Both Bhattacharyya (2004) and Cavaye have pointed out, as have other authors, that there are variety of definitions of community economic development. Savoie (2000) has further pointed out that this may be confusing to a student studying community economic development, as well as practically it presents a challenge of accountability for decision-makers and governments (p. 115). While this variety is viewed as a problem by some, Cavaye engaged with this variety as essential function of exploring the many facets of community development.
Understanding these ambiguities, Boothroyd and Davis (1993) contextualize CED as a potential of techniques, approaches and solutions to economic problems. Lack of amalgamated definition probably has led to multiplicity in approach to community economic development by CED practitioners. This variety is essential for practitioners to understanding multiple approaches, exploring options, and experimenting with relevant solutions based on the specificity of a community. The diverging reasons that identifies a community and its needs requires a variable and adaptable approach, as opposed to a singular model.
So instead of seeking a singular definition or a more rigorous definition that Bhattacharyya (2004) calls for, CED should to be understood in its scope. Savoie (2000) argues that CED is a process of development in which the community is the initiator and the decision-maker (116). Bhattacharyya (2004) reasons that community development is community owning the problem in solidarity and taking initiative in solving it (24). Cavaye explains CD as community engaging itself to improving their situation.
Understanding CED as a scope can help practitioners and students understand that CED is not a specific process or methodology but set of guiding principles to motivate the right practices in building or developing communities (Macintyre). Additionally, understanding the scope also brings a practitioner closer to the objectives of CED; it resolves the differentiation between community improvement and community development.
The objective of this paper is to highlight principles of community economic development that contextualizes CED in practical applications.
Contextualizing community for CED:
For practical purpose of understanding the aims and goals of CED, it may be worthwhile to contextualize the concept of a community within the CED framework. This specific discussion is meaningful for understanding scope and applicability.
Shaw (2008) states that the problem with defining community is that it is a very ambiguous term. Generally, some authors have taken an all-purpose definition of community, while others have consolidated various meanings to make the understanding more definitive. Bhattacharyya (2004) pointed out how some scholars have defined it as locality and neighborhood. In political practices of a government, it makes sense that community is understood to be a locality or neighborhood so that a group can be managed. Shaw (2008) points in her discussion that some have argued community as existing set of relationships.
If we were to consolidate the definitions, as Cavaye did, to mean a group of people with shared identity, there is still problem in terms of determining the goals and applicability of CED. The challenge in applying this term practically is whether shared identity is sufficient to demand CED initiatives? Shared identity may also not be conscious. So what will cause community to realize that there is development needed and that they must take ownership in the developmental process?
Savoie (2000) points out that community economic develop is not found in well-performing economies. In United States, it was applied to development of ghettos, while in Canada it’s mainly applied to rural communities that are facing an economic crisis (Savoie, 2000, p. 117). So more than a shared identity, can we…