Although it draws on practices of organizing and solidarity that go way back in history, CED emerged more recently in the U.S. a half century ago as a social innovation primarily to address concentrated, persistent poverty, especially in urban areas.
Today, CCEDNet members do all sorts of amazing things, but the common thread of values motivating action to build on assets and create inclusive economic opportunities can still trace its roots to a goal of helping people escape poverty and live fulfilling lives.
Poverty has been a tough nut to crack, however. Progress was made over the 20th century, mostly due to public programs, but some groups and regions are still stuck with unacceptably high rates.
We have a better understanding now that poverty is a complex, multifaceted problem requiring joined-up solutions. In recent decades, faced with the retreat of government services and supports, CED practitioners have had an increasingly uphill battle because so many of the factors related to poverty are systemic problems that must be addressed though public policies. Although CED can do a lot, it can't solve poverty without favourable macroeconomic and policy environments. As Elwood Hopkins wrote last December in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, both place-based initiatives and place-conscious policy that draws from and informs local work are needed. "By creating opportunities for poor communities through enlightened policy, while simultaneously ensuring that those communities have the infrastructure to connect their residents with those opportunities, we may begin to mitigate the problem of concentrated poverty in our prosperous society."
The way we define and describe poverty also influences the public (and therefore political) will to act, and whether we think reducing or eradicating poverty is even possible.
So it was this elegant illustration of the connections between essential policies and local action in a framework for economic security that caught my eye when I saw the Insight Centre for CED's new campaign this summer. The integration of supportive public policy with place-based initiatives in a framework that sets measurable goals reflecting the multi-faceted nature of poverty seems like an important new perspective.
I'm grateful that Paul and the folks at the Tamarack Institute agreed and have partnered with CCEDNet to organize a webinar with Annette Case of the Insight Centre for CED on September 23 so that we can find out more directly.
It should be a very interesting discussion. Please join us.
Michael Toye is the Executive Director of the Canadian CED Network, having worked in various other capacities with CCEDNet since 2000. Michael has also taught courses on CED and social enterprise at Concordia University and has written a number of articles and other publications on CED and the social economy, including co-editing the book, Community Economic Development: Building for Social Change.
Read Michael's blogs