The Encyclopedia of MACRO SOCIAL WORK

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Darlyne Bailey and Terry Mizrahi









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Names: Bailey, Darlyne, 1952-editors. | Mizrahi, Terry, editors. Title: Encyclopedia of Micro Social Work / Darlyne Bailey and Terry Mizrahi, editors on chief.

Other titles: Encyclopedia of Micro Social Work

Description: First edition. | New York, NY: OXFORD University Press, 2023.| “The Encyclopedia of Micro Social Work is published as part of the Encyclopedia of Micro Social, a dynamic and scholarly digital resource co-published by OXFORD University Press and the National Association of the Social Workers Press”-Verso. | Includes Bibliographical reference and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2022010918 (print) | LCCN 2022010919 (ebook) | ISBN 9780190949129 (3 vol. set) | ISBN 978019097656501 (hardback; vol.1) | ISBN 978019097656518 (hardback; vol.2) | ISBN 978019097656525 (hardback; vol.3) | ISBN 9780190949136 (ebk)

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community economic development


Mizrahi, T. (2022). Community organizing principles and guidelines. In L. Rapp-McCall, K. Corcoran & A.R Roberts (eds.) Social workers’ desk reference (4th ed. pp. 816-826). OXFORD University Press. Nair, M.D., & Guerrero, E.G.(2019).Evidence-based macro practice in social work. Gregory Publishing. Naparstek, A., Dooley,D., & Edward, R.L.(Eds.).(1997). Community building. In the Encyclopedia of Micro Social Work (19th ed., 1997 supplement, pp.77-89). NAWS Press.

NAWS (National Association of Social Workers). (2012). NAWS standards for school social works services. NAWS

NIS (National Institutes of Health). (2016). Worlds oldest population is growing dramatically. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Putnam, R.D. (1993). Making democracy work: Civic traditions in modern Italy.Harvard University Press. Rosenthal, B.B., Greenawalt,j., Ivery,j.M., & Mizrahi, T.(2016). Coalitions: Essential tools for organizing.

In Roots of Power: A Manual for Grassroots Organizing (pp. 316-333).Praeger.

Rossi, P. (1999). Evaluating Community Development Programs: Problems and Prospects. In R.F. Ferguson & W.T. Dickens (Eds.), urban problems and community development (pp.521-567). Brookings Institutions Press.

Saleeby, D., & Edward, R.L.(Eds).(2003).Strengths-based-practice. In the Encyclopedia of Micro Social Work (19th ed., 2003 supplement, pp. 150-162). NAWS Press.

Wilson, W.J. (1991). Public Policy Research and the Truly Disadvantaged. In C. Jencks & P. Peterson (Ed.), The Urban Underclass (pp. 460-482). Booking Institution.

Umeka E’Lan Franklin


(This article has been revised and updated for publication in the Encyclopedia of Micro Social Work. The original version is available online in the Encyclopedia of Micro Social Work [oxfordre .com/socialwork].)


The phrase community economic development (CED)is used both generically to cover a broad range of activities and narrowly to include only community development corporations (CDCs; Rubin, 2000). Broadly, it consists of all activities and processes that empower community residents to control their communities’ economic and physical development in a way that redounds to the benefits of the people who live there and furthers their community’s vision. that vision may include population change and property value enhancement (Murphy & Cunningham,2003 ) CED aims to build wealth, and capabilities and empower poor communities (Midgley,1995). The approach addresses structural inequality through community engagement and interventions that promote social and economic development (Rubin & Sharraden, 2004). Many social workers are familiar with some of the techniques used: community organizing, structured citizen participation, and collaborative engagement with the public and private sectors to implement community strategies.

Those who use the term CED narrowly limit it to situations in which it employs a community development corporation (CDC). A CDC is a nonprofit organization accountable to the community that passions itself


community economic development

to create (developing) real estate and business projects that it owns. it uses private-sector financing and business development techniques and involves investment by private-sector partners who expect a financial return on their investment. Such an organization requires business and financial skills and capital of its own. (Sviripoff, 2004). CDCs have significant, mutually beneficial relationships with private and public institutions, though some community organizers may view those institutions as adversaries. along with the development activity, CDCs may deploy a wide variety of other program approaches, including workforce development, youth development, and education, health, or family economics resilience (National Congress for Community Economic Development [NCCED],2005).

