Community Opportunity & Innovation Network (COIN)

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This Profile of Effective Practice is one of fifteen stories examining how innovative, community-based initiatives are using comprehensive approaches to improve social and economic conditions on a local level.

One hour north-east of Toronto, Peterborough is a gateway to the "cottage country" of the Kawarthas, a large recreational region of Ontario. Now nicknamed "The Electric City", Peterborough saw extensive industrial growth as one of the first locations in Canada to begin generating hydro electrical power (even before Niagara). Companies like Edison General Electric Company (later Canadian General Electric) and America Cereal Company (later to become Quaker Oats), located here to take advantage of this new cheap resource.

Since the 1970s, the manufacturing sector has declined as Peterborough has also emerged as a regional service centre. Today, while the largest employer is now the Peterborough Regional Health Centre, followed by school boards and local government, manufacturing is still the biggest local industry with General Electric and Quaker Oats maintaining large operations in Peterborough. The city is also a 'bedroom' community for workers of General Motors -- the GM plants in Oshawa are actually the largest industrial employer of Peterborough citizens. Lower costs, reliable labour and high quality post-secondary institutions are a competitive advantage for Peterborough.

COIN started operations in 1991, following an anti-poverty study and a series of community meetings led by the Peterborough Social Planning Council, the Peterborough and District United Way and other partners. The study and meetings were looking for practical, community-based solutions to poverty that could be implemented locally. Frustrated with waiting for provincial or federal governments to take action, community economic development was identified as a promising strategy social and economic development with low-income people and communities facing significant challe

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