EconomicDevelopment.org http://economicdevelopment.org Economic Development News & Insight Mon, 17 Jul 2017 12:55:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.10 The Higher ED Blog: 4 Board Games an Economic Developer Will Love http://economicdevelopment.org/2017/07/board-games/ http://economicdevelopment.org/2017/07/board-games/#respond Mon, 17 Jul 2017 12:55:49 +0000 http://economicdevelopment.org/?p=300611 More...]]> Rainy summer days or weekend nights at the cottage call for some quality indoor time with friends and family. If you’re anything like me, that means only one thing: time for some board games! But instead of reaching for the old classics like Clue, Monopoly, or Scrabble, why not break out a new game that’s a little more up your professional alley? And just think – if you’re playing with your children, nieces or nephews, you very well could be grooming the next great EDO without their even knowing it…

Suburbia (2012)
Designed by Ted Alspach
Published by Bezier Games
1-4 players

Any economic developer who works closely with planners will immediately catch on to this surprisingly fun neighbourhood-building game. It’s categorized as a ‘tile-laying’ and ‘resource management’ game, which means players build their board as they go, while they collect and allocate resources towards accomplishing their goal. The goal is to attract more people to your town than all the other players. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

The mechanics of the game are such that, although each player is building their own town, they can intervene in each other’s development by buying an available tile that they know the other player needs. The game awards population bonuses based on how well you combine and place your tiles, so it’s important to think through your town planning carefully. After each turn, a player gets a certain amount of income based on their board, and also a population increase based on their reputation. However, every time their population passes a certain threshold, their reputation will decrease. Growth management is real, even in board games!

Puerto Rico (2002)
Designed by Andreas Seyfarth
Published by Rio Grande Games
2-5 players

Puerto Rico is one of the most popular and highly rated board games ever, but it also happens to be an excellent economic development-themed game. Set in Puerto Rico, players are given the role of governor of new colonial settlements. The object of the game is to establish the most successful settlement by attracting colonists to your city, building developments in the city, and shipping produced goods from the city.

Gameplay is turn-based, with every round beginning with whomever holds the “governor” token, which is passed around clockwise at every turn. Players take turns selecting ‘role’ cards, like “trader” or “builder,” and taking the special action that their roles grant them.

In a lot of ways, its premise is similar to Suburbia but with a different, role-based structure, and instead of a single urban plan, you are managing resources for an entire region. The mercantile aspect of producing goods for trade is also a feature that mimics economic developers’ industrial interests.

Worker Placement (2014)
Designed by Mark C. MacKinnon
Published by Dyskami Publishing Company
2-5 players

In the game Worker Placement, each player represents a different worker placement agency within a city, and the goal is to amass as much money and get as good a reputation as possible. You do this by finding workers jobs in the city. Different jobs require different kinds of skills, which players amass for their workers by visiting different skill development locations in town.

The game involves lots of competition with other players for resources and advantages, and the workforce development angle is another one that economic developers are familiar with. It’s a relatively simple game to learn and to play, and you can also choose how long you want to play, so it’s a good game to play with younger children that will get them thinking about the trials and challenges of finding work for the people in a community.

Pandemic (2008)
Designed by Matt Leacock
Published by Z-Man Games
2-4 players

Pandemic is a hugely popular co-operative board game, meaning the players are working together to win the game rather than competing against one another. The premise of the game is that several terrible viruses have broken out around the world, and each player is part of a task-force to stop the spread of the diseases and find cures. So yes, the plot of the board game might not have anything to do with economic development, but the mechanics are an EDO’s bread and butter.

At the beginning of the game, each player is assigned a role with a unique skill that enhances the team’s ability to do their job. As the game progresses, “outbreaks” can occur that speed up the spread of a virus from city to city. Players move around the world, strategically treating infected sections of the map, building research stations, and amassing disease cards to find a cure. Working together and playing to each players’ strengths, executing continuous sequences of damage control, and dealing with place-based crises, this game in a lot of ways mimics an economic developer’s day-to-day, only instead of managing resources and economic activity, you’re managing horrible illnesses. Same kind of job, different stakes.

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Board games for economic developers are indeed fun for the whole family! So consider stopping by your local board game café, shop or library and find out how transferrable your skills in economic development really are, board game style!

 

About the author

Meg Ronson is the editor of Higher ED, Outreach Manager for the Economic Development Program and Masters candidate of Economic Development and Innovation at University of Waterloo. Her research involves studying credit unions and co-operative businesses as potential tools for strengthening and diversifying local economies, and is currently engaged in a project investigating co-operative solutions to the small business succession issue in Ontario and Canada.

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.

Social media

LinkedIn: University of Waterloo Economic Development
Facebook: Master of Economic Development and Innovation
Twitter: UWaterloo EcDev

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The Higher ED Blog: What’s new in economic development research (summer 2017 edition) http://economicdevelopment.org/2017/07/the-higher-ed-blog-whats-new-in-economic-development-research-summer-2017-edition/ http://economicdevelopment.org/2017/07/the-higher-ed-blog-whats-new-in-economic-development-research-summer-2017-edition/#respond Tue, 04 Jul 2017 13:00:47 +0000 http://economicdevelopment.org/?p=300367 More...]]> The Higher ED Blog publishes a quarterly economic development research roundup that shares new research practitioners might find useful. The series draws from Economic Development QuarterlyRegional Studies, the Journal of Rural Studies, and other reputable peer-reviewed academic journals.