The Creation of CDCs, in 1960 grew directly out of the civil rights movement, the federal poverty program, and the Ford Foundation affords (Praat Center of Community Development, n.d.). Persistent disinvestment, discrimination, neglect, and exclusion convinced leaders for racial equality that development would have to be actively organized and owned by communities (Soifer et al., 2014). The organizations either gave rise to or approved private the term community economic development to define themselves to the broad public, even creating a national organization (the NCCED) IN 1970, which was a national force for over 35 years.

There have been four waves of CDCs, since 1960, beginning with the original ones (such as the well-known and still exciting Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation) economic passing three subsequent iterations (Pierce & Steinbach 1987; Soifer et al., 2014). The second wave of CDCs, across shortly, after the first wave of various community organizing and neighborhood revitalization movements of the 1970s. This “neighbored movement” among other accomplishments, originated the “redlining” campaigns that led to the Community Reinvestment Act and spurred Congress in 1973 to create the National Commissions on Neighborhoods (1979) and the Neighborhoods Reinvestment Corporation in 1977. They sought to imitate the residential and commercial real estate, business development, and community reinvestment of the first wave. Still, they lacked the financial resources from the federal government or the Ford Foundation (Wiewel & Gillis,1995). Facing the elimination of national resources, these organizations formed alliances with local financial institutions and local governments. The Reagan-Bush administration drastically reduced resources for housing and economic development. As a result, national nonprofit “intermediaries” grew to provide financing and capacity building, often supporting private financial institutions. Most notable among them was the Local Initiative Support Corporation, the Enterprise Foundation, and the Development Traning institution (Pierce & Steinbach 1990).

A modest increase in federal resources in the late 1980s for narrowly targeted affordable housing gave rise to a new set of organizations whose main thrust was community development through low-increase housing (Walkers & Weinheimer, 1998). These third-wave non-profit development organizations were often labeled CDCs. CDCs used the same techniques of private sector development, financing, and community ownership (Kubisch, 2010).

In the 1980s, changes in domestic economies driven by decreasing manufacturing jobs and globalization, persistent racial discrimination and growing inequality, and government cutbacks significantly intensified the challenges faced by poor communities ( Massey & Denton, 1993, Wilson, 1996). In response, by the early 1990s, the fourth wave of CED arose to pursue comprehensive


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community initiatives (CCIs), which were multi-agenda (comprehensive), collaborative, place-based, and community-building efforts (Kubisch et al., 2010). Initially funded by local and national foundations and the federal government, CCIs, bring together the work of human services (people-oriented strategies) and economic development (place-oriented strategies) for neighborhood revitalization. The well-publicized community-driven comprehensive approach of CCIs was widely imitated by other organizations, even absent specialized, significant resources; or arose organically from others’ efforts, including CDCs, without any knowledge of the particular foundation/ government initiative (Kingsley et al., 1997).

Types and extent of Ced organizations

There are many nonprofit (and some for-profit) organizations working to help low-moderate-income people in the United States through community economic development. simple typology could separate primary, secondary, tertiary, and even quaternary levels – organization, or levels 0-3 (Ferguson & Stoutland, 1999).

At the primary stage (level 0) are the local, voluntary organizations and associations number in the tens of thousands across the United States. Local neighborhood or homeowner’s associations would be examples.

On the secondary arena (level 1), there are formal organizational entities, such as CDCs, which provide various services to clients and neighborhoods (sometimes at the wide level). These are “front-line” organizations that do the hard work of revitalizing deteriorating parts of inner cities and impoverished rural areas. A good example is the New Community Corporation (NCC), which is described in more detail later.

Tertiary (level 2) players include local and regional organizations, such as state and governments, funders, researchers, universities, advocates, coalitions, networks, and businesses, that provide crucial support to level 1 organizations. For example, Kubisch et al. (2010 showed how local supporters helped CCIs in the early 1990s to scale up and engage in capacity building, do extensive project financing, and access national funding markets, including core funding for these organizations.

Finally, the quaternary (level 3) entities, such as the federal government and national organizations, coalitions, funders, and lobbyists, help provide the national framework and shape the dialogue that promotes the industry. CED saw the emergence of five large financial intermediary organizations that draw money from various funding sources and subsequently distribute those resources to CDCs: the Local Initiative Support Corporation, Enterprise Community Partners, Living Cities, NeighborWorks, and Opportunity Finance Network Their grants and technical assistance enabled CDCs to leverage private lending to support large-scale activity. CDCs also receive significant support through the Federal Home Lear Bank, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac.

