Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Nonprofit and Social Economy Research

Questioning Neoendogeneity: Cases of Community Economic Development Practice from Atlantic Canada

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Nonprofit and Social Economy Research

Questioning Neoendogeneity: Cases of Community Economic Development Practice from Atlantic Canada

Article excerpt

Community economic development in Atlantic Canada is small 'c,' big 'E,' and small 'd.' -Personal interview, project officer, Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, Anonymous, 2012


Over the past two decades a new paradigm for rural development has emerged-one that rejects aspatial, "topdown" industrial and sectoral development policies in favour of place-based, multi-sectoral, integrated development where communities and community-based actors have a strong role to play (Ambrosio-Albala & Bastiaensen, 2010; Ellis & Biggs, 2001; OECD, 2006, 2015, 2016; Shucksmith, 2010). This approach demands participatory development and explicitly values spatial planning, social attributes, cultural amenities, and the environment (Cabus & Vanhaverbeke, 2003; Ray, 2001; Ward Atterton, Kim, Lowe, Phillipson, & Thompson, 2005). It is an approach that recognizes something that community development practitioners have long argued: top-down development approaches "range from being weak to being outright failures since their policies and programs have not emerged out of the very fabric of the affected region" (Johnson, Hodgett, & Royle, 2007, p. 28). In essence, meaningful community development requires the transformation of fundamental relations of power within a community, which is no small feat.

A host of scholarship has set out to theorize, describe, and analyze this "new rural paradigm," which is sometimes also referred to as "neo-endogenous development" (Ray, 1999, 2001). This article contributes to this body of literature by examining the community economic development landscape in two rural communities- Marystown, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Montague, Prince Edward Island. It explores the relationship between local development groups and their government funders, including their operating environment; the pressures and constraints they face; the goals and values they wish to pursue; and the development objectives they prioritize. In doing so, relations of power that are so central to the local and community-based participatory intentions of the "new rural paradigm" are explored. This work is grounded in historical institutionalism with particular attention paid to the political economy of scale. Specifically it describes a situation where the structure of governmental funding places a heavy emphasis on economic and business development over community development. In this environment, projects focused on the latter are subsumed by priorities defined by governmental funding bodies, thus potentially placing constraints on truly endogenous forms of development.

This article is organized into four parts. First, the study is situated within the community economic development literature. This is followed by a description of the methods and theoretical framework. Next, the two community case studies are presented and finally, conclusions and recommendations for further study are offered.


The impetus to bring communities into economic development has come from many places. In Atlantic Canada, the Antigonish movement was highly formative in the 1930s in forwarding a system of cooperative economic institutions that were community led (Dodaro & Pluta, 2012). In the 1960s, the rise of community power and social justice movements challenged established development practices (Harding, 1996, 2009; Magill & Clark, 1975). It has also arisen from practices incorporated from the "developing" world, where the community scale is central due to the underdevelopment of state institutions (Pieterse, 1998; Stiglitz, 2002). It has been borne along with critique of technocratic and top-down forms of public administration-critiques that have been bolstered by increasing demands for more democratic and place-based policy making (Bradford, 2005).

Though there are diverse variants of community economic development (e.g., those who view economic success as a requirement for social well-being, in contrast to those who place poverty reduction and social exclusion as their focal point), common among them is a focus on endogenous development, where "genuine development is generated in a bottom up fashion, fuelled by the organization and mobilization of local communities" (Johnson, Hogett, & Royle, 2007, p. …

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