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Community Economic Development is a community-driven approach to the study and practice of improving the economic well-being and overall quality of life for local communities. It, therefore, goes beyond simply worrying about land, labor, and capital. Extension’s Community Economic Development educational programming and research take many forms, but at its heart is helping communities of the state of Wisconsin improve their economic well-being regardless of achieved or ascribed statuses, geographic location, and past successes or failures and to do so in ways the preserve and respect the environment, culture, and all people.
The primary logic, or theory of change, that underlies and supports our work comes from Extension’s long and established history of working with communities on issues of Community Economic Development. The Community Economic Development (CED) Program is guided by the following principles:
- CED is a blending of community development and economic development;
- Economic development is impossible without a solid community development foundation, in the strictest sense, community development is a necessary but not sufficient condition for economic development;
- Development and growth are not synonymous, and development focuses on notions of quality of life broadly defined;
- Asset building (e.g., skills and capacities of individuals, associations and institutions within a locality) lays the foundation upon which economic development is built;
- Economic development within the community presumes that certain local institutions are in place and functional (e.g., leadership, citizen participation, viable local business organizations, etc.);
- Practitioners/educators must take care to distinguish between normative and positive economics; the outcomes must reflect the values (normative) of the community, not the practitioner/educator;
- Co-creation and co-generation of research and educational programming will better engage target audiences and transform practice.