Community Development Society

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President's Update - Staying connected with CDS

President's Update - Staying connected with CDS

By Gisele Hamm

The Community Development Society Annual International Conference held in Lexington last month truly lived up to its ‘Creativity and Culture’ theme, thanks to the outstanding contributions of the Local Host Committee, artists, presenters, and participants! If you were able to join us in Lexington, I hope you came away from the conference re-energized and excited about the opportunities in the field of community development.  We have posted the Powerpoint presentations, President’s Remarks, and links to photos from the 2015 conference on the CDS website so I would encourage you to check them out.

As the new President of the Community Development Society, I appreciated the ideas, feedback, and words of encouragement that so many of you shared, and am inspired by the desire expressed by many, including our new and international members, to get involved in the Society. CDS is YOUR organization, and member involvement is key to making CDS an enriching and engaging network for the membership.  I would like to encourage every CDS member to join at least one of our committees this year.  Participation in a committee does not require a great deal of time or effort, but is a rewarding experience, a great way to network with other members, and serves to strengthen the Society. Please take some time to review the CDS Committees information and contact the chair of the committee(s) of interest to join.

For the 325 participants who attended the 2015 CDS Conference in Lexington, a conference evaluation form is available here. Your input will provide valuable insight for the 2016 Community Development Society and the International Association for Community Development Joint International Conference to be held July 17-20, 2016, in Bloomington, Minnesota, USA.  Next year’s conference theme is: Sustaining Community Change: Building Local Capacity to Sustain Development Initiatives. The Program Planning Committee and Local Host Committee are already in the midst of conference planning and preparations, and next year’s conference promises to be one you will not want to miss. If you have not already, I would encourage you to “like” the 2016 Community Development Society Conference Facebook page to stay informed of exciting 2016 conference details as they develop.

I look forward to my term as CDS President this year, and would love to hear the ideas, concerns, or comments you might have for the Society, so please don’t hesitate to contact me. Also, I would encourage you to get engaged in the various CDS social media sites if you have not already to network and increase your level of involvement in the Society. We are on Facebook (Public Group (here) / Community Page (here)), LinkedIn (here), and Twitter (here).

Let’s make this the Community Development Society’s best year yet!

 


 
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A New Beginning . . . Again?

A New Beginning . . .  Again?

 By Bo Beaulieu

CDS Presidential Speech, Dubuque, IA

July 21, 2014

Let me begin by noting that I am deeply honored to have served as President of the CDS over the course of the past year.  As I approach the end of my tenure as president, I close a three year chapter as an officer of the Society, first as its VP for Operations, then as the VP for Programs (which has the be the hardest job because you are responsible for organizing or coordinating a good bit of annual conference program), and this year as President.  What I have concluded from my three year stint is that we have a dedicated group of members who give so much to the CDS on a volunteer basis. These individuals are passionate about our professional organization and are putting their hearts and souls in supporting and advancing the work of the CDS, both domestically and internationally.  So, I want to take a minute to thank all of you here today who have stepped up and given of your time and talents to our organization. 

At the same time, I want to express my deep appreciation to our CDS business office associates -- especially Rhonda Weidman and Julie White -- who have provided outstanding management services to our Society.  I am especially grateful for the positive and professional manner in which they have conducted their work during my time on the board.  While there are instances where they could have thrown in the towel, they’ve always stayed focus on the positive.  For that, I am extremely appreciative.

While I don’t intend to take up too much of your time with a presidential speech, I do want to share some of my thoughts on our organization and the important work I feel we must embrace together if we are to continue living up the very principles of the CDS. 

The title of my talk, “New Beginnings . . . Again?” is part of my way of poking fun at these often overused words (“New Beginnings”)?  At the same time, I’m serious about the fact that we find ourselves in interesting times, one that bodes well for the CDS if we do the right things. 

