealth of resources on the many different approaches to community and we are always happy to share this information with anyone who is interested.

“Mr. Betterton’s project for the 1990-1992 Community Economic Development Masters program at Southern New Hampshire University was to promulgate CED principles and practices. The fact that he turned down a HUD Community Builder Fellowship worth $250,000 in 1998 (when he was earning less than $25,000 a year) to continue the non-profit community empowerment work he and his team had underway at the time demonstrates his commitment to what he and his classmates defined as the foundation of CED: self-help, empowerment and capacity building.” —Michael Swack, Professor, the Carsey Institute, University of New Hampshire and founding Dean, School of Community Economic Development, Southern New Hampshire University

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