Developing an Integrated Approach to Community Development
Those interested in developing a rural based business to fill a need in their local community or that positively impacts the local environment, already existing community ventures/social enterprises/co-operatives in any stage of development, community members in rural areas, social entrepreneurs and community hubs.
The consensus is that most socio-economic development templates are predicated on an urban vision, usually relating to a particular neighbourhood or population. Often successful urban social enterprises and community ventures are difficult to replicate into rural settings as they do not effectively incorporate distinctly rural issues. Rural areas share common issues: decreasing population due to youth migration; limited healthcare; severe transportation and communication problems; failure to understand the nature of community itself; lacking a logical/suitable ‘champion’ to front a particular solution or new venture, etc.
The Social Enterprise Rural Alliance (SERA CV) organization was created to challenge these issues of rural settings and participate in the development of solutions through community partnership, social enterprise, and entrepreneurship. SERA CV is now formulating best practices on how to most effectively share our key learnings, experience and expertise with other rural communities.
SERA CV has successfully developed tools and created resources that have been instrumental in improving the economic and social climate of the rural communities of Brock Township, Ontario. SERA CV has guided the development of successful local social enterprises/community ventures and gathered key learnings about sustainable rural development. Through our outreach, we have discovered a growing interest for collaboration amongst other small rural communities facing barriers to economic and community development. SERA CV has recognized an opportunity to bring the tools and experience we have developed into a shared resource and network. Through a research project in collaboration with the Ontario Trillium Foundation, SERA CV intends to identify viable strategies to engage rural communities in innovative approaches to socio-economic development (including but not limited to social enterprise) and to assess and conceive a best practice rural alliance structure and implementation strategy, through a collaborative approach, to best serve the interest and needs of rural community socio-economic development stakeholders in Ontario.
Identify collaborative engagement strategies and a framework that can form the basis of a Rural Alliance of communities using rural economic development/community venture approaches to improve their economic and social fabric.
- Engage at least 3 rural communities with definite collaborative interest in the project goals
- Community/organization must have existing enterprises or proposed projects using community economic or social enterprise approaches
- Community in an area or township of less than 15,000 residents
- Rural communities/organizations with project interest are located within a radius of 150 km from Cannington, Ontario
- Organization or community is either currently developing or operating a community venture or community development model
- Organization or community venture considered fits into one of three development stages: within first year start-up; less than 5 yrs. as organization with early development projects underway; or established community venture organization with structure and key learnings achieved
SITUATION: Rural communities require different resources and tools to develop community ventures. They would also benefit from a supportive network in order to minimize the distance between resources, tools and knowledge they require.
ACTION: A series of participatory conversations where community members/ organizations/ businesses/ community ventures/ social enterprises/ community hubs determine resource needs, community development supports and opportunities.
RESULT: A networked Rural Alliance for Community Ventures supported by a context-specific Resource Tool Box and Communication Platform tailored for rural needs.
OUTPUT AND OUTCOMES:
The main purpose of this project is to replicate and scale what SERA Community Ventures has already accomplished in its own rural context into an actionable strategy and framework. There is new and important research available about the importance and difference of rural social enterprise/community ventures, however our project focuses on actionable knowledge translation and transfer and facilitating place-based solutions on the ground. This is an innovative grassroots and fully-funded 1-year project with specific outcomes. Primarily:
- Identify through research and local conversations 3 communities that are interested in pursuing new ideas for community and economic development in their small rural area.
- To assess the level of readiness of rural communities/community venture organizations to engage in social community development and utilize collaborative, shared resource models and alliances;
- Identify through consultation and workshops, the specific resources and development tools they need to support their community development success;
- To identify through consultation, specific online platforms and communication resources deemed to be effective in helping rural communities/organizations remain connected and share knowledge;
- In consultation with the 3 communities and other local community and economic developers, assess and conceive a rural alliance structure and implementation strategy as a collaborative approach to best serve the sustainability of rural community economic developers/the interest and needs of rural community socio-economic development stakeholders.