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An Internet Research Guide to Economic and Community Development,

by Alanna Buchanan Where to begin a research project on community development

A logical place to begin searching for information on community development corporations and community development, generally, is at the, whose mission is to bring together "the broad range of community wealth building activity." It is an excellent source of information where one can access a directory of community builders and community development corporations. This website also provides an overview of CDCs, a list of Support Organizations, Models & Best Practices, Research Resources and Articles and Publications.

Additionally, the Community Building Resource Exchange provides a list of resources that explore the wide array of community development approaches and strategies. This website is targeted to "[a]nyone who works on the problems of distressed neighborhoods and the problems of poor children and families. This site offers a variety of resources, including articles from academic journals, reports, evaluations, case studies, and links to other Internet sites offering related resources. In particular, it provides a selection of publications that specifically address race, poverty and community development.

The National Congress for Community Economic Development is the self-described "trade association for community development corporations (CDCs) and the community economic development (CED) industry." It has over 700 members including CDCs, other community-based economic organizations, community action agencies, banks, foundations, corporations, individual practitioners, students and small businesses and provides an extensive list of publications on community economic development and CDCs as well as a list of CDCs and community economic development allies.

Another exceptional source of information is the National Housing Institute (NHI), which publishes Shelterforce: The Journal of Affordable Housing and Community Building and Shelterforce Online. NHI studies the issues causing the housing and community crisis in America, examining among other factors poverty and racism. Specifically, the NHI looks at why some groups have been successful in their community building activities and others have not, searching "for innovative strategies, unique partnerships, and effective ways to organize low-income communities." Their findings are then communicated in Shelterforce, their bi-monthly magazine.

Additionally, because community economic development and CDCs are intricately intertwined with the broader issue of housing, a review of the research guide found under the housing tab would be a good place to find additional resources.

General information on community development corporations

Community development corporations (CDCs) are designed to use the assets and resources of the community to revitalize depressed neighborhoods. The function of CDCs has been described as including efforts: (1) to remove the blight that drags down the value of surrounding properties and create amenities that increase property value; (2) to demonstrate the profit potential of the neighborhood to the wider marketplace (through their leading investments), leading others to consider the neighborhood a good economic bet; and, (3) to help organize the multiple and simultaneous investments needed to overcome the reluctance of any single actor to go it alone. (Walker, 2005). The objectives of CDCs can be broken down into two areas: programmatic strategies and engagement strategies. (Walker, 2005). Programmatic strategies consist of CDC efforts to redevelop housing, promote homeownership, create jobs, create and expand business, and other community improvement activities. (Walker, 2005). Engagement strategies consist of efforts to encourage citizens to participate in programs and projects that further community development purposes. (Walker, 2005). For a good background on community development corporations, see "Community Development Corporations: Challenges in Supporting a Right to Housing," by Rachel G. Bratt in A Right to Housing (2006), and the Urban Institute publication: "The Impact of Community Development Corporations on Urban Neighborhoods" by Christopher Walker (2005). See also, "Community Building: Hope and Caution," by William Traynor (1995), which discusses the shift in the community development movement toward a greater emphasis on building the types of social capital that effect positive community change.

Think tanks

Several think tanks and research institutions also play a key role in generating information on community development corporations, in particular, The Brookings Institution, the Urban Institute, and the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. The Metropolitan Policy Program, which is a part of the Brookings Institution examines the changes taking place in America's cities and metropolitan areas and explores innovative solutions to more inclusive, competitive and sustainable development. The Urban Institute serves as an even more comprehensive source of information on community development and CDCs. The Urban Institute is a nonpartisan economic and social policy research organization. It is home to the Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center that concentrates on communities that make up America’s urban regions. A small sampling of their key materials on CDCs include: "Community Development in the 1990s" and "Community Development Corporations and their Changing Support Systems." The Manhattan Institute for Policy Research voices the conservative perspective on community development and CDCs and publishes a wide variety of books, articles, opinion pieces, reports, and speeches as well as the widely read magazine, City Journal. For an example of the Manhattan Institute’s publications, see "America's Trillion Dollar Housing Mistake: The Failure of American Housing Policy."

Universities that focus on community development

There are also several universities that are involved in the community development movement. Northwestern is home to the Institute for Policy Research that has an urban policy/community development working group. In 1995, it established The Asset-Based Community Development Institute (ABCD), which is "built upon three decades of community development research by John Kretzmann and John L. McKnight" and produces practical resources (such as workbooks) and publications to aid community builders in their work. For example, it recently published in conjunction with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation "Discovering Community Power: A Guide to Mobilizing Local Assets and Your Organization's Capacity." ABCD also provides a topical index of publications on different aspects of community development such as "associations," "capacity building theory" and "evaluations," among others. Additionally, it provides information on mapping tools to effectively identify the talent of local citizens. Information on periodic trainings hosted by ABCD is also listed on its website.

Milano the New School for Management and Urban Policy is also a player in the CDC movement. It is home to the Community Development Research Center that "maintains data on community based efforts and examines the activities, programs and other factors that contribute to or limit their effectiveness." It has produced such reports as "From Neighborhood to Community, comparing the community building contributions of local development corporations in the cities of Newark, Boston, and Minneapolis."

Additionally, the Center for Urban Policy Research, based out of Rutger’s Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy provides a diverse selection of publications on Community Development and CDC’s from the mid-to-late nineties.

Advocacy organizations working on community development issues

There are a diversity of advocacy organizations working on CDC related issues. (See also, the PRRAC housing research guide.) The Coalition for Non-Profit Housing and Economic Development is one such organization and has a forthcoming link on what is currently happening with the issue of housing and community development reform. The National Low Income Housing Coalition is another prominent advocacy organization addressing America’s affordable housing crisis. It provides free publications and a very thorough list of links: for housers, and on National Housing Organizations, State and Local Organizations, Other Advocacy and Policy Organizations, Government Sites of Interest, Banking and Housing Finance, Sources of Data, Publications/Periodicals and Other Lists of links and directories.

Some other resources

Other good sources of information include: the Enterprise Community Partners, Inc., the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations and Rapoza Associates. The Enterprise Community Partners, Inc. is an advocate for federal and local policy that supports affordable housing and community development. It sells, among other resources, a Community Development library on how to run a community-based organization and covers six topic areas: planning, governance, communications, program operations, fundraising and money management. The Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations provides information on how to form a CDC, a glossary of terms and acronyms used in community development, job opportunities in the community development and CDC field and links to other organizations and resources. Rapoza Associates, which is a public interest lobbying and government relations firm located in Washington, D.C., provides comprehensive legislative and support services to community development organizations, associations, and public agencies and is a good source of information on tax policies that are relevant to community development.

Recommended links on community development

The Asset Based Community Development Institute

The Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development

The Brookings Institution, Metropolitan Policy Program

The Campaign for Affordable Housing (provides a link to relevant organizations in the industry)

Center for Urban and Regional Studies (UNC-Chapel Hill)

Center for Urban Policy Research

Coalition for Nonprofit Housing and Economic Development

Community Development Research Center, Milano The New School for Management and Urban Policy

Community Development Society

Community Reinvestment Fund

The Enterprise Community Partners, Inc.

Ford Foundation

Housing Assistance Council

The Housing Partnership Network

HUD User

Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations

National Congress for Community Economic Development

National Housing Institute

Rapoza Associates

US Department of Housing and Urban Development
Office of Community Planning and Development


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