Economic Development News & Insight


The Higher ED Blog: Best of 2016

Michelle Madden / December 19, 2016

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The Higher ED Blog: Best of 2016

If your Facebook feed is anything like mine, you’ll have the feeling that 2016 was a bad year. John Oliver, host of HBO’s Last Week Tonight, called it “the f—ing worst” pointing to the Syrian refugee crisis, the deaths of David Bowie, Prince, and Leonard Cohen, and the election of Donald Trump.

2016 certainly had its lows, but here at the University of Waterloo, it hasn’t been all bad. The Economic Development Program had a banner year with 342 registrations from almost every province and territory. Our master’s program was approved to relaunch as the Master of Economic Development and Innovation, complete with a new format and course content refresh. The Higher ED Blog had a great year too, reaching new highs on total page views (with views from around the world, see the infographic above).

We published 42 Higher ED articles in 2016 on a huge range of topics. We continued our popular quarterly Research Roundup of academic findings and brought back Real Economic Development Horror Stories for Halloween. We took on sensitive topics like amalgamation, immigrant economic outcomes, and municipal-aboriginal relations. We also turned the lens back on the economic development profession, with pieces from Aileen Murray on ecdev career paths and Jennifer Schnier on EDOs being overworked and undercompensated.

There were lots of highlights, but some pulled far ahead in page views. Here are your five favourite articles for 2016. Read them again, or catch up on what you’ve missed:

#5 Economic development professionals are overworked and undercompensated

Jennifer Schnier, May 2016

Many economic developers know this headline is true from personal experience. Jennifer Schnier was feeling it too, so when she started the University of Waterloo’s master’s program in economic development, she knew this was going to be her major research paper topic. She surveyed 70 economic development professionals and found some startling results. If you’re a municipal EDO, definitely read (or re-read) this article; then, share it with your boss so they can understand the pressures of your job and perhaps implement flex-work policies.

#4 What’s new in economic development research (winter 2016 edition)

Michelle Madden, February 2016

The first Research Roundup article was posted in March of 2015. Since then, it has become a staple of Higher ED, published quarterly and garnering consistently high page viewership (the summer 2016 edition was barely left out of this ranking, coming in 7th). If you’re not familiar with the series, it features short summaries of academic articles related to economic development that appeared in recent issues of peer-reviewed journals. The winter 2016 edition featured new research on the role of arts and culture in attracting knowledge workers, how urban and rural communities approach culture, and new research on the effectiveness of economic incentives.

#3 5 game changers to help economic developers better promote their community

Alysha Dominico, June 2016

We had the pleasure of partnering with Alysha Dominico of Tangible Words for a seminar on content marketing for economic developers this year. Alysha wrote this blog to help us promote the seminar and introduce readers to content marketing. It’s a relatively new form of marketing that strives to overcome audience apathy by delivering useful user-focused content, while also delivering a marketing message or building brand recognition. The article shares Alysha’s top five lessons in content marketing for economic developers.

#2 A tale of two local economic development delivery models

Michelle Madden, January 2016

Economic development is still evolving in many ways, and the way it is delivered continues to shift. Many communities use an internal model, with a municipal economic development department that reports to a council. However, more and more communities are moving to an external model, often taking the form of a quasi-public agency, board, commission, or corporation, funded by a mix of public and private money. Which is better? That’s the question Stephen Thompson tackled in his Year 3 paper Delivery models of local economic development, which this article summarizes.

#1 How your local library can support economic development

Michelle Madden, March 2016

This piece I wrote on the value of libraries dominated 2016 and has become our most viewed article ever. The inspiration was a field trip I organized for the Economic Developers Council of Ontario’s annual conference. The group visited the Toronto Public Library and learned about the many ways it promotes business knowledge and skill development. Even though TPL is a massive system, there were plenty of great lessons for libraries of all sizes. I’m not sure exactly what struck a chord with Higher ED readers, but it’s clear that libraries are still incredibly relevant in this digital age.


About the author

Michelle Madden is the editor of Higher ED. She is also the Outreach Manager for the Economic Development Program and a graduate of the University of Waterloo’s Local Economic Development program (now the Master of Economic Development & Innovation).  She has authored many Higher ED articles sharing information relevant to economic development practitioners. She has published several of her own blogs on as well. Follow her on Twitter at @michelle_mad.

About the series

Higher ED: Insights for the Next Economy is a platform for students, guest speakers, staff and faculty of the University of Waterloo’s professional and graduate economic development programs to share knowledge with the field at large. The series takes works destined for an academic audience and reworks them into a fresh, easy-to-digest blog article.

Established in 1987, the Master of Economic Development and Innovation (MEDI) is one of the only graduate programs in Canada focused exclusively on economic development. Students learn economic development theory and practice, and are exposed to leading edge knowledge, tools, and approaches to address contemporary challenges in cities and communities across Canada and internationally.

The Economic Development Program is a nationally-accredited provider of professional training. It delivers certification programs and seminars that offer a deep understanding of the Canadian context in a convenient block format. Peer learning is combined with informative lectures and practical case studies to provide dynamic instruction that is beneficial for junior and senior-level practitioners.

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