So what did I have in mind when I chose the words, “New Beginnings . . . Again? for the title of my talk today?  Well . . . as I take stock of what is happening in higher education institutions across the country, especially the ones that I am most familiar with – the land-grant universities – there is a noticeable expansion of investments being made in community development in a number of these institutions.  I had the opportunity to take part in the annual meeting of NACDEP held in Grand Rapids, MI just a few weeks ago, and each of the state Extension CD leaders in the North Central region of the U.S. was given the opportunity to provide a brief update on the key activities taking place in his/her state.  What I found most exciting is the number of NEW hires, new jobs being advertised, or positions that are on the cusp of being announced, all in the community development arena (or in closely related fields).  Frankly, it’s been years since I’ve witnessed the type of expansion in the CD area that I feel is now underway at several universities across the country. 

But before jumping for joy, I want to raise a caution flag and remind everyone that we’ve been here before.  For those who are older like me (note I didn’t say OLD by OLDER), we have lived the highs and lows of CD in the land-grant system (and in other colleges, governmental and nonprofit organizations).  There have been at least two times during the course of my career where the support for CD took a turn for the better.  So, we are at the midst of what I would label the third “new beginning” for CD during the course of my 37 years in this profession.  So, the challenge I want to bring to your attention is this: “What must be done to ensure that the investments being made in CD today are not short-lived, but represent a down payment by our educational institutions and other key organizations in the pursuit of sustained investments in the field of CD – in research, learning and practice/engagement.

What my experiences in the LGUs makes much too clear is that when things get tough on the funding front, one of the first programs to be placed on the chopping block for elimination or downsizing is CD.  It is a decision that has cost us dearly in terms of momentum, impact, CDS membership, and in our capacity to respond to our key stakeholders.  Perhaps my perspective is jaded, but I sense that things are slowly but surely changing.  Why?  

Part of the reason is strategic retirements.  Fading from the leadership of our LGUs are the individuals who remained whetted to the old traditions – barely giving serious consideration to the re-balancing of resources and investments that are needed for the expansion of CD activities.   But . . . new people are taking prominent positions in the LGUs, individuals who want to see us work hand in hand with communities (and regions) to strengthen their economies, improve workforce skills, expand the pipeline of leadership, elevate the role of youth in improving their communities, accelerate the adoption of new and appropriate technologies, improve access to locally produced foods, and more. It’s an ambitious agenda of opportunities, but I believe we are up to the task of helping these new LGU leaders realize their vision of positioning CD as a core component of our work at our universities, and in other public, private and philanthropic organizations.

But I believe that another factor behind this shift is that taxpayers and local and state leaders (including our state legislative bodies) are asking universities and colleges to step up --- to bring the full-complement of their institutional assets --- to bear on the needs of residents, businesses, communities, regions and the state.  Let’s face it, the days of universities being given full license to do their thing with public funds is over.  Demonstrating a return on their investment is far more palatable and important to legislative and state agency leaders then the number of journal articles faculty, staff and students have published in recent years.  Don’t get me wrong.  Publishing is vital to the advancement of science and to the work that we do as social scientists, but we have to take steps to translate that research into strategies that will benefit the lives of people, organizations, communities and regions in our state (and beyond).  If we don’t, we run the risk of being labeled “irrelevant.”  I honestly believe that CD is the program that can lead the pact when it comes to showing the value and impact of our work to state and legislative leaders.

So, as we embrace this opportunity to expand our work at the university and in other important organizations and institutions, I want to offer ideas on the key activities we should pursue in our quest to strengthen our CDS professional organization and the manner in which we might elevate our role in helping communities as they seek to tackle challenging community issues.  Let me make clear that I will be offering only a few thoughts on these matters, so forgive me if I fail to mention something you feel is vital to our organization and to our CD work.