Federal government support often originates in a local initiative, such as the financing of community development financial institutions (CDFIs), initiated by the Clinton ministration’s 1994 Community Development Banking and Financial Institutions CDFIs are specialized financial institutions that serve lower-income communities including community development credit unions, community development


community economic development

funds community banks, community foundations, and subsidiaries of private sector banks (Benjamin et al., 2004).

The exact number of CDCs in the United States at present is unclear. The last formal survey by the NCCED (2005) estimated roughly 4,600 organizations that met the NCCED’s definition. These CDCs produced about 1.25 million units of housing and close to 750,000 jobs. Even then, this was probably an underestimate of CDC activity across the country, especially if the definition of CED activities is expanded beyond the narrow NCCED one.

A few years before the NCCED survey, using a border definition of CDCs, Brophy and Shabecoff (2001) reported that there were already 10,000 such organizations. As of 2020, the new trade organization in the CDC industry, the National Alliance of Community Economic Development Associations (NACEDA), had no definite number of CDCs in America. The authors are reasonably sure there are no reliable estimates. NACEDA alone represents CDC networks in over half of U.S. States, with roughly 4,000 CDC members. However, as of 2014, the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey (2014), which has 250 CDCs in its Statewide network, had, over 25 years, invested and/ or generated $12 billion, created 82,000 jobs, and added 21,000 affordable, houses in the state. The Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporation (2012) has 45 CDCs, contributed over $3 billion to the local economy, created almost 12,000 jobs, and renovated or built about 9,000 homes in 20 years (1992-2011).

Core Values and premises

Given the different waves of CDCs, and the many organizations involved in CED work, what defines CED? What do these organizations have in common? Wiewel et al. (2008) provided a set of values and premises to describe CED. Historically, the first value is racial equality. Not only is racial Oppression a factor in segregation and community disinvestment, but civil rights advocates saw CED as another avenue for accessing and achieving economic opportunity. Using business-based tools controlled by the communities, they successfully participate in and draw investment from the mainstream private sector. Hence, one premise of CED is the importance of building financial and tangible assets in communities (Blackwell et al., 2002). In this sense, CED aims to help reverse a historical legacy of disinvestment, discrimination, and public policies denied to poor and minority communities (Butler, 1991; Nembhard & chiteji, 2006). At the community level, investment in families, housing, employment, business, infrastructure, and green space builds community and household assets.

Empowerment of the community is another core value of CED (and, of course, social work) as articulated in the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Code of Ethics (2017) Through self-education in analyzing projects, poor communities can recover (Freier, 1970; Ledwith, 2016). That empowerment is enhanced through ownership and wealth building, whether in individual households or through a collectively owned CED mechanism. According to Halpern (1995), CED is a “model for communities to regain a measure of control over capital and balance its use for private and public purposes” (p.142). Empowerment mechanisms need to put community goals and community leaders in the driver’s seat. Still, they must also include public and private institutions with whom the community needs to


community economic development

collaborates to create sustainable community development. Creating new forms of collaborative community organizing have arisen, and most notably the consensus organizing approach (Eichler,2007).

Another CED premise is the importance of building social capital and civic capacity (Chaskin et al., 2001). Social capital is both buildings, indicating the solidarity and trust among people within the community that leads to reciprocity and shared resources; and bringing, in dictating the ability of relationships to reach beyond the boundaries and capabilities of the indigenous community alone (Putnam, 2000). Social capital complements financial and human capital (Portes & Mooney, 2005). As social capital increases through CED, community residents may be better prepared to realize and control capital for community benefit and build capacity for subsequent development (Woolcock, 1998). Civic capacity refers to a community’s social and political ability to build, maintain, and mobilize coalitions to solve community problems (Stone et al., 2001). CED builds civic capacity thought the public education effect of community engagement in economic analysis and real estate and business development. CED builds bridging social capital through its relationships with mainstream private and public partners and significant nonprofit institutions. We see this concretely expressed in the work of CED intermediaries like the Local Initiatives Support Corporation and CDFIs.

