A spatial networks tool for community economic development
All too often economic development happens with groups of people who know one another. When this happens, certain people are left out of the decision making process. The challenge then is to involve people who are not always at the table, but have a lot of knowledge about their communities. Our approach is designed with this specific goal in mind. This website presents an approach for successful community economic development to assist with the identification and engagement of people whose voices have not been incorporated into economic development. Successful community economic development necessitates harnessing all possible skill sets and resources of a place. Our approach is based on the assumption that all communities have untapped human resources and skills central to the economic success of a place. It effectively identifies and harnesses local skills, strengths, and abilities related to community and economic development in rural communities. Using baseball as a metaphor, our website presents tools for successful community economic development and guides visitors to adapt this approach to work in their communities. These tools include a description of a process for community engagement and strength mapping; an entrepreneurship survey; and an online business mapping tool. The website also contains the final project report which details the methods and findings of our research project.
This project employed a mixed method sociospatial approach to better understand rural entrepreneurship and to examine experiences and social network structures associated with ethnic entrepreneurs in Mendocino County, California. A sociospatial approach involves active consideration of space, place and social indicators in a holistic fashion. This project relied upon the combined efforts of the California Center for Rural Policy, the Institute for Spatial Analysis, and a partnership with a local Mendocino County Latino-focused non-profit.
Entrepreneurship can be an especially useful upward mobility tool for ethnic populations, however, they are often disconnected from the efforts of economic development agencies and service providers. Much research has shown that ethnic populations tend to not trust non-ethnic service providers, indicating the necessity of culturally sensitive economic development practices. A supportive community, available assistance, training, and capital, as well as access to networks are important issues to consider in the development and implementation of culturally sensitive economic development practices.
Through the use of public participation geographic information systems, survey research, and statistical and spatial analysis, we develop a better understanding of issues important to ethnic business owners, how they work to achieve success in rural environments, and what strengths they bring to the larger community. The result is a model for effective engagement in community and economic development for non-majority and ethnic groups who may not be at the table.