Targeted employment growth programs grounded in flimsy evidence

Economic developers like to approach labour force development with solid, evidence-supported tools. But what if those tools are built around shaky research? A recent study cautions that some economic development programs, specifically ones that target particular firm characteristics like firm age, firm size, and industry sector, might not be the best bet.

In examining existing research on employment and firm characteristics, the study found that, depending on what, where, or when you are looking at, you can churn out most any result. To that end, the researchers highlight an econometric rule that states that just because a variable is statistically significant does not necessarily mean that it will be a good policy instrument.

The paper attempts to make sense of often conflicting results in this space by analyzing the same dataset using a variety of models. They found that the results were highly sensitive to the model being chosen, demonstrating that nearly any policy can find support in academic research. Thus, any economic development programming that is based on employment growth within specific firm categories should be taken with more than a few grains of salt.

Read more: Weak Foundations in Economic Development Programs, Economic Development Quarterly, volume 31(2)

Understanding the ‘smart city’ concept and what it means for urban policy

With big data comes big responsibility, or so we hear. As technology continues to change the way we approach the world, so too will it shape how economic developers approach their policies, and nowhere is that more evident than in scholarship on ‘smart cities.’ Researchers in Europe want policy-makers to start thinking through the growth of the information and communication technology (ICT) sector, and what kinds of opportunities it presents in managing and planning urban spaces.

The study first describes the evolution of urban centres and the increasing tendency for people to congregate in cities, which can range from densely packed areas to expansive sprawl. The creation and development of spatial networks along these lines has led to new ways of understanding and studying regional economies, thereby necessitating ever greater and constantly-upgrading information systems to manage them. Some very exciting developments have arisen in this space, including geo-imaging applications to social media to help urban stakeholders and policy-makers better understand their own cities. We are also finding new ways of mapping physical- and cyber- interactions between urban actors, with a study of London, England having recently undergone an analysis of such flows within their local economy.

It has become possible for cities to access and analyze the unique movements of people within their boundaries and develop policies and plans based on where people are to improve accessibility, utilities, social linkages and its overall attractiveness as a result. When considering the kind of insights that are available through analyzing simple smartphone ‘big data,’ the implications for economic development, and its sister professions like tourism and business development, are profound. It is already possible to analyze the clustering of people around certain attractions through cellphone use patterns, or even the frequency with which photos were posted on social media of a certain area.

The article concludes by stressing the need to expand our collection and use of data in order to inform urban initiatives and strategies and ground them in statistics and knowledge. To that end, every city can leverage new technologies and their own unique agglomeration trends to become ‘smart,’ so long as they commit to updating their information systems and tapping into that rich, complex sea that is big data.

Read more: The significance of digital data systems for smart city policy, Socio-economic Planning Sciences, volume 58

What’s to be done about retiring small business owners in rural communities?

Rural communities are facing a new demographic challenge in small business retention: retiring owners. A new article provides an updated perspective on the issue by conducting research in rural cities in Minnesota, addressing a gap in our knowledge on what the communities themselves can do to face this issue head on.

First, focused interviews with different stakeholders in the succession space found numerous barriers that retiring business owners face when looking to exit their business. Broad themes include lack of awareness of the process, lack of available credit for potential buyers, and lack of resources and support for the transition.

The next phase involved identifying recent cases of successful business transitions and interviewing the new owners on this process. The findings indicated that successful new owners had pooled numerous resources in order to complete their purchase, identifying an average of 2.3 very important resources and 3.8 very or moderately important important resources. Banks were consistently considered the most important resource, while local governments and small business centres much less so, perhaps due to lack of awareness of their services and support. The new owners also cited a need for mentorship and guidance from other local business owners.

Various case studies in the state identified locally offered, targeted resources like business succession planning programs as helpful if they were affordable, or framed in such a way as to be accessible to all business owners and not just those looking to retire. There were also instances where communities rallied around their cherished local firms to convert them into co-operatively owned businesses. In all cases, the crucial ingredients to a successful conversion involved networking and leveraging social capital, knowing about and tapping into available resources, access to financial assistance, and involving the community in projects and leadership.

At the end of the day, there is a big incentive to ensure that local businesses stay in the community. When examining a recently purchased business’s performance before and after an ownership transition, the study found that 41% reported employing more people, 68% reported increasing their customer base, and 68% reported increasing their sales volume.

There are many practical take-aways from the research. Encouraging business owners to undergo formal valuations of their firm, offering them workshops and other programming on succession planning, facilitating community networks and keeping abreast of available financing are all important ways to assist local businesses in their ownership transfer.

Read more: The silver tsunami and rural small business retention: What can communities do? Community Development, volume 48(2)

 

About the author

Meg Ronson is the editor of Higher ED, Outreach Manager for the Economic Development Program and Masters candidate of Economic Development and Innovation at University of Waterloo. Her research involves studying credit unions and co-operative businesses as potential tools for strengthening and diversifying local economies, and is currently engaged in a project investigating co-operative solutions to the small business succession issue in Ontario and Canada.