Finally, to achieve broad-based economic development that benefits low-income and low-wealth communities, CED practice includes grass-roots organizing, legal advocacy, and coalition building (Rubin & Rubin, 2007). In these ways, CED empowers communities to challenge an unfitted free market, aiming for development through social and economic investment and economic justice (Midgley & Livermore, 2006). CED attempts to “humanize” or produce “corrective capitalism” by buffering the effects of the market through regulation, subsidies, and social innovation and social enterprise (Pierce & Steinbach, 1987; Ridley-Duff & Bull, 2011).


As a place-based approach, CED theories reflect choices among the major theories of urban development. CED rejects laissez-faire government and policies with its total reliance on the private market, also known as the “trickle-down” approach (Welfeld, 1998), in favor of more robust government participation and government-mandated private reinvestment needed to overturn decades of discrimination, disinvestment, and deterioration. Although CDCs sometimes engage in large-scale projects, CED practitioners tend to favor revitalizing the exciting infrastructure and community institutions over the urban renewal approach of large-scale community clearance.

CDCs aspire to sustainable reinvestment in and restoration of a diverse, vibrant community that is competitive in the marketplace in contrast to those who see the low-income community mainly as a subsidized “port of entry” on the ladder to American success, where successful families move on to other locales. Significant enhancements to the reinvestment theory in the 1990s accentuated identifying the competitive position of each neighborhood’s niche in the regional residential real estate market. Tactics evolved to enhance competitiveness and directly appeal to a targeted population for the niche (Zdenek & Walsh, 2017).

Lastly, one overarching approach in deriving a CED strategy in an adaptation of input-output economic models used in quantifying national economies: Imagine a neighborhood as a self-contained economics


community economic development

system; and identify and analyze the resources and financial flows that come into that system (wages, government payments, capital investments) and the resources and financial flows that leave that system (residents spending outside of the neighborhood, profits extracted by external investors). The extent to which outflow exceeds inflow is leakage in the system to be stopped. To the extent that inflows are captured and recycled within the system, for example, through local purchasing or investment in locally-owned redevelopment, there is a multiplier effect, about $7 for every $1 recycled. The capacity to supply something marketable to those outside of the system brings more resources into the system and leads to a more self-sustained system (Murphy & Cunningham,2003).

social services, family support, and workforce development are frequent tools of CED (Vidal, 1992). However, there is also a theory that quality-of-life enhancements that contribute to family stability and success serve as a foundation for and are in themselves community development. Others with a purer placed-based view pursue them under the theory that as amenities, these enhancements significantly Contribute to the community’s marketability for investment revitalization ( de Souza Briggs et al., 1996). Primarily, however, CDCs were deliberately designed to go beyond human services to address the physical and economic realities of the place itself (Faux, 1971).

While earlier CDCs incorporated some social services, the latter CCI approach posited a more deliberate combination of place-oriented revitalization in housing, commercial real estate, business infrastructure, and people-oriented programs in education, workforce, and health (Kubisch et al., 2010). CCIs created multiorganization collaboration driven by a high level of community engagement. Restricted resources would rarely allow a single organization to acquire the resources to provide every element of comprehensiveness; thus, collaboration among organizations- public, nonprofit, private, and community-based- would become the norm. The older CDCs, that become comprehensive over time, like Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Development Corporation in New York or the new Community Corporation in Newark, reflect the same theory of extensive emphasis on place and people (Pratt Center for Community Development, n.d.).

In implementing these approaches, the emphasis on housing as a primary element is almost universal. Community residents who suffer from miserable housing conditions and high housing cost burdens also want better housing solutions. Hosing is the dominant physical fabric of neighborhoods (Rosen, 2020). Moreover, the absence of clean, safe, attractive, and affordable housing undermines family resilience and success in child development, education, workforce, development, and health.


CEDs and crore values dictate a theory of change that leads to choosing and developing a strategy a action. The next step involves tactics of implementation, namely programs, projects, and activities.

