Whether one lives in a metropolitan, suburban, or rural area, they are aware of the current state of their community in a major or minor capacity. Over many decades, residents will notice the improvements or deteriorations that impacted their community. The distinctness of community development, as well as economic development, remains apparent, but it is time to approach these two topics as a linked entity. Community development and economic development are two separate topics that one could argue do not necessarily need to overlap. However, these two topics are linked to each other, and improving one improves the other simultaneously. The purpose of this blog is to provide information on the benefits of this link for communities and why it should now be explored.
According to Robert Pittman, “Definitions of community and economic development are parallel: community development produces assets for improving the quality of life and business climate, and economic development mobilizes these assets to realize the benefits of the community” (Pittman et al., 2009). Parallel items never meet, but Pittman suggests that community and economic development are close enough to the point where the disciplines influence each other. Additionally, Pittman’s explanation illustrates that both community and economic development are the driving forces in community growth, especially for businesses. One could say that both small and large businesses are the pulse of their communities, the very main ingredient that helps them prosper. Of course, businesses do not run themselves, so it can be inferred that community development and economic development impacts citizens as well.
Furthermore, the positive impact of community and economic development on citizens is measurable. Storper states, “The recent empirical literature on economic development places intergroup relations, and especially political coalition formation, at center stage. The principal explanations supplied for why coalitions are essential to development are that they provide a context in which good ideas and policies can be implemented; and they allow problem-solving and conflict resolution” (Storper, 2005). The formation of coalitions aids in the relationship of community and economic development by allowing citizens to plan and execute improvements for their community.
After working in many communities for over a decade, I have seen the correlation between community and economic development, residents are interacting with social connectivity, businesses, non-profits, schools, and social determinants of health to name a few; however, at its core, residents cannot live without the income, building equity within their homes and developing economic inclusion within their neighborhood. For example, in Wilmington, Delaware, there are residents who are only making $10,000 a year, and typically in those areas, you find less economic development or high economic development turnover due to their environment. Our communities cannot thrive without both economic and social investments.
In conclusion, we must make the linkage between community and economic development to ensure the survival of our communities nationwide. Our communities need us more than ever, especially during the pandemic and post-pandemic era; the problems that exist for decades still need to be solved. As a Community Development Strategist, I am collaborating with you all by doing this work every day, and you should be applauded. This is not easy work, but strength is in numbers and we are in this together. Let us make the community and economy more relevant in our discussions, our funding allocations, and our work on the ground.
Rysheema Dixon is a Senior Advisor at ESI. Ms. Dixon is a business owner, educator, and elected official who specializes in community & economic development. She has been running her business RD Innovative Planning for close to 9 years, teaches as an Adjunct Professor at University of Delaware, and is on Wilmington DE City Council as an At-Large Councilwoman.
Pittman, R., Pittman, E., Phillips, R., & Cangelosi, J. (2009). The Community and Economic Development Chain: Validating the Links Between Processes and Outcomes. Community Development, 40(1), 80-93. https://doi.org/10.1080/15575330902918956
Storper, M. (2005). Society, community, and economic development. Studies in Comparative International Development, 39(4), 30-57. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02686164