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Community Development Data Viz - May 2017

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Moving Beyond the Silos in Community Development

Moving Beyond the Silos in Community Development

By Chris Marko, Rural Community Assistance Corporation (RCAC), Community Development Society (CDS) Vice President of Operations

“The reality today is that we are all interdependent and have to co-exist on this small planet. Therefore, the only sensible and intelligent way of resolving differences and clashes of interests, whether between individuals or nations, is through dialogue.”

 - The Dalai Lama

As Community Developers we understand connections between programs, within communities, the environment. That is one of the fundamental reasons we call ourselves “community developers”. We do not focus on one issue, one program, and try to promote inclusive behavior to solve problems. Still, in our professions and lives we often face the challenge of limits, the need to exclude a particular issue from the dialogue or activity, the focus on a program deliverable for measurable outcomes. How do we balance the multiple values associated with community while maintaining focus on particular facets within community, our work, programs, and issues? CDS Principles of Good Practice can help overcome barriers within communities, programs, and issues to promote greater value in our work.

Listening to be inclusive is an important best practice that helps in community development work I work with small communities on water and wastewater projects. Rural communities often have limited staff, knowledge of programs, funding, and capacity to take on projects. In small towns folks tend to be individualistic, and at the same time, cooperative. Life is at a different pace than larger cities and work involves conversations about many things. It is not common for me to spend a significant amount of time listening and talking about the on goings within the community, stories about certain individuals, what is going on at the state level, how rural communities are left out of the equation. Still, my overall purpose is to help with the water project, but there is much more to the community than just the water project. By embracing the conversation, I am able to build trust, better understand people in the community, what is going on, and how to approach my work.  In addition, I learn about other needs and opportunities to assist the community. Even if I do not have the expertise, I try to find information, resources, and people who might be able to help. This is also another important aspect of being a community developer.

Knowing your program, expertise, or “niche” is important in being an effective community developer. At the same time, knowing as much about other programs and resources is important in providing valuable service to communities. Communities do not operate in a vacuum. They are dynamic, changing, sometimes daily, and programs are becoming more complex. It is rare a project is funded under one source so as community developers we must broaden our understanding of what is available to help communities achieve their goals. A benefit to this involves helping a community to think creatively about how they develop a project. What are some additional benefits a project may have to the community beyond water? Impact on other values. The community capitals framework, as well as other approaches including WealthWorks, promotes an understanding of values: intellectual, social, individual, environmental, built, political, and financial (and cultural depending on the model). By viewing the community in more holistic manner one can consider the potential impact on multiple values, and leverage additional resources one might not have considered with an initial project.

Collaboration is key to moving beyond silos in community development. In recent years funding for programs were cut at the federal, state, and local levels. Many folks lost their jobs, and agencies and organizations were forced to retreat into silos for survival. Keeping current services going became a priority, and many services discontinued. Collaboration and long range thinking became less important than day to day internal operations for many organizations to ensure accountability with programs, deliverables, and specific outcomes related to individual programs to show value to funders. During tough times our tendency may be to retract, but collaboration and partnership building can also have the benefit of opening doors to opportunities. In our modern world of information technology, complexity, and social media, networking is becoming more of the norm. Networks offer opportunities for learning, relationship building, and connectedness essential for communities, and community development. Part of the challenge becomes sorting through which information is most useful, or relevant, to goals you are trying to achieve! As our world continues to evolve through technology and understanding of connectedness we can find a wealth of opportunity at our finger tips, and by collaborating with others who align with our interests.  In community development, that interest involves expanding horizons to support community with dynamic, connected, mutually supportive people. CDS continues to foster best practices involving open inclusive behavior, understanding connections between people, programs, and issues, and collaboration for quality communities.  

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Community Development Data Viz - March 2015

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105 income on food

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Charts of Note - June 2014

Charts of Note - June 2014


Compiled by Timothy Collins, Assistant Director, Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs at Western Illinois University

Nonmetro Creative Class Counties Found in Nearly Every State

New ERS Data Series Fills Gaps In Away-From-Home Food Price Data

On Average, Rural Veterans Are Older Than Nonveterans

Nearly Two-Thirds Of Rural U.S. Counties Have Lost Population Since 2010

Prevalence of Very Low Food Security Rose in Most States from 2002 to 2012

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Charts of Note - April

Charts of Note - April

Rural Population Decline Continues in 2013

Median Farm Household Income Has Exceeded Median U.S. Household Income in Recent Years

Conservation Funding Shifts toward Working Land Conservation under the Agricultural Act of 2014

