Elsewhere on our website, you will find this definition:
Community development is… local action that creates economic opportunities and enhances the social and environmental conditions in communities. It understands that sustainable development requires an integrated approach to complex community problems. Strategic priorities include structural economic change, local ownership of resources, social development, environmental stewardship, labour market development, and access to capital. CED encourages people to take charge of their future through systematic renewal that is conceived and directed locally (Source: The Canadian Community Economic Development Network).
Typically, non-profit organizations – whether social service, arts and culture, or housing groups – are not in the business of community economic development or neighbourhood revitalization. Their services and capital development initiatives may offer some benefits to the residents in which their services and developments are situated, but the ECDC was formed because its purpose is solely focused on renewing and strengthening neighbourhoods that have a high incidence of low income workers, unemployed and often under-skilled workers, aging and unsafe housing, as well as higher rates of poverty than other Edmonton neighbourhoods.
These communities are often labeled as “distressed,” “impoverished,” “distressed” or even “undesirable” areas of town. We have used some of these terms ourselves in our descriptions of the neighbourhoods we are committed to work with. The challenge in using these words is that a picture is painted that appears to suggest that not much good goes on in these neighbourhoods or are seen as neighbourhoods that offer the prospect for development that overpowers these “negative” characteristics and in the process leads to gentrification that displaces those currently living in these communities.
The ECDC is interested in community development initiatives that improve the lives of residents and the conditions in which they live. If the work we do with community and community partners increases incomes and the choices people have in terms of where they choose to live, whether within or beyond their current neighbourhood, we suggest this is a desirable benefit over displacing residents by simply making these areas of town more attractive to the affluent who live elsewhere.
As the Executive Director of the ECDC, my mandate includes focusing on the following:
Simply put, our niche is working on creating resident and neighbourhood focused impacts and benefits that are not being addressed by other organizations. This is important and well-needed when considering the following:
Clearly, the ECDC recognizes the need for the organizations described above and we know that to deliver on our mandate we will partner with many of them, looking for ways to add value to one another’s work and impacts.
I do realize that some neighbourhoods have issues with how many social service agencies and how many social housing projects exist in their area – typically far more than the city norm for other areas of town. Tensions exist among the various players who actually need to come together to benefit the communities in which they operate. I am hoping the ECDC can be helpful in bringing groups together to find win-wins for all involved.