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Economic Alternatives

Community Economic Development

Community Economic Development or CED is a process or strategy that is used to analyze economic systems and their impact on a community. CED looks at how money moves through a neighbourhood or a community and what impact that movement of money has on the people within the community. It also looks at what is needed within the community. The key concept of CED is using local resources to meet local needs while at the same time creating healthy and economically viable communities. CED is about working with communities to develop positive and sustainable processes, not imposing a system from outside the community. CED looks at all aspects of the economy, not just commercial, and is a powerful tool in working towards happy, healthy communities.

There are 11 criteria of community economic development:

  1. Use of Local Goods and Services
    By using local goods and services, a community creates greater self-reliance and less dependence on outside markets while at the same time supporting local producers. For example, bread sold at Winnipeg's Tall Grass Bakery is made from organic wheat and other grains grown by local Manitoba farmers.

  2. Production of Goods and Services for Local Use
    The first step to using local goods and services is producing goods and services that are needed within the community. In the early 1990s residents of Winnipeg's North End got together and named a need for healthy food at an affordable cost. Neechi Foods Community Store developed out of this discussion. Neechi sells wild rice, fresh bannock, local fish, and fresh fruit and vegetables at affordable prices.

  3. Local Re-Investment of Profits
    CED encourages businesses to invest their profits towards community-building activities rather than keep them for their own gain. In this way the whole community benefits. Investing in the community can mean anything from improving the business' retail space to donating products to community organizations to sponsoring a community garden project.

  4. Long-Term Employment of Local Residents
    Providing long-term jobs for people within a community is another goal of CED. Dependable employment benefits a community in many different ways. It increases residents' self-esteem, provides opportunities for people to live more socially productive lives, reduces dependency on service providers such as food banks and social assistance, and brings more wages and salaries into the community.

  5. Local Skill Development
    CED also encourages local skill development. In the West Broadway neighbourhood of Winnipeg, local youth are hired each summer to participate in community-building activities such as gardening, composting, and home renovation. Local businesses invest some of their profits towards this project. The work the young people do gives them training for the future but also increases the labour force, creates and improves neighbourhood housing, gives young people an income, and makes the community look better. The benefits of local skill development ripple out across the community.

  6. Local Decision-Making and Ownership
    Many CED businesses are collectively-owned which means that all people who work at the business have a part in the decision-making and become part-owners of the businesses. For example, Mondragon Bookstore and Coffeehouse in Winnipeg's Exchange District is a collectively-owned and operated vegetarian coffeehouse and political bookstore. As a cooperative, Mondragon has no manager and all worker-members, regardless of starting skill or seniority, earn the same rate of pay. All work is divided among collective members so all take their turn doing each of the different kinds of activities that are necessary for running a business (cooking, serving, working in the bookstore, attending meetings, cleaning bathrooms). In return, they all enjoy the benefits of being co-owners in the business.

  7. Healthy Citizens
    The CED model invests in community development that brings physical, mental and emotional health and well-being to community members at home, in the workplace and in the community at large. For example, Art City, an inner-city drop-in centre for kids and adults, provides space and material for artistic expression leading to greater mental well-being of neighbourhood people. Dragonfly Scent-Free Bodywork and Massage Therapy promotes community health through physical well-being. Neechi Community Store creates community health by providing healthy food. Each of these efforts benefit the community tremendously, contributing to healthier families, more effective education, and a more productive workforce.

  8. Positive Physical Environment
    CED projects encourage healthy, safe, and attractive neighbourhoods. The Humboldt's Legacy store in Winnipeg promotes environmental sustainability by providing environmentally-sound cleaning products, clothing made from organic cotton, and biodegradable shampoos and other body products. CED youth employment projects throughout Manitoba provide gardens and compost piles, creating more ecologically-friendly and more attractive cities. Housing projects also help make neighbourhoods more attractive and more people-friendly.

  9. Neighbourhood Stability
    CED encourages development that brings stability and health to a whole community. While bars and casinos tend to bring neighbourhood breakdown, CED projects like the Panda Bear Daycare Cooperative in the east end of Winnipeg and the catering service run out of Andrews Street Family Centre, a drop-in centre in Winnipeg's North End, bring safety and stability by providing employment and services that people need. Dependable, affordable, secure housing like that provided by the Inner City Renovation Enterprise also satisfies need, creates stability and beauty, and makes the neighbourhood a place where people can live together in harmony.

  10. Human Dignity
    Essentially, CED works for the self-respect and dignity of all members of the community. CED is an economic model whose goal is to increase people's capacity to better themselves through their own efforts. In order to do this, community development needs to be respectful of people of all ages, levels of ability and income, cultural backgrounds, and towards both genders. CED projects recognize the specific needs of all people and work to fulfill those needs using neighbourhood resources.

  11. Support for Other CED Projects
    Finally, CED projects strategically support other CED projects by buying from each other. Neechi Foods buys wild rice from Kagiwiosa Manomin, an Ojibway owned and operated cooperative in Northwestern Ontario, as well as coffee from workers cooperatives in Central America. In this way CED projects all over the world are strengthened by each other.

How do I support CED?
You can support CED by shopping at businesses that practice community economic development. You can also show these criteria to other businesses and encourage them to be a part of this growing movement. If you are a business owner, you can adopt the principles of CED for your own business and encourage other business owners to do the same.

In Winnipeg, SEED Winnipeg, UNPAC, and LITE produced a community shopping guide listing businesses that match the criteria of CED. For copies contact SEED Winnipeg at 204-927-9935.

Visit our Guidelines for Ethical Consumption for more ideas on creating community through your purchasing.

These principles were originally developed by members of the Neechi Foods Cooperative between 1991-1993. Special thanks to Anna Rothney of the Community & Economic Development Committee of Cabinet and Louise Simbandumwe of SEED Winnipeg for their input into this article.

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