Principles and practice of community economic development

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Community economic development is an important ingredient in bringing about sustainable local regeneration, both in its own right, and for the lessons it hopefully brings home about the need to engage more productively with all parts of the community in all aspects of the regeneration process. Community economic development should be seen as three-fold in nature: providing alternatives to mainstream market activities (products, services and jobs); helping marginalized communities link better into mainstream market activities; and making mainstream regeneration initiatives more effective by better integrating them with local communities, bringing the benefits of improved access to local resources, knowledge and legitimacy. Community economic development from this perspective does not replace conventional regeneration activities, but it does become a vital and integral aspect of local regeneration strategies. It implies an ethos which should infuse the whole of an area's approach to regeneration, but it does not, for instance, mean that the community leaders should suddenly be put in charge of all aspects of policy, from inward investment to technology cluster development. Rather, the onus is on building new approaches to regeneration, where multiple local approaches will involve diverse combinations of salaried professionals working with business and community leaders, according to jointly agreed priorities. This fits in neatly with the theme of this article, namely that a key challenge for local and regional regeneration is to find new ways of working which ensure that the benefits of a broad regional approach do not by-pass or marginalize processes of community regeneration. Regional development is increasingly about finding new ways of linking strategies from the very local level to the broad regional, requiring that we find new ways of empowering a broader range of individuals and institutions to engage productively at all these levels. Without community regeneration, it is difficult to build sustainable forms of regional regeneration, and in regions of labour surplus it is quite probably impossible. Which means that for years, in Britain in particular, we have been pursuing a path of non-sustainable regional regeneration, a shortcoming which we are only now beginning to address.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)872-877
Number of pages5
JournalRegional Studies
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1998


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