Agricultural Act of 2014 Maintains SNAP’s Basic Eligibility Guidelines

2014 Farm Act Increases Spending to Support Organic Agriculture

Composition of Top U.S. Food Retailers Changed between 2008 and 2012

Rural Child Poverty at Highest Level Since Mid-1980s

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February Charts of Note

February Charts of Note

Compiled by Timothy Collins, Assistant Director, Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs


Many Federal Food Assistance Programs Rooted in the War on Poverty

Direct Government Payments to Producers as a Share of Gross Cash Farm Income (GCFI) Have Fallen in Recent Years

Fruit and Vegetable Prices Respond Differently to Oil Price Increases Based on Shipping Route and Carrier

Agriculture and Its Related Industries Provide 9.2 Percent of U.S. Employment

Incomes fell For U.S. Families in All Income Groups between 2007 and 2012

The Conservation Reserve Program Is Regionally Concentrated

Food Insecurity among Children Linked to Educational Attainment of Adult Household Members

Working-Age Adults Ate Fewer Meals, Snacks, and Calories Away From Home Following the 2007-09 Recession

Rural Veterans More Likely to Graduate from High School and Obtain College Degrees

Crop Acreage Has Shifted to Larger Farms

WIC Program Benefits from Large Rebates on Infant Formula 

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Community Development Headlines - CDS UpFront February 2014

Community Development Headlines - CDS UpFront February 2014

By Timothy Collins, Assistant Director, Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs

Why State Economic Development Strategies Should Be Metro-Centric

How the Daily Commute Hurts Civic Engagement

Rich, Poor, and Unequal Zip Codes

USDA’s Food Assistance Programs: Legacies of the War on Poverty

Food Insecurity in Households With Children: Prevalence, Severity, and Household Characteristics, 2010-11

Food Hubs: Sustainable Agriculture’s Missing Link

Why the Food Movement Must Focus on Raising Food Workers' Wages

Drought in the West Is Bringing Hard Times to Minority Farmers

America's Future Cities: Where The Youth Population Is Booming

America's Glass Half-Empty, or Half-Full?

Dynamic Redevelopment for Everyone

Where the Oil Boom Sounds the Loudest

Fracking Jobs Come with Costs, Paper Says

A "Pay-It-Forward" Approach to Funding Solar Power

Accommodating Floods Instead of Destroying Waterways

FCC to Launch Rural Broadband Trials

Blue-Collar Hot Spots

Rural Veterans At A Glance

Speak Your Piece: The Vanishing Postmaster

A Good-Bye to Norma Jean

Still 'Black and White and Read All Over'

Zapatista Communities Celebrate 20 Years of Self-Government

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Community Development Headlines - CDS UpFront January 2014

Community Development Headlines - CDS UpFront January 2014

Compiled by Timothy Collins, Assistant Director at the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs


Obama Names 2 Rural “Promise Zones”

The Wicked Problem of Urban Biodiversity

Should Planners Encourage Diverse Neighborhoods?

Urbanization Has Been Destroying the Environment since the Very First Cities

The Abuse of Art in Economic Development

An Uneasy Truce: The War on Poverty

JFK’s Rural Development Legacy

“Picked Off Like a Single Quail”

Farm Policy Made the Republic: Now What?

Philly’s New Land Bank: Will It Give Blighted Communities a Boost?

Veggies at the Liquor Store—and 5 Other Ways to Bring Food to Your Community

Political, Economic Power Grow More Concentrated

Rural Character in America’s Metropolitan Areas

To Rebuild, the Midwest Must Face Its Real and Severe Problems

Fighting the Vacant Property Plague

Where Are the Boomers Headed? Not Back to the City

This Land Is Ours: African Americans and the Great Outdoors

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January Charts of Note

January Charts of Note

Farm Estate Taxes Vary by Type of Family Farm

Which American Households Struggle to Put Food on the Table?

How long do food-insecure households remain food insecure?

Emerging Energy Industries Have Had Varied Impacts on Local Employment in Rural Areas

Small Family Farms Account for Most U.S. Farms and a Majority of Farm Assets

Minorities Represent a Lower Share of Rural Veterans than of the Rural Population

Rural High-Poverty Counties Are Concentrated in the South and Southwest

Poorest SNAP Households Least Likely to Get Additional Support from Unemployment Insurance

What Is “Very Low Food Security?”