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.

Social media
LinkedIn: University of Waterloo Economic Development
Facebook: Master of Economic Development and Innovation
Twitter: UWaterloo EcDev

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The Higher ED Blog: How to Thrive as a Shrinking City http://economicdevelopment.org/2017/06/shrinking-city/ Mon, 19 Jun 2017 13:00:04 +0000 http://economicdevelopment.org/?p=300092 More...]]> Depopulation, de-industrialization, and decline are words an economic developer never wants to see describe their community.  When they do, questions are always asked, fingers pointed, and reorganizations attempted in order to quickly reverse course and return to positive economic growth.

Despite what we may tell ourselves about today’s economy, decline abounds. Sure, today’s global economy has created lots of winners, from New York to Tokyo to Paris, but it’s also created lots of has-beens: places like Detroit, Youngstown, Flint, and Gary.  In short, the forces that make some destinations highly competitive are the same ones sucking others dry.

How we have dealt with decline has varied based on place, but usually involves denying or ignoring the problem. The relationship between success and unabated economic growth in cities is deeply ingrained into our understanding of development, making it difficult for declining places to face the reality of slow or no growth. Over time, some cities come to accept their condition, and indeed even embrace it, allowing them to better address the preconditions that led to the shrinking of their community. This is the focus of my own research over the past year: urban decline in Eastern Germany.

The Importance of History

In order to understand the plight of shrinking cities, it is key that we acknowledge the historical events that led to their present condition. Failing to understand the history of a place can lead to a failure to properly engage with the issues facing it. Likewise, we can open ourselves up to committing the same mistakes that led to a city’s current situation.

East German Shrinking Cities

It may surprise you, but Germany has emerged as a focal point of the shrinking city issue. Hundreds of East German cities have shrunk considerably since the 1990s—Hoyerswerda in Saxony, for example, has lost over half of its population in 25 years! As a result, many urban areas across Eastern Germany have seen an oversupply of housing, industrial structures, and other buildings. The German government’s initial reaction to the issue was casual ignorance: they could see what was happening, but were reluctant to acknowledge the issue because of its political sensitivity. The German government firmly held to the belief that growth would naturally return.

What Went Wrong

There is no single cause for the shrinking city in Eastern Germany, but overall causes of decline can be traced to a convergence of many historic as well as present events. Decades of Cold War division and subsequent development under entirely different ideological and economic systems meant that, when reunification was achieved in 1990, one side was going to fare much worse than the other. In the spirit of Jeffery Sachs’ economic shock therapy, Eastern Germany was opened up to capitalism at a pace unmatched in history. This disruption was further compounded by ill-advised currency reevaluations that favoured the West and a quick selling off of Eastern state assets. As the wealth and jobs rapidly evaporated in Eastern Germany and concentrated in Western Germany, the people followed. The end results were cities that had by the 2000’s witnessed the rapid loss of their industrial economies and the reversal of their population growth from positive to negative. Finally, a massive and costly suburban building program in the East further drained the city centre of its populations, with residents retreating to outlying areas.

Development from Decline

In order to get some benefit from decline, cities and communities need to do more than rely on simple land clearance to get the ball rolling. Unique solutions to the economic development woes of shrinking cities have already been emerging both in Europe and in North America.

Detroit has long been the poster child for shrinking cities in the United States. Once a city of 1.8 million, Motor City now houses fewer then 700,000 people and the resulting vacant land covers more area than the city of San Francisco. Taking advantage of this empty space, a new type of business has cropped up: urban farming. Organizations such as Keep Growing Detroit, the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative, and Hantz Woodlands now cultivate several acres of farmland within Detroit, and have plans for further expansion. These organizations have come to fill an important role in building new community pride in the city and supplying residents with fresh food they’d normally have to leave the city to find. Michigan has taken notice too: the state is now promoting urban farming as an example of economic resiliency and innovation in the face of constant change.

Other cities, such as Youngstown, created economic growth plans explicitly based on the concept of adapting to the city’s new reality, setting realistic economic goals that properly manage the decline and concentrate efforts on the most economically viable areas of the city. While success in some areas remains elusive, overall positive improvements speak to the benefits of planning in this manner.

How has Eastern Germany faced it? Now past the acceptance stage, German planners are working hard to put a positive spin on decline. These economic development plans have manifested themselves physically in the creation of more public green space and more pedestrian friendly connections across the city leading into their historic core areas. Institutions formerly suited to growing cities, such as daycares and after school centres, are being converted into senior centres and community space. At the same time, these plans are left open for public consultation with regards to their improvement. Despite these changes, however, policies demonstrate a continued emphasis on firm attraction and a lack of business and entrepreneur support, making it difficult to compete with the economic strength of Western Germany.

Eastern German cities are also reengaging with their traditional, pre-industrial economies and identities. Occurring in tandem with demolition policies, cities such as Greifswald, Witenberg, and Gorlitz have moved away from industrial development. Greifswald is now the Luther; Witenberg is now University and Hanseatic; and Gorlitz, the City of Culture, Edcucation and Business. By reorienting their economic development and branding to line up with key parts of their history, these cities have been able to stabilize their populations and redevelop along new paths. Similar strategies could be applied to other declining or disadvantaged communities across the developed world.