So, let me share with you my list of 6 items that I feel are important and doable when it comes to the efforts of the CDS and to the CD enterprise:

  1. Focus on Diversity:  As the population of many of our states and communities continues to diversify, we must be steadfast in our commitment to ensure that all voices are represented in the communities in which we work.  It’s one of the important values we hold dear as CDS members.  But as you know, this is not always easy when you are dealing with an entrenched leadership that is simply satisfied with the status quo.  But we must continue to find ways to capture the input of those who are too often left on the sidelines when it comes to the current and future direction of their communities.  (Important note: some of these innovative approaches are being showcased at this meeting and by our keynote speakers).   
  2. Build the CDS Leadership Pipeline:  Expanding the pool of leaders in communities has been the bread and butter of many of our organizations and institutions.  We all recognize the value of bringing new people with new ideas into leadership positions in our communities.  Time is right for us to do the same thing in CDS.  I know the nominations committee often struggles to find a diverse pool of members who are willing to run for office in our Society.  It’s not unusual to have people running unopposed.  Friends . . . this is nuts! 

My feeling is that CDS must be equally committed to diversifying our membership.  For example, we must invest time and resources to reach out to our African American, Latino, Asian, Native American, and international brothers and sisters.  I am not aware of any systematic effort on the part of CDS to aggressively pursue this goal, but we must do so, and we must start now in my humble opinion.      

If we want to attract a mix of members to run for the Board or as an officer of the CDS, we need to launch a program designed to mentor newer members so that they are knowledgeable and confident in their ability to function successfully in these positions.  We need to build our own pipeline of new leaders so that every year we have a talented pool of individuals who are ready and willing to be nominated for leadership roles in the CDS.  I include here the opportunity for our graduate student members to be part of this pipeline given that they represent the future of our organization.

  1. Help Produce Stronger, More Defensible Metrics: In my current role as director of the PCRD, and in my former role as head of the SRDC, the one issue that often kept me awake at night is how to show the impacts of our CD work.  It’s an issue that isn’t going away; in fact, I sense it is gaining more steam all the time. 

A case in point is Purdue University’s current president – Mitch Daniels – the two-term governor of the State of Indiana and former head of the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB).  Need I say more?  There’s no two ways about it, he wants sound evidence to convince him that the university should be investing in our work. 

So, we have to heed the call to develop and implement stronger, more impactful sets of metrics (both qualitative and quantitative) as part of our work.  At the same time, we need to assist our stakeholders who are asking for our help on these very same matters.  Frankly, I can’t think of a professional organization that is better positioned to help develop the theory of change, the methodologies and  tools needed to collect sound, defensible data on the short, mid, and long-term impacts of locally-generated initiatives (than is the CDS).  My hope is that we can pursue an extended focus on this issue at a future CDS meeting (perhaps as a pre-conference session).  

  1. Attract New Audiences to the CDS:  The Economic Development Administration (EDA) and a number of state agencies have been active proponents of the formation of economic development districts, regional planning organizations, councils of government, and other multi-county governmental and quasi-governmental entities.  Since joining Purdue in April 2013, I’ve had the opportunity to interact with a number of regional organizations within and outside the state of Indiana.  What I have been struck by is the number of groups who are desperately seeking help on ways to address such issues as brain drain, poverty, job creation, housing, health care, land use, population shifts, environmental stewardship, and more.  My sense is that these regional groups could find a great professional home in the CDS given that the challenges they are facing are in synch with some of the very topics that our CDS members are tackling in their roles as researchers, practitioners, policy analysts and students – both domestically and internationally. 

A second major group that I believe would be equally attracted to the CDS is the state and regional staff of USDA Rural Development. I’m not sure if you are aware of this, but USDA RD is reinvesting in community and economic development in states across the country.  Several of these staff members will be in need of professional development opportunities that can sharpen their community/economic development knowledge and skills.  There’s no doubt that the CDS could be a logical place for these individuals to find a home where they can grow as professionals and find the network of people with whom they can build strong social ties.   

So, I would urge our Membership Committee and all of us to reach out to these groups since I truly believe they would add value and excitement to our professional organization.   