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4 ways to promote community participation and engagement

4 ways to promote community participation and engagement

Helping Rural Communities address Drinking Water Needs through Best Practices in Community Development

By Chris Marko, Rural Development Specialist with the Rural Community Assistance Corporation (RCAC), Community Development Society (CDS) Board Member

As this country’s infrastructure continues to age, communities face increasing challenges with providing  basic services, including drinking water.  While the majority of the nation’s population lives in larger communities, there are many more small communities, and drinking water systems.  Statistically small communities (less than 5,000 in population) are more likely to face compliance violations, which require system improvements and can be costly.  Small communities often have limited revenue base to pay for large projects, limited technical, managerial, and financial capacity to take on projects, and political will at the local level to bear the burden of taking on necessary improvements is becoming more and more of a challenge.  

20 years ago grant money was more available.  Now much of the available financing for projects is in the form of loans that require taking on debt.  To compound issues, many communities have not kept up with costs to cover existing and future costs of operating systems, which can cause “sticker shock” when faced with the need to finance a multi-million dollar drinking water project.  In my work I assist communities who face these challenges and would like to share how some best practices in community development help me work with staff, elected officials, and the public.

1. Promote active and representative participation toward enabling all community members to meaningfully influence the decisions that affect their lives. The past few months I have been involved with a community facing opposition from community members regarding a proposed drinking water project.  The public meeting last month was very contentious and participants asked many questions which the city could not answer at the time.  As a next step part of the strategy was to be responsive and address questions specifically, reach out to the community, and conduct additional public meetings.  The city held two meetings that included responses to the questions and was facilitated in a way that encouraged participation in a constructive and considerate manner.  While there was opposition to the project expressed, the meeting went much better as people were heard and acknowledged. 

2. Engage community members in learning about and understanding community issues, and the economic, social, environmental, political, psychological, and other impacts associated with alternative courses of action.  The city considered a number of alternatives to making drinking water improvements.  The city faced a compliance issue regarding water pressure which needed to be addressed to meet State requirements.  The master plan identified a number of additional deficiencies in the water system, including distribution lines, fire hydrants, and storage.  The city has worked with funding agencies to identify a funding package with the lowest interest loan with some “principal forgiveness” (no interest) funding available.  The city presented various funding scenarios, reasons for taking on a project which goes beyond meeting compliance, and considers additional improvements which will be necessary for the future of the community residents and economy.  In response to questions about relief for low income residents regarding a rate increase the city responded by working with the local non-profit community action agency to develop a fund for water rate assistance for low income residents which incorporated the diverse interests and cultures of the community in the community development process.

3. Work actively to enhance the leadership capacity of community members, leaders, and groups within the community.  By facilitating the most recent public meetings in a manner that encouraged community participants to share their views in a constructive, considerate manner, and emphasizing how the city appreciates input, and will continue to be responsive to questions significantly helped the process.  Part of the outreach strategy developed included connecting with local groups and attending meetings to further educate the community about the importance of improving the drinking water system.  As a technical assistance provider I reviewed statements prepared by the lead city council person who presented a summary of reasons why the city needed to take on the project.  Comments emphasized how city leaders need to be responsive to address the existing compliance issue, and also consider the health and safety of residents by providing adequate fire protection, pressure, and storage for the future.  The community has not made significant improvements to the system for over 20 years.  By encouraging councilors to conduct outreach within their community, connect with individuals and groups, and continue to be open, responsive, and appreciative of comments and questions, the feedback on the recent two public meetings was much better due to enhanced community leadership.

4. Be open to using the full range of action strategies to work toward the long-term sustainability and well- being of the community.  As mentioned by city leaders at meetings, news articles, and radio interviews the city reviewed a number of alternatives to address the compliance issue, and considered additional improvements to address deficiencies.  The city decided to take on a larger project, with higher cost utilizing the best available finance terms, than the “minimum fix”.  Community members felt there were options to consider regarding financing, including a general obligation bond instead of the low interest loan package.  The city responded by reviewing the potential financial impact of a general obligation bond on residents compared to the low interest loan package (which included some principal forgiveness).  Based on consultation with bond counsel it was determined the estimated financial impact of the general obligation bond would be higher than the proposed project using loan financing.  Some community members still felt the city should only address the minimum fix and place the burden of financing the project on the few residents where water pressure was lowest.  The city did not feel this was an equitable for the community and decided on a project in terms of long term community benefit. 

While controversy about the proposed water project still exists, more people have expressed support for the proposed project at recent public meetings, and expressed appreciation for the time and effort the city council, staff, and resource providers have taken to respond to questions and remain proactive about addressing problems which have not been dealt with for many years.  The city has utilized principals of good practice in community development to engage the community, respond to questions and issues raised, and address what it feels is in the best interest of the community as a whole.  This is one of many examples of how communities are trying to deal with the challenge of providing basic services, including something essential to life and community sustainability—drinking water.


Edited by Cindy Banyai

Picture shared from here

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