Because of long time frames, CED organizations must have a strategy for sequentially developing a series of feasible projects that build momentum and scale until reaching sustainable ability. All community development, even creating a new subdivision on raw suburban land, takes a long time


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and has to be staged carefully (Alenick, 1990). Moreover, historically adequate resources have always been lacking for complete community revitalization of impoverished communities, particularly those struggling against deeply rooted racism (von Hoffman 2012). Therefore, basing a strategy on sophisticated data-driven economic, demographic, and political analysis is at the core of a community-driven planning process. Aspiration for grand goals needs to be the driver and hard-nosed feasibility the decider. Theories of Redevelopment and core values of CED undergird the process. Appreciation for the time and resources needed for each stage and an honest assessment of which efforts are possible with resources hand can lead to a plan that achieves quick wins, builds credibility inside and outside of the community, and creates momentum for more extensive and complex future projects. The Dudley Street neighborhood Initiative is an excellent case example of this process (Medoff & Sklar, 1994).

In developing a housing strategy, leaders must discern how competitive their neighborhood is in the regional market. Is the regional market a “hot market”, where property values are rapidly escalating to meet robust housing demand at a higher income level that will inevitably displace people of this community (Brophy & Burnett, 2003)? or is this city a weak market with slow growth? while a seriously devastated neighborhood needs substantial subsidy, a middle neighborhood has vital market assets to build on (Brophy,2016). some neighborhoods have growth potential, while others should shrink the number of units and exploit the value of the vacant land created. Do neighborhood leaders want to perpetuate the existing population profile or do they want to attract newcomers, and if so, what kind of newcomers?

Based on data, strategy dictates whether to spread activity or concentrate it, for example, beginning with areas close to strong neighborhood and spreading later in concentric rings. Can commercial development drive residential growth, or does it need an expanded population of users (Temali, 2002)?

Every neighborhood competes for jobs, residents, retailers, restaurants, and customers. CED borrows the concepts of competitive advantage from the private sector (Porter, 1995) with which other residential, commercial, or job locations does their neighborhood complete, and what are the assets that give it an edge (Blankly & Bradshaw, 2002)? Is there potential for a homegrown economy, strengthening local businesses and helping them expand? A job strategy should target specific workforce challenges in the community, choosing how much to emphasize basic education, appropriate job skills, transportation, criminal records, daycare, or racist barriers to access (Giloth, 2006).

Who can be recruited to invest in CED projects and neighborhood institutions? Are these anchor institutions-universities, hospitals, major institutions, and large religious congregations-that can become active partners, recruited because they have a stake in the future of the place surrounding their investments (Perry & Wiewel, 2005)? How relevant is the health sector, and what institutions can be partners? what role can artists play as catalysts creative alternative thinkers, and prodigious marketeers?

Board community participatory processes help formulate a solid and successful CED strategy (Capraro, 2004). Many methods are available, but the best ones include an organizational strategic planning process rather than a land-use-based and capital improvement-oriented government planning. Strategic processes usually involve the community analyzing the current situation and future trends ( Murphy & Cunningham, 2003); evaluating past activities available resources, and capabilities; and visioning a


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desirable future. Next, the community brainstorms alternative, strategies and evaluates each for fit and feasibility, choosing the best before adopting a multiyear strategic plan. The resulting strategic plan should lay out a sequence of programs and activities and projected outcomes and impacts against which the organization can measure progress (Soifer et al., 2014).


Tactics and programs are the nuts and bolts, the tools of the trade, that community builders (including social workers) use the implement strategies; they help organizations to achieve their goals. To achieve solid program performance and build high-performing organizational systems, CDCs need to develop numerous forms of capital: physical, financial, human, social, and political. Since its inception in the 1960s, the community development field has had a mostly successful track record in these areas ( Murphy & Cunningham, 2003; Soifer et al., 2014).

The development of physical capital requires knowledge and skills in real estate. While the process for CDCs to develop neighborhoods resembles that of the traditional real estate model, many barriers must be overcome. Creating affordable housing for low-to-moderate-income people, creating financing, and other means to close the “finance gap” are needed to make housing a reality. For rental units, needed programs such as the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit help incentivize investor to fund housing for poor and working-class people. Because housing development is a replicable model, CDCscan builds volume to reverse economic deterioration and contribute to family and neighborhood stability. More alternative housing approaches, such as community land trusts, and limited equality coops, have been growing (Soifer,2012). Commercial and industrial real estate deals are trickier. Fever CDCs have been able to pull them off successfully, but when they do it is quite a success story (Rubin, 2000).