While many of these proposals are merely in the early stage and their full economic impacts  are not yet fully understood, they are encouraging examples of thriving, if shrinking, cities. Instead of fearfully avoiding or ignoring the reality of decline, we need to accept it and work to identify unique solutions that can turn what many see as a negative for a community into a positive.

***

I would like to thank Mark Seasons for all the guidance and support given to me in the process of completing this research. I would also like to thank him and Markus Moos for making my thesis defence a positive experience and for all the feedback on my work they provided.

 

About the author

Connor Renouf is a recent graduate of the University of Waterloo’s Economic Development Program. He also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in International Development. One of his primary interests in research is emphasizing the historical context of development issues, allowing for a stronger understanding of the problem at hand. His research interests include world economic history, economically disadvantaged regions, the use of public funds in development, and densification.

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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Robots won’t be stealing our jobs, yet http://economicdevelopment.org/2017/06/robots-wont-be-stealing-our-jobs-yet/ Tue, 13 Jun 2017 16:19:02 +0000 http://economicdevelopment.org/?p=300041 More...]]>  

For years we have been doing everything within our power to advance technology, with the hope of making human lives easier– but have we gone too far? Although automation has been responsible for productivity growth, the worst may be yet to come.

We are starting to see artificial intelligence become more present in the workplace, and eventually, robots could destroy our jobs. It is predicted that almost 50 percent of U.S jobs will be automated in the near future. Jobs at “high risk” for being completely replaced include those in transportation, production, maintenance, and construction industries. Before our eyes, we are slowly watching these replacements happen, with the most noticeable example being self-serve kiosksBut it is still impossible to program robots to do everything.  

No computer can ever be programmed to think creatively or have emotional intelligence. Jobs that include managing others, applying expertise, and interacting with people are least likely to become automated. For some jobs, humans will have a competitive advantage.

Even if robots end up taking some of our jobs, there is still good news. According to “What To Do When Machines Do Everything,” robots will make us “more creative in the long run” by making us focus on what we as humans do best. Others say that the rise of automation will lead to more of a focus on craftsmanship and artistry. And even if robots can be programmed to carry out a job, it does not always make sense for them to replace humans. Sometimes, replacing human workers with automation might be too expensive and wouldn’t provide a good return on investment. In other words, we are safe for today, and a couple more decades at least.

There may be nothing we can do to stop the rapid development of automation, but humans will find a way to adapt– we always have. 

 

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The Higher ED Blog: 4 Ways Economic Developers Are the Key to Solving Global Issues http://economicdevelopment.org/2017/06/economic-developers-global-issues/ Mon, 05 Jun 2017 13:00:16 +0000 http://economicdevelopment.org/?p=299760 More...]]> Climate change. Gender equality. Food security. War. Labour unrest. Healthcare access. It seems like the world is only getting worse. When you turn on the news, you hear of new battles being fought, people suffering due to lack of basic necessities, sudden changes in government and much more. As time goes by, not only are there more global issues, but the issues are more complex.

Vigorously focusing on one issue can lead to offshoots that not many people plan for in their models. For example, in Tanzania, foreign donations played a major role in moving the nation towards democracy, but none of the foreign donors could have predicted the other effects: the foreign aid ended up entrenching the former leaders in a false form of democracy where they had all the power. Instead of using the funds to develop the country, the leaders in power used the donor funds to initiate massive public spending to win votes. This has led to severe economic irrationalities within the nation, limited accountability among members of government and shady infrastructure.

As global bodies struggle with these kinds of issues, it is my hope that Economic Developers will engage their communities to play a greater role in solving world problems. Here are four reasons why we are the best people to help tackle global challenges.

1. Scope

As Economic Developers, we have the ability to connect the global world with the local issues in each community. Fighting against climate change for a local community can involve implementing car-share programs to have fewer vehicles on the road; or investing in community gardens to decrease food miles. Such a globally complex issue can be tackled in relatively simple ways when Local Economic Developers act within their own communities. These communities can then interact with each other for a more sustainable world.

2. Access to Traditional Knowledge

Traditional knowledge refers to the knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities around the world.” This type of knowledge is crucial to understanding the factors that are coming together to cause global issues. In a bid for better animal treatment, the media have been known to condemn members of the Inuit population for continuing to hunt seals. In this situation, an Economic Development Practitioner with local traditional knowledge understands the importance of the seal hunt to the lifestyle of the Inuit and the effect it has on the greater world. It is clear that the Inuit attempt to hunt seals in a sustainable manner. As Economic Developers, our connection to community allows us to make appropriate judgements on the changes in our environment, their causes, and the best policies and actions to help our communities. We can then use this knowledge to communicate local realities to the rest of the world, acting as a buffer against external expertise and theoretical solutions which may not be practical or feasible.

3. Separation from Politics

The Economic Development Office is one that is focused on moving a community forward economically, socially and environmentally. We are not elected to our positions, but are put in a great position of service to our communities. There is sometimes tension created when Economic Development Councils are not required to hold public meetings, but many acknowledge that this separation allows the organization to focus on the needs of the community without the pressure of the media, populism and politics. This does not mean halting dialogue with the public on the plans for the region, but it makes sure that the Economic Development Office can do its job. This allows them to implement long term strategies that are best for the community without the political pressure of winning votes.