  1. Put our Research & Practice to Work in Tackling Wicked Issues:   There are some very perplexing issues that communities continue to grapple with today – immigration; discrimination based on gender, race, and ethnicity; poverty; poor quality schools; violence; and more.  One “wicked issue”, for example, that permeates all corners of the world is income inequality (as our speaker Dell Gines noted in his keynote speech on Monday). The gap between the rich and the poor continues to expand and there is limited evidence that this situation will improve any time soon.  My sense is that we, as a professional organization, could play an important role in examining this very complex but critical issue, even beyond what the ERS, the Ford Foundation and other entities have been able to do to date.
  2. Invest in our Endowment:  I have come to truly value the importance of our Endowment during my time as a CDS officer.  I am proud of the response by our Past Presidents to the appeal that we discussed during our opening reception on Sunday night.  The Past Presidents are to be applauded for continuing to believe in the mission and goals of the CDS.  As members, we need to contribute to the Endowment so that we can continue to invest in our students, young scholars, and our international members. 

To be honest, I firmly believe we have the intellectual capital in CDS to help inform and guide policy makers, agency leaders, local leaders, and practitioners about the variety of strategies and investments that are needed to begin tackling the problem of income inequality, as well as other “wicked issues” that are dividing communities, such as immigration, access to quality public education, school consolidation, fracking/natural gas extraction, health care access, and more.  In every one of these cases, we have CDS members who have been engaged in relevant research and practice that could inform the discourse on these issues. 

 

I would like to propose, however, that the CDS Board and its Finance Committee take a careful look at our resources and if possible, set aside funds that could accelerate our capacity to respond to some of the tough issues I spoke about just a minute ago.  This can be done in a variety of ways, including the formation of task forces to address some of the most pervasive wicked issues, as well as developing information briefs that inform policy analysts, leaders and residents of some of the viable strategies for tackling these wicked issues, strategies that are rooted in sound research and application.

In closing, let me say that if we can somehow:

  • Diversify our membership;
  • Attract new groups whose work and interests align with the goals of the CDS;
  • Put in a place a pipeline for mentoring future leaders of the CDS;
  • Help build stronger metrics that members and stakeholders can use to document the value and impact of CD work; 
  • Expanded our investments in our Endowment;
  • And tap the talents and expertise of our members to help delineate science-based strategies for addressing the wicked issues many communities are facing today. . .

Then . . . I am confident that ours will a vibrant professional organization that will play a key role in ensuring that the words “a new beginning” won’t be used in the future to describe our work since it will be viewed as a vital and essential part of the activities of those institutions and organizations of which we are a part.  Just maybe, when we meet for our 50th anniversary in 2019, people will be talking about the CDS as the truly Renaissance professional organization.

Thank you  

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President's Update: Looking forward in community development

President's Update: Looking forward in community development

By Bo Beaulieu

I just want to devote my column this month to share with you some brief highlights. First, the extended deadline date for submission of abstracts for the 2014 CDS annual meeting in Dubuque is quickly approaching. Please take a few minutes to submit your innovative ideas for presentations, posters sessions, panel discussions or workshops here.

Second, our contract with AOM, the association handling the business affairs of the CDS, has been expired for nearly two years and as such, we were operating on the basis of “good will” between the CDS and AOM.  I am pleased to inform you with the full consent of the CDS board, a one-year contract for 2014 with AOM has now been signed and is in place.  This provides both entities a legal contract in which we can carry out the business-related activities of the Society.

Third, a team of board members conducted a site visit to Lexington, KY last week for the purpose of exploring possible hotel venues for our 2015 annual meeting.  I was honestly blown away by the exciting things going on in Lexington and the mix of activities that await our conference participants.  The local host committee, constituted of colleagues from the University of Kentucky and other partner organizations and institutions located in or near the state of KY , are already doing some superb work in anticipation of the 2015 meeting.  I promise you that the Lexington, KY meeting is going to be a “must attend” conference for our CDS members and guests.