Financial capital is another critical activity of CDCs. Whether trying to fill a need in the community ( e.g., business capital or real estate equity) or creating individual or community wealth, innovative tools are needed. Some CDCs boost minority business development, grow local businesses, build financial infrastructure, and crave wealth (Soifer et al., 2014). For example, local finance organizations as community development finance institutions (CDFIs) and mainstream alternative banks (i.e., the former South Shore Bank in Chicago)-invest in housing and other local development initiatives, as do community development credit unions and tax credit funds with occasional help from the federal government (Greer & Gonzoles, 2017). Also, a recent trend in social work (Scanlon & Sanders,2017) and CED activities has to do with what is broadly called”financial capability and asset building”(Sherranden et al., 2018). The goal is “to assist clients to acquire, maintain, and manage income…manage their finances,” [and advocate for] affordable and appropriate products” (Frey et al., 2017, p,l).

Investment in human capital is another critical tool in CED. It helps individuals reach their full potential by focusing on workforce development, education, job training and placement, and career development. youth development and programs to support human capital are crucial (Soifer et al., 2014). Workforce development and employment programs assist people in developing job skills and career paths, locating jobs, and finding means of transportation; help employed residents retain jobs; and combat


community economic development

discrimination (Dickens, 1999). Escobari et al., (2019) described methods of assisting workers in adjusting to rapidly changing local labor markets and encouraging local institutions to further “economic mobility” for workers. Some CED programs focus on training employees or creating internships in community-based business and social services. Some also initiate businesses or promote worker ownership.

CDCs work in many ways to expend social capital in the low-to-moderate-income neighborhood (Midgley & Livermore, 2006). Programs in the community strengthen bonding in deteriorating neighborhoods; the business, real estate, and reinvestment activity of CDCs bridge the community to the mainstream economy. Substantial reservoirs of bridging and bonding social capital enable revitalization (Putnam, 2000). Some (Bruyn & Meehan, 1987) Consider worker and consumer cooperatives to be the “third way” to bond bridge economically that is, they are the happy medium between capitalism and socialism. Highlighted in Majee and Hoyt (2011) but unbeknown to many, almost 30,000 cooperatives of all kinds exist in the United States, including in overlooked areas like agriculture, banking (e.g, your local credit union), and utilities (many rural service providers).

Finally, CDCs engage, within limits, in advocacy and lobbying, forming political capital. Unfortunately, many in the non-profit world fear lobbying will jeopardize their tax-exempt status. However, if done appropriately, CDCs, encounter few legal problems (Avner et al., 2013).


More than 10,000 nonprofit CED organizations have produced significant, quantifiable results in housing units, commercial square feet, jobs, and other concrete measures ( NCCED, 2005; Soifer et al., 2014; Vidal, 1992). Their results are consistent and impressive, relative to the number of resources invested (Grogan & Proscio, 2000). These organizations have shown resilience, adaptability, and innovation despite wild swings in public and private financing, CRD organizations. for example, were notable in their ability to pivot from production to foreclosure prevention and amelioration in the great financial meltdown of 2008-2009. They also provided a wide range of services during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020-2021. Their innovations in leveraged community development have created a new form of financing and innovative financial institutions. Evaluations consistently show significant outcomes and a clear impact when the latter is measured against strategic objectives and resource constraints (Burns et al., 2001; Sviridoff, 2004).

The accomplishments of CDCs can be illustrated by looking at one outstanding example the New Community Corporation (NCC). In 1968, Monsignor William Linder founded the NCC in the aftermath of some of the worst race riots during the 1960s in Newark, New Jersey More than 50 years later, the NCC is one of the largest and most successful CDCs nationwide. The NCC believes itself to be “the most comprehensive community development corporation in the world.” The organization has over $350 million in assets, much of it in Network real estate. The NCC is one of the city’s largest employers (almost 600 people), owns more than 1,700 apartments, and had revenues of over $65 million in 2019 (NCC, 2019a). The NCC also has a very successful jobs training program and operates a restaurant (Where some of the people it has trained now work). Furthermore, it has created an alternative school,


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built a shopping center (with a grocery store), and operates a nursing home and a credit union. Finally, the NCC is involved in social services for the residents living in Newark’s Central Ward. This CDC is involved in almost every aspect of the neighborhood residents; daily lives, giving the notion of “wraparound” services a new meaning (NCC, 2019b).