4. Capacity for Action

Our jobs put us in a position to take action! We have access to many private and public sector organizations which listen to and respect our advice, but we can also see the big picture. We are the first point of contact on any new initiative in our communities. Despite the challenges, we understand that the world is changing and strive to make sure that our communities can be competitive in this new world. Through these realities, we have many tools to move our communities forward, and working together, can strive to build a better world.

 

There are many global complex issues that world bodies are struggling to handle. By virtue of our roles in local communities, we are in the best position to do something about it. We have manageable scopes to work with, access to traditional knowledge, separation from politics and a capacity/competence for action. One of the reasons developing nations continue to suffer is the lack of a locally generated development office. In North America, this profession is alive, well, and continuously evolving. It is my hope that Economic Developers will engage their communities for the advancement of humanity. If we don’t answer the call, can we really call ourselves Economic Development professionals?

 

About the author

Elijah Raji is one of those rare people who believe they can change the world. As a budding Economic Developer, he is constantly looking for new ways to apply Economic Development principles to complex issues around the world. His passion for development encouraged him to move to Waterloo for the Masters in Economic Development and Innovation Program where he is currently conducting research on Foreign Direct Investment leading to Sustainable Development in developing countries. He hopes to use this research to develop best practices for regions to be able to utilize business investments for community development. When he is not conducting research on Economic Development, he is consulting with companies around the world on new ways to grow their business and expand their impact on their surrounding communities.

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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The Higher ED Blog: Public Art and the Importance of Public Consultation http://economicdevelopment.org/2017/05/public-art-and-consultation/ Tue, 23 May 2017 13:00:04 +0000 http://economicdevelopment.org/?p=299370 More...]]> Have you ever walked by a piece of public art – often worth hundreds of thousands of dollars – without even noticing it? Probably. According to a recent study by graduate students at the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University, public art often goes largely unnoticed.

Current trends see cities heavily investing in public art, which is supposed to make places more vibrant and welcoming, however, often these art pieces are almost invisible to the public. Some may suggest that for public art to be noticed, it should be big and bold. However, that strategy does not always prove successful.  For example, in the late 1980s – after much public outcry – Richard Serra’s ‘Tilted Arc’, a massive 120-foot wall of steel (worth $175,000) was removed from the US Federal Plaza in Manhattan and shipped to a junk yard. In the book, The Shock Of The New, art critic Robert Hughes wrote that office workers and passers-by felt insulted by Tilted Arc’s rawness and size and the way it arrogantly sliced the plaza in two. Hughes explained that “good art may not necessarily be good public art”.

Tilted Arc exemplifies the consequences that may occur when decision-makers fail to recognize the importance of public consultation. Ultimately, public art is paid for and consumed by the public, so their input is critical. Research by David Carrier reiterates the above, stressing that public art is bound to fail if it is not accessible, does not relate to its location, or responds to its audience. Another important factor is the setting; public art is more likely to fail if it is overwhelmed or competes with the scale of a site.

Study area: Waterloo, Ontario

Students at the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University were interested in how people interact with art in the public sphere, partly to address the issue of unsuccessful public art investments. Art is subjective, and can be deeply personal, which made investigating the topic particularly challenging.

The study measured how people interacted with public art using mental mapping and experience sampling. The mental mapping activity involved putting a map of Uptown Waterloo in front of a participant and asking them to inscribe the map with features they found meaningful. The experience sampling activity involved giving participants a video camera and a GPS tracker, sending them out into the world, and asking them to record observations they found interesting along their walk while their movements were being tracked. The researchers conducted these activities around Uptown Waterloo in an area with a high concentration of public art. In the activity instructions, however, it was not implied that the study specifically had to do with public art so as to not influence participant perceptions of the environment.

What were the results?

The activities captured lots of data, but researchers quickly noticed that people rarely recorded public art on their maps and in their videos. Less than 1% of the features recorded on the mental maps constituted public art, and only 5% of videos recorded during the walk featured public art. Seeing as the study area was selected because of its high concentration of public art, the research team was surprised that it was not being picked up on.

Why weren’t people noticing the art?

As it turned out, the ‘features’ that were most meaningful to people were social spaces, such as bars and coffee shops, and public recreational spaces, such as Waterloo Park and the public skating rink. This speaks to the importance of incorporating public art into features that are important to people. Public art may have greater value if it designates important social spaces, such as town squares.

The GPS tracks, which recorded the speed at which participants walked, also highlighted something interesting. Most participants sped up while passing public art displays. This may be explained by the fact that several art installments were on major thoroughfares, likely because of the value attributed to areas of high pedestrian traffic. Major thoroughfares, however, tend to be used by people who are going somewhere, and who are not interested in stopping to appreciate public art. This speaks to the need for additional research on pedestrian behaviour to support decision-making.

The research underscores that public art carries meaning through its relevance to the audience and its larger context. The community needs to have their say, as they are the primary consumers of public art and streetscape enhancement projects.

What should communities do?

