CED Strategy for Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside to Propose New Solutions to Systemic Challenges

August 19, 2016

DTESIn March 2016, following a call for participation from the City of Vancouver, 30 organizations came together to form the Community Economic Development Strategic Action (CEDSA) Committee. This diverse group is working together to support the Local Economy goals of the Downtown Eastside (DTES) Local Area Plan and propose new solutions to systemic challenges, which will coalesce in a comprehensive economic development strategy for the DTES.

The depth of knowledge and breadth of expertise in the group is humbling; it includes low-income and anti-poverty activism representatives, Business Improvement Associations, resident associations, social enterprises, non-profits, employment services agencies, community centers, neighbourhood houses, and low income residents. Its broad-based membership brings together diverse perspectives from the Oppenheimer, Chinatown, and Strathcona neighbourhoods.

More about the CED Strategy

The Community Economic Development (CED) Strategy is supported by the local government’s first Community Economic Development Planner, Wes Regan. Wes previously worked with the Hastings Crossings Business Improvement Association, which was founded as Canada’s first Social Innovation Business Improvement Area, as well as Building Opportunities with Business, a 3P CED Agency formed to implement the 2004 Economic Revitalization Strategy. In a smart move on behalf of the City, the position was designed to straddle both Social Policy and Planning departments. The City also dedicated resources to support a community vehicle (CEDSA) in hiring its own CED Coordinator to oversee community engagement and implementation of the strategy.

Although the CED Strategy is not part of the new planning process, CEDSA has been working on aggressive timelines towards a fall report to City Council. You can learn more about the CED Strategy and check for more regular updates on the City of Vancouver website.

LEDlab’s Role

In June of 2016, LEDlab signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the CEDSA Committee to support the co-creation of the CED Strategy. LEDlab will take part in facilitation and process design, as well as oversee the CED Coordinator role.

LEDlab will be able to draw on insights from prior issue and system mapping work and will help incubate various project ideas that come out of the CED Strategy over the next two years, hopefully placing future interns with the CEDSA Committee as resources for its work.

What’s Next

The committee has focused its efforts on three strategic themes: retail gentrification and social inclusion, incomes and livelihoods, and rethinking Community Benefits Agreements. Urban Aboriginal economic development, the arts economy, and legislative change all play prominent roles in the CED Strategy. Recently hired CED Coordinator Alisha Maxfield is leading community engagement efforts to ensure there is ample input to the strategy and its implementation.

As an example, the retail gentrification group aims to ensure that low income serving businesses, culturally appropriate businesses (e.g. Aboriginal, Chinese, Japanese), and businesses that provide supported employment to residents with barriers to stability can all afford to keep their doors open in the DTES. Rising rents and property taxes have meant the loss of many beloved community businesses in the last decade. This action is aligned with the DTES Local Area Plan’s strategic direction to ‘retain and enhance local serving retail’ but also expands on it by detailing desired outcomes, outlining planning tools, and identifying mechanisms for how to get there.

The key ingredient of the CED Strategy is that it recognizes that there are various economies interacting in the DTES, including the informal economy and the social economy. This framing is completely aligned with LEDlab’s previous work, which mapped the employment continuum.

Stay tuned to LEDlab email newsletters in the coming months for more updates about the CED Strategy. Please write to cedcoordinator at ledlab.ca if you would like to learn more about the CED Strategy or would like to get involved.