Some evaluations, unfortunately, have measured the effect of CED in terms of the high rhetoric and aspirational goals of the movements, against which it falls short, as has every other approach promising to eliminate poverty, discrimination, and neighborhood deterioration in America. Not only are macro forces in the economy, such as a financial crisis or recession, able to dramatically limit CEDs results, but the preponderance of government investment was weighted to the suburbs and subsidies for the middle and upper class, thereby undermining sustainable neighborhood revitalization (Cisneros,1993).

The CED universe can scale up with significant resources and capacity building if done carefully, as Schorr (1997) pointed out in her classic work on community building. Moreover, CED has demonstrated the power of collaboration across sectors and organizations, especially for comprehensive solutions to community development (McNeely, 2004). The field boasts a broad and deep leadership pool of seasoned professionals and organizations thriving in all settings-urban, rural, and suburban-in almost every state, with a comprehensive ecosystem of support at the local, regional, and national levels through intermediaries and funding sources (Anglin & Montezemolo, 2004).

The ability of CED to produce complex and even large-scale projects with sophisticated financing has given it credibility, especially with the private sector. CED organizations have shown a remarkable ability to partner with anchor institutions such as universities and hospitals ( Wiewel et al., 2008). Collectively, the field own as impressive asset portfolio with the potential to attract additional investment by packaging those assets for the national securities market (Walker & Weinheimer, 1998).

However impressive the results, the tools of CED are not enough to bring about the sustainable revitalization of neighborhoods undermined by decades of disinvestment and discrimination. Moreover, CDCs have their limitations as a vehicle for change (Stoecker, 2008). A higher level of success is not possible without changes in public and private policies. CED organizations have joined coalitions for that kind of change. Still, some have criticized CDCs for being too quick to compromise with the mainstream, devoting too few resources to policy advancement, and not being radical enough for the social reform necessary to address the root cause of poverty and racial injustice.

Despite some consistent public, philanthropic, and private support, resources remain a challenge. C2re funding for operating expenses is far more challenging and much less durable than project financing. Market-oriented strategies that succeed in a moderately challenged neighborhood have been less successful in very disinvested communities. By definition, redevelopment is a long-term process; unfortunately, elected officials and major players in private institutions want quick results.

However, the track record of CED organizations in communities of color has established new credibility for those communities (McNeely et al., 1999). The field has produced remarkable leaders of color


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in every kind of organization; in some instances, they have gone on to be groundbreaking leaders as government executives, bankers, foundation directors, and elected officials from the local level to the halls of Congress. The mechanisms and programs of CED have contributed directly to wealth-building for people of color in numbers not seen through other interventions. Yet the field has a long way to go, and leadership at the top, especially in intermediaries, does not adequately reflect the communities of color these organizations serve.

Like all urban policies, CED faces a significant challenge since decidedly anti-urban, budget-cutting federal and state administrations have dominated over the last 40 years. CED advocates and other city allies face a big fight to establish a national policy that shows that places and cities matter. Only after that can one hope to advance the principle that neighborhoods matter and that CED institutions in and of those neighborhoods are the significant community builders the country needs. Moreover, some of the most farsighted leaders in urban policy maintain that regional solutions are the only correct answers to the dilemma of concentrated poverty and deterioration in inner cities choked by suburban discrimination. While CED leaders realize the need for the “outside game” to match the “inside game” they devote few resources and leadership prerogatives to that agenda (Bell et al., 2018).

Resources challenges distort the field, with CED organizations forced into a narrow programmatic plan by the government’s availability to leverage private investment. In a time of limited resources, many voices favor taking care of the worst first, providing affordable housing, for example, to the most financially challenged.

Other challenges to the field abound. Mnay organizations are too small to be sustainable or to succeed at more extensive projects. Evaluation tools are inadequate for measuring the impact of neighborhood change driven by a vast number of local and macro-national forces (Rossie, 1999). As the organizations have become more professional, there is a tendency to let the technocrats overwhelm community empowerment.


The social work profession can play an essential role in CED practice. Since the field of community building is necessarily interdisciplinary, many of the skills social workers learn, both at the BSW & MSW levels, are applicable here. Moreover, the NASW Code of Ethnic (2017) indicates that social workers should be concerned about macro-level practice and social justice (Ledwith, 2011). The Council on Social Work Education’s (2018) Specialized Practice Curricular Guide for Macro Social Work Practice reinforces this point.