Before installing any public art, public consultation is critical. There should be an opportunity for the community to vote to ensure that the whole process is accountable and transparent, and most importantly, reflective of public opinion. In this regard, experience sampling methods which allow people to record their thoughts through mobile applications could prove an important tool in participatory planning. With experience sampling, members of the public could input information on an app as they go about their usual business. Data generated is a more organic, accurate representation of their thoughts, especially if done anonymously.

It can even be taken one step further by using Augmented Reality apps like Aurasma to show the user a more realistic representation what the future public art or streetscape enhancement would look like. Users can vote for different iterations of the project that they like. Without a doubt, there are exciting opportunities to utilize the experience sampling method to collect richer, more detailed, and more accurate data from the community that can be used to inform the decision-making process when it comes to implementing visual amenities in the public space.

 

About the study

Exploring Heritage Features in the Public Sphere through Experience Sampling in Uptown Waterloo was conducted by Catharine Brazeau, Lorenzo Gonzalez, Brenda Loi, and Becky Loi.

About the author

Lorenzo Gonzalez is a Masters candidate of Economic Development and Innovation at the University of Waterloo. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and work experience in entrepreneurship and business development, marketing and communications, and project management. Through the MEDI program, he has honed his research and analysis skills by participating in several supervised quantitative and qualitative research projects. He can be reached at l4gonzal@uwaterloo.ca.

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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The Higher ED Blog: Encouraging Employer-Supported Volunteering in your Community’s Businesses http://economicdevelopment.org/2017/05/employer-supported-volunteering/ Mon, 08 May 2017 13:00:59 +0000 http://economicdevelopment.org/?p=299073 More...]]> This article is the third in our Volunteers: The Extra-Economic Developers series, which explores the beneficial ways that economic development and volunteerism can intersect. This is in recognition of National Volunteer Week, which ran April 23rd to 29th, 2017.

As companies face increasing pressure from prospective employees and clients to meaningfully engage in their communities, firms are dedicating more of their time and resources to support community needs. Employee-supported volunteering, or ESV, is one way companies demonstrate a commitment to social responsibility and investment in their communities. ESV has a long list of spillover benefits, many of which fall right in line with economic development goals.

What is Employer Supported Volunteering?

Employer supported volunteering (ESV) is defined by Volunteer Canada as “any activity undertaken by an employer to encourage and support the volunteering of their employees in the community.” It is not limited to support for the act of volunteering itself, but can also include access to facilities or equipment, paid time off, or a modified work schedule to allow employees to meaningfully engage in volunteer activities, as outlined in this Statistics Canada report.

Over the last decade, ESV has moved from the exception to the norm among many North American firms, partly due to a growing expectation for firms to engage in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) efforts.

How does ESV benefit the companies that implement it?

The benefits of ESV range from improved employee productivity and wellbeing to enhanced company image and positive community impacts. Companies who support employee volunteering have been shown to experience lower staff turnover, improved employee relationships, and increased skill development. View the full Volunteer Canada infographic here.

A Volunteer Canada study found that aligning ESV initiatives with corporate goals and values can ultimately improve the firm’s bottom line by increasing employee retention, recruitment and overall performance. Companies with highly engaged employees have also been found to experience improved “profitability, productivity and customer loyalty” (p. 5).

The shared benefits of ESV extend beyond participant employers. ESV projects enhance employee wellbeing and skills, foster community relationships, and increase the capacity of the non-profit beneficiaries, all while making a positive impact in the community.  These benefits mirror objectives for economic developers working to strengthen their community’s job quality, business success and overall quality of life. Encouraging your local businesses to give ESV a try is a great way to engage them as leaders in community development.

Here are a few resources and studies to make ESV program development easier.

Building Successful Programs

Constructing successful ESV programs requires attention to the goals, skills, capacity and constraints of both the participating companies as well as their employees.  Volunteer Canada’s Leading with Intention report shares a list of important elements for ESV program success. The list below draws from the experiences of eight leading companies in ESV and their perspectives on the most important components in developing, delivering and refining ESV programs:

  1. Support from senior leadership
  2. Established policies which support the program
  3. Genuine partnerships with volunteer organizations
  4. Quality of measurement and continuous improvement: this includes evaluation and the relaying of results to all program participants
    Leadership in volunteering: moving beyond the company to engage at local, national and even international levels
  5. Inclusivity
  6. Aligned company objectives with community needs and employee interests. Understanding workplace, employee and community values, concerns and goals is extremely important to the success of ESV programs.

 

The participating employee

Employees are increasingly looking to work for companies that contribute to the wellbeing of their community.

According to a 2010 study by Manulife Financial, Volunteer Canada and Carleton University, workers see volunteering as an important part of a balanced life, skill-building, and fulfillment of a responsibility to contribute to their community. The study found that ESV volunteers shared five characteristics:

  1. Results-oriented: volunteers preferred short-term, high-skilled roles;
  2. Measuring progress: measurability of volunteer contributions and the program’s outcomes;
  3. Volunteerism as a pastime;
  4. Flexible volunteering: volunteers want to know the minimum required hours and have flexibility of where and when they volunteer;
  5. Structured volunteering: participants value good management of opportunities. This includes clearly defined roles, expectations and time requirements.