Finally, I have been hearing through the grapevine about the expanded investments being made by our higher education institutions in the community, economic, and regional development arena.  The number of new positions that have been announced or that are slated to be announced in the near future is exhilarating.  Simply put, the value and importance of what we do as a profession and discipline is gaining traction in several universities and colleges.  If you happen to be at a university, college, government agency, nonprofit organization, or other association that has hired new people engaged in community/economic development-related work, please urge them to become a member of the CDS.  It’s a great way to get them connected to a team of colleagues across the world that is doing innovative research, application, and technical assistance work that’s  resulting in positive improvements in the lives of people, communities and regions.

I wish all of you a Happy Valentine’s Day and look forward to sharing more exciting news with you in my March column.  Take care!!

 

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President's Update - Reducing Income Inequality: The Important Work of CDS Professionals

President's Update - Reducing Income Inequality: The Important Work of CDS Professionals

I was struck by a study that was released just a few days ago that noted the wealth gap between the top 1 percent and the bottom 99 percent is now the highest it has been in several decades.  The gap between the “haves” and “have-nots” has been on an upward trajectory for some time, so the most recent study adds more fuel to the perplexing problem that many communities in the U.S. are attempting to tackle today – be they located in urban, suburban or rural settings.  How can we place the socioeconomic well-being of people in communities on an upward track?  

No question about it, closing the gap in income inequality will require a long-term sustained effort.  However, it occurs to me that our CDS professionals are one of the best resources available to guide community activities and investments that seek to advance the well-being of all residents.  We do so, in part, by introducing and supporting economic development efforts that bring value and benefit to the entire community.  Moreover, we work to ensure that the voices of all people are honored when decisions about jobs and economic development strategies are decided.  No doubt about it, CDS members – researchers, Extension educators, practitioners, or policy analysts – are the right people to have at the table when it comes to pursuing evidenced-based approaches that serve as a roadmap on how to create wealth opportunities for the full array of people and communities in America. 

My hope is that some of these innovative, creative strategies will be showcased at our 2014 CDS annual meeting.  If you are a CDS member who has been engaged in efforts to reduce income inequality, please share your efforts with us.  Use the CDS blog to inform us of the good work you are doing.  In addition, plan to showcase your work at our annual meeting next July.  Take care!

Bo Beaulieu

 

Edited by Cindy Banyai

 

 

 

 

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President's Update - Build on the Momentum

President's Update - Build on the Momentum

It was a genuine pleasure to witness the energy and enthusiasm of those taking part in the CDS annual meeting in Charleston, SC just a few weeks ago.  The number of registrants was exceptional and the large array of quality presentations was nothing short of impressive.  Everything seemed to work so well during the course of the week – thanks to the hard work of so many people. 

The poster session attracted a record number of entries.  Our three keynote speakers, Erik Pages, Ed Feser and Bernie Mazyck, offered unique and valuable insights on our conference theme, "Regional Innovation through Regional Collaboration."  The mobile workshops, the awards banquet, silent auction/endowment fundraising, registration process, hotel accommodations, food, and the Greater Charleston community were highlights of the conference that I will remember for years to come.   I must tell you that I left Charleston with a genuine feeling that CDS is on solid footing and that the opportunity to elevate CDS to new heights is within reach.  We can build on the momentum.  We need YOU to be an active part of our professional organization.    

As your new CDS president, I am honored to be working with a talented team of officers, Board/committee representatives and members like who are committed to expanding the visibility, effectiveness and impact of the CDS.  In the coming months, I hope you will see evidence of our commitment to improve the value of the CDS to you.  I welcome your thoughts regarding the important work we have ahead of us in the coming year and the role you would like to play keeping the momentum going.  Please send your thoughts to me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  Take care!!

Bo Beaulieu

 

Edited by Cindy Banyai

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