Rotham (1970, 1995) laid out a tripartite model of understanding community practice: locality development (model A), Social planning (model B), and Social action (model C), what we call CED largely falls under model A. Weil et al. (2013) presented a community practice model that included eight types, with “social, economic, and sustainable development” as one of them. For a long time, social work has recognized and refined its conception of community development (and to a more considerable degree, community practice). The other term social workers use is community building, as evidenced by Soska and Feikema (2013).


community economic development

Samples and Austin (2013) discussed how human service organizations have contributed to community building over the years.

Approaches to community engagement, self-education through action, and empowerment have deep roots in social work practice, whether through structured citizen participation (Gitell, 1980), community organizing (Alinsky, 1971), or consensus organizing (Eichler, 2007). The Pedagogy of the Oppressed articulated by Paulo Freire (1970) describes individual and community empowerment that grows through engagement with the issues that require analysis, self-understanding, action, and reflections to increase the empowerment of the poor. If disempowerment is at the heart of the blight and lack of access to opportunity, community empowerment through planning and controlling or owning the neighborhood’s economic and fiscal development process builds resilience and power. An asset orientation is inherent in a CED approach that focuses on attracting investment. As articulated by Kretzmann and KCkinght (1993), the best method is to find the resources in the community and build from strength rather than deficits, which are often the threshold to government support or social services.

Social workers have the opportunity and potential to play key leadership roles in community social and economic development, which are vital areas of community practice (Weil, 2004). However, to do this most effectively, social work programs should add content related to community building, ideally including content for all students at the BSW and MSW levels in the classroom and field and courses for macro specialization and advanced generalist MSW students. Possible textbooks include Blakely and Brandshaw (2002), DeFillips and Saegert (2012), Green and Haines (2015), Murphy and Cunningham (2003), Phillips and Putnam (2015), Robinson and Green (2011), Rubin and Rubin (2007), Schaffer et al,. (2018) discussed a macro simulation exercise to build skills for practicing community building and Soifer et al. (2014) present a simulation case study called “Anymidwest City”.

Social workers need both a background in the history of CED and specialized practice skills (ideally through their field placement) that will prepare them for this multidisciplinary and complex work. Students need to learn about the mechanism of local economies and understand the role of the CDC “as the engine for the economics recovery and social-political revitalization of the neighborhood, communities and cities” (Soifer, 2001, p. 561), and delve into the various models that can drive these changes. Social workers need to comprehend the financial mechanism of putting together housing deals. They must understand the difference between the participatory social processes of neighborhood involvement and the technical methods of making deals and developing projects. They should have the know-how to create, develop, and implement many of the strategies and tactics discussed here. Finally, social workers should be sensitive to all of the ISMs that come into play in community building, especially in low-to-moderate-income communities of color.

Social workers could bring valuable knowledge about working with low-income and low-wealth communities and residents to the CED field (Weil et al., 2013). As community builders social workers can build cultural competence and community participation. They aim for inclusion and equity for vulnerable groups and have the essential skills in organizing, leadership development, direct practice, social service management, policy advocacy, and research (Rubin & Rubin, 2007). The interdisciplinary focus of CED


community economic development

also requires that social workers develop skills in areas that are not traditionally part of the social work curriculum, including resource development, financial education and management, real estate development, consumer law, tax policy, advanced technology, and urban planning (Birkenmaier et al., 2013).

In present-day CDCs, micro or clinically-trained social workers could contribute their skills as they engage clients in housing counseling, tax filling preparation to allow people to get their earned income tax credit, establishing, and saving in individual development, accounts, and providing case management and family support services in rental housing, among other intervention. Social workers can also play a role in research and evaluation, including using multiple methods, geocoded data, geographic information system (GIS) mapping, and participatory research (Coultom et al., 2011; Minkler et al., 2012). And, on the cutting edge, social workers can learn about and engage in ecosocial work practice(Powers et al., 2019).

Hopefully, the field of social work will acknowledge and support the incredible opportunity the practice of CED presents to the profession. CED potentially provides for the blending of macro, mezzo, and macro practice skills and CED in the field; indeed, programs way want to develop it as a specialization in its own right.


Borrup, T. (2006). The creative community builder’s handbook: How to transform communities using local assets, art, and culture. Fieldstone Alliance.

Ewalt, P.L., Freeman, E. M., & Poole, D.L. (Eds.). (1998). Community building:

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