 

Where do I start?

The good news is that you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Plenty of resources exist for developing, implementing and improving ESV initiatives. These are helpful guides you can offer to interested businesses to simplify their program development. While no cookie-cutter template exists, a rich bank of ESV resources and supports are available to help guide companies in developing ESV initiatives according to their particular context and objectives.

Case Studies Examples of successful ESV initiatives to help inform effective approaches and structures.
Toolkits and guides These include group volunteering, volunteer management and screening resources offered by Volunteer Canada to support the development of ESV programs.
Codes of conduct The Canadian Code for Employer-Supported Volunteering outlines guiding principles and standards of practice for companies designing ESV initiatives.
Support services These include services offered by the Canadian Institute for Businesses and Community Engagement, Volunteer Canada’s Skills Plus tool which helps to evaluate ESV programs, and Volunteer Canada’s consultation services for non-profits and businesses developing ESV programs..

 

Conclusion

Recent studies have demonstrated that employee-supported volunteering contributes to company success, employee satisfaction and enhanced community relationships. Volunteer Canada states that “Canadian businesses are making the connection between community well-being and their own prosperity” (p. 5), a relationship that echoes the dual objectives for economic sustainability and community well-being in economic development.

Long lists of companies across the country are recognizing the shared benefits of ESV. How can you do the same in your community?

 

About the author:

Susie Cochran is a master’s student at the University of Waterloo in the Faculty of Environment’s Economic Development and Innovation program. Her research interests include the role of community gardens in local, sustainable food systems, and on translating their benefits into a quantitative return on investment analysis. Susie has worked as the Waterloo Region project leader for Evergreen, She has worked in several volunteer coordination and facilitation roles, and is an active volunteer in the Waterloo community.

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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Free drug coverage makes Canadian debut http://economicdevelopment.org/2017/05/free-drug-coverage-makes-canadian-debut/ Fri, 05 May 2017 19:08:27 +0000 http://economicdevelopment.org/?p=299085 More...]]> I’ve always scratched my head at this– Canadians are offered free medical care without being offered free prescription drugs to go with it. It doesn’t make sense to me because the two go hand in hand. Finally, things are about to change.

Just last week the Ontario 2017 budget was announced and unveiled a surprise that caught me off guard. Ontario will be the first province in Canada to offer prescription drug coverage for those ages 24 and under.

Ontario can now be a testing ground for how a system like this could benefit the rest of Canadians. Researchers say that having a universal drug coverage system could save billions of dollars in the long run.

Right now every province has their own system when it comes to prescription drugs, and with so many companies offering their own drug coverage it makes our systems really fragmented. Ultimately, it would make things a lot less confusing!

A move like this was definitely needed; as it has been found that 1 in 10 Canadians cannot afford medication. Studies also show that Canada has the second-highest medication costs in the world. For now, this system will significantly help out students and families with children. Some countries around the world are already having luck with similar programs.

Having a universal system would eliminate some barriers that many Canadians face and make prescription drugs accessible to us all. At the end of the day being healthy and having medication you need shouldn’t come down to personal finances.

 

 

 

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Job Loss and Residential Mobility http://economicdevelopment.org/2017/04/job-loss-and-residential-mobility/ Fri, 28 Apr 2017 15:40:40 +0000 http://economicdevelopment.org/?p=298896 More...]]> moving home

The recent economic downturn [2008-2009] magnified a routine occurrence in the Canadian labour market: job loss resulting from an employer downsizing, moving, or going out of business.” In the 10-month period between October 2008 and July 2009 Canada lost 431,000 jobs, or 2.5% of the workforce and unemployment was as high as 9%. Job loss came from downsizing, business closures and moves. “Involuntary job loss” even in good times can range from 6-7%.

A recent article published in Canadian Public Policy/Analyse de politiques (March 2017) explores correlations of those who have involuntary job loss and residential mobility.* This study helps fill a void into the research about job loss and “geographic mobility”. Moving is costly, takes time away from job search, and causes stress for those adapting to new employment, “housing or surroundings.”

Negative effects of job loss can include reduction in income, decline in health, interruptions to education, and even “earnings attainment of one’s children”. Job loss can result in earnings dropping 10-35% which can have an impact for upwards of five years. As a result, consumption of a wide range of consumer products drops and, in particular, housing. This can mean moving to a cheaper home or apartment, or migration, to secure employment and reduce the economic impact of job loss.

Little is known about the “mobility consequences of involuntary job loss” nor of the neighbourhoods to which people move as a result. Understanding the phenomenon is important to understanding social and economic costs and to inform public policy such as income tax and employment insurance. The study used data from the Canadian Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics (SLID) for 1996 to 2010 period, which included those aged 15 years and older.

What did the study find?

