Last day in Washington today and everything was going smoothly until the bus that was due every 10 minutes took 30 minutes and then my suitcase ‘Big Red’ self destructed before some number 8 wire innovation nursed it through the last few hours of it’s life. That takes my total of losses to three – camera, plug adapter and now suitcase. It could be worse – here’s a view from the Lincoln Memorial looking towards the Washington Monument.
First up was Harold and Lauren, who are part of yet another organisation that makes up the ecosystem that is economic development in the US. CFED is a national non-profit that acts as an intermediary, enabling other organisations to achieve outcomes. CFED’s work is focused on creating economic opportunity that alleviates poverty – be it through developing a business or saving for higher education or home ownership. Check out some of their great programs.
What was particularly interesting was their focus at an individual and household rather than location or community wide. They also have a strong focus on data, see their Scorecard tool.
Next was the EDA hosted by Elizabeth and the team. The EDA is the only federal government (like central government in NZ) focused exclusively on economic development. They seem to have transitioned from a ‘leveraging investment’ model to one that develops resilience and encourages diversification in economies.
Some of the highlights of their operations:
- Annual base funding for local/regional economic development. Over 380 regions are granted money each year to develop Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) which includes the development of a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) and a plan with priorities. What is great about this is that it is up to communities to determine their focus and direction.
- Competitive grants covering a range of programs. The quality of the strategy developed by each community above often determines whether the performance in these competitive grants, which is another incentive for communities to get their strategy right. These grants are decided in the 6 regions rather than centrally in Washington (approximately 50 of the staff are Washington, the remaining 100 are in the regions).
- Programs for ‘Economically distressed communities’, which are defined by unemployment or income.
- Special initiatives for more focused or topical trends. Some examples include communities where coal mining/production is declining (POWER initiative) or where disaster hits and urgent response is needed through the National Disaster Recovery Framework (NDRF).
Common theme – ‘Bottom up’
Both these organisations operate nationally and are very different in nature – government and non-profit. However they both display a common behaviour – enabling change from the ‘bottom up’. This leads us back again to localism…. How common is the ‘bottom up’ development approach where you live?