● Those who lost jobs were more likely to move than those who had job stability

● Job loss is not “concentrated among individuals in more mobile life stages”

● Job loss “precipitates mobility among workers who are otherwise less mobile” (lower educated, workers in natural resource and manufacturing jobs)

● Those who experience job loss more likely to be renters; renters, generally, are 3- times more likely to move

● Job loss “triggers both short- and long-distance” moves

● Job loss is a “strong predictor” of moving regardless of “life cycle stage or economic resources”

● Job loss increases the probability “of moving to a high-deprivation area from a lower deprivation area”

● For those living in affluent neighbourhoods, job loss may mean moving to a “non- affluent” area

● For renters, who are are already more likely to experience downward mobility, education and income may provide some amelioration

● A “strong predictor” of entry into high-deprivation areas is visible minority status

The study offers an important look into the correlation of job loss and mobility and migration, until now, a neglected area of research. The author notes that the bulk of moves were short-distance, suggesting these are to reduce housing costs and to reduce commute times. And, job loss does mean that those who have lost employment, through no fault of their own, have a higher probability of downward mobility (moves to higher deprivation areas) and this is especially true for renters.

Although exploring policy associated with job loss was not a focus of the study, the author questions whether the regionalization of the Employment Insurance (EI) programme “disincentivizes longer distance migration out of high employment areas” which have higher EI benefits. Although people do make long-distance moves right after job loss, would migration rates be different under a policy of higher benefit amounts? Findings suggest that, because mobility is associated with “downward transitions in neighbourhood attainment”, it may lead to a “cycle of cumulative disadvantages for some workers”.

For many Canadians, involuntary job loss is part of the Canadian life course and has a clear impact on mobility and the outcomes of moves.”

The research paper can be found Canadian Economics Association Website

*”Leaving work, leaving home: Job loss and socio-geographic mobility in Canada” (doi:10.3138/cpp.2016-014)

David I.M. Clark

DMCmetrix.com

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The Higher ED Blog: Community Futures Program built on passionate volunteers http://economicdevelopment.org/2017/04/community-futures-program-passionate-volunteers/ Mon, 24 Apr 2017 13:00:19 +0000 http://economicdevelopment.org/?p=298816 More...]]> This article is the second in our Volunteers: The Extra-Economic Developers series, which explores the beneficial ways that economic development and volunteerism can intersect. This is in recognition of National Volunteer Week, running April 23rd to 29th, 2017.

You may not realize it, but there may be a Community Futures office near you.  With 268 offices currently in operation, it’s one of the best kept secrets across Canada!

The Community Futures Program was created in 1986 to support businesses and economic development in rural communities.  Today, these Community Futures Development Corporations provide financing, training and support to entrepreneurs and community projects.  Each office is a non-profit corporation run by a volunteer board of directors.  These directors are experienced business owners, professionals, economic developers, young entrepreneurs and individuals of various backgrounds.  They all have a passion to keep their rural communities growing and thriving.  These volunteers are interested in seeing businesses succeed, having more jobs created and keeping youth employed.  They want a future that is sustainable and a local economy that is robust.

This is where you come in.  Our offices are always looking for volunteers who are motivated, have an interest in rural economic development and are committed to Strategic Planning.  Strategic Planning is an integral part of the organization and innovative people and ideas are welcome.  Get involved.  Community Futures is currently supported by over 3,300 volunteers across Canada.  Working on a board is a great experience, a chance to share and learn, and looks great on a resume!

Lynn Buchner is a current director of the board at Community Futures Oxford. She first got involved with the organization in the early 2000s, when the region’s economy was suffering from withdrawal of the tobacco industry. She recalls, “The Province invested $5 million and assigned a Project Approval Committee to invest it in the region through the CFDCs (Community Futures Development Corporations) as a sound basis for distribution for worthy business propositions.” She started as a member of the committee and has been involved in some capacity ever since.  “I have a passion for giving back to the community that has been so generous to me over the years. I was raised in a small family-owned and operated business located in Oxford County, learning at a very young age the importance of small business and more so commitment to serving your community.  This experience lead me to a career in municipal government and an appreciation for a diversified economy that it is largely driven by small and medium sized local owned and operated business.  My volunteer work with Community Futures Oxford has allowed me the privilege of enabling Oxford County to be progressive, innovative and continue to thrive as a vibrant community by supporting economic growth and retention to secure a sustainable future for our community – by providing capital for new business to get started and existing businesses to expand, adding jobs which generates economic spinoff that improves the community’s overall wellbeing.”

The picture associated with this article is a shining example of Community Futures’ great success in Oxford County. Through her participation in the Ontario Self-Employment Program, professional chocolatier and Tea Sommelier Cindy Walker learned important business elements that then helped her to launch her own speciality chocolate and tea shop. Chocolatea is located in Ingersoll, ON. In 2015, she received the Ontario Self Employment Benefit Program Entrepreneur of the Year award. Though that specific program has now been discontinued, Community Futures continues to offer financial and business support through their many programs, and volunteers remain a vital aspect to each one.

Check out this website to learn more about Community Futures.

 

About the author

Allan Simm is the General Manager of the Community Futures Oxford, a Community Futures Development Corporation located in Ingersoll.  Community Futures Oxford has been supporting entrepreneurship and economic development in Oxford County since 1993.

Allan has also coached and mentored numerous start-up and existing businesses from various industries.  Having owned a business in the past, he knows the financial, managerial and operational challenges facing business owners.

Allan holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree that provides the foundation for his business and entrepreneurial experience.  He is currently the President of the Western Ontario Community Futures Development Corporation Association.  The association supports 20 Community Futures Development Corporations in Southwestern Ontario.

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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