Mediating Structures and Their Role in the Pre-Professionalization of Community Economic Development

Prepared by

Gareth Green

Submitted to Dr. Gertrude MacIntyre in partial fulfillment of the requirements of MBAD500

Shannon School of Business Cape Breton University Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada

Friday December 17, 2010

Students are allowed to translate their theoretical foundation into practical applications. Whether it is in public. With the popularization. According to Alex Usher (2009). when economic uncertainty is commonplace. as a result of the most recent economic slump. so to comes the demand for those with the education and background to perform these functions in industry. CED Deconstructed CED is concerned with the individuals and community but more importantly. these tough times “generally bring with them an increase in post-secondary enrolments as a result of the desire to invest in oneself for the future”. The field of CED is often more popular in the midst of hard times. recognizes that these are interconnected and for success to occur. such as unemployment. The involvement of educational institutions provides the platforms for the pre-professionalization of CED practitioners. the Director of Educational Policy Institute Canada. and by using an example of how this pre-professionalization can occur through the use of mediating structures will be illustrated. there is a need to translate higher education into industry. environmental 2 . For students transitioning to practitioners. CED initiatives can benefit from this situation by leveraging these conditions to build and foster relationships between community needs. poverty. however. a further elaboration of CED is necessary. and institutional capabilities.An Introduction to the Pre-Professionalization of CED Community economic development (CED) is an ever evolving field of study which. is gaining much mainstream attention. This unpredictability is the valuable fuel source for the modern engine of CED growth. or theory into practice. participation of these actors must be the active variety. Before discussing this community-institution relationship and the pre-professionalization of CED. The mediating structures needed to accomplish this will be discussed at length. private or third-sector organizations these professional roles are increasing in demand. The more conventional approaches to CED must confront the various problems which are faced most often by communities.

This is a fundamental requirement for healthy development. and the pre-professionalization of CED. It is incorrectly assumed. As each element of a CED initiative or relationship continues. sustainability and enhancement of the community to which they belong. but should be considered a process by which community members are empowered and responsible for the growth. This very definition. perpetual optimization. each element of CED will be examined in order to understand how this pre-professionalization is occurring.decline and generally. and an on-going feedback-loop. By previously deconstructing each element of CED we begin to see that this approach not only recognizes. It should be noted. but embraces the fact that economic. Economic benefits can be accrued by communities operating in all types of organizations. the loss of community control in respect to many types of decision making. The mission-critical element in this area is continuous improvement. forces students and practitioners to leave behind their preconceived notion of community. that philanthropy can play an important role in CED. by nature. With the above description of each element in the CED equation. however. but should not be considered the sole economic resource to ensure sustainability. A community is a collective that has formed. as opposed to an event. there are always areas for improvement. that not-for-profit groups are removed from the need to have economic success to be sustainable. whether it is the for-profit. though. Economics in the CED equation inherits its importance from the need for resources and generation of revenues in order to remain a viable entity. Development is not to be seen as some form of aid to a community in despair. but bound by no specific location or specific geography. which has historically been. specific to the neighbourhood in which one lives. public or private sectors. and as such the development component must be seen as a process. not-for profit. In order to put the theory into context. Economics are the mechanics by which the previously mentioned community can sustain itself and prosper going forward. united and empowered by a shared meaning. it is now possible to broaden out the discussion as it relates to industry. environmental and social challenges cannot 3 .

funds and community partners. faculty. not yet as professionals. This emergence of a mutually beneficial relationship is permeating beyond industry and into educational institutions. they run the risk of becoming obsolete and may fall victim of poor long term planning. and the collective power to see it succeed. As a result of this success. all efforts and solutions must be designed for sustainability and have the ability to adapt. In order to have a lasting impact that can accomplish such dynamic objectives. As a result. These universities are becoming mediating structures who are successfully attracting students. but as credible practitioners in CED. platforms are developing and simultaneously providing ‘safe places’ for students to translate theory into practice. and organizations to provide key infrastructure and/or support. This leads to universities as a central player in the pre-professionalization of CED. projects.cfm?cms_news_id=310 4 . Otherwise. The sustainability aspect of CED is drawn from mobilizing an engaged community who shares a purpose. Industry today is becoming frequently reliant upon a variety of CED initiatives. which is an important message for young solved by any single solution. Walmart Canada’s Director of Corporate Social Responsibility declared this partnership of enterprise and students as a success by saying “there is absolutely no question that our business has improved as it has become more sustainable. The CED approach must be viewed as a moving target.acecanada.”1 A 1 http://www. John Lawrence. This pre-professionalization as it were. a relationship in industry such as this began when Walmart invited students who were part of a group. We have shown that you can be business-friendly and environmentally friendly all at to review the energy efficiencies in its stores. allows for students to transition into the field. For example. which will be discussed later. all with the interest of furthering the field of CED. Walmart has developed a program that enables students to deliver projects designed to create economic opportunity by helping others make environmentally sustainable personal and business decisions. It is these safe places that will enable the next evolutionary development in the field of CED.

5 . there is ‘community education’ which structures are often needed in order for the members of the community to truly understand what the potential benefits of a program might be. This. what is best for the community will not be imposed upon it by outsiders unless the goals are nurtured by its’ citizens. Community Economic Development CDRom. Presented by CED Institute. Cape Breton University. albeit slowly. Third. there are ‘community development’ structures. this obstacle will be overcome with less resistance. In this stream. Mediating Structures There are “four streams” for mediating structures to travel. and generally over a longer period of time. Community members must understand that the education or re-learning is for the betterment of the community. there are ‘community organizing’ structures whose centralized dictum is that local control is the path to accomplishing what is best for the community.2 These are comprehensive approaches to community development. ‘community economic development’. Walmart was able to leverage this group of students and their creative insight. which first seek to resolve more basic needs before tackling the more complex needs of a community. which has become a global platform in the preprofessionalization of CED. which center on empowering the poor and aim to enlighten their path to self-awareness. can they set about changing their of like-minded environmentally conscious students were able to use their theoretical know-how. the most comprehensive and ideal approach is best suited only once the most basic of 2 Adapted from “Community Enterprises as Mediating Structures”. Last. Only once they are aware of their plight and the factors which have enabled their descent. and as a culmination of the above types is a hybrid of structures. Galbraith (1990) points out that as long as the goals of a CED initiative are being established by the community. in general. Second. This group of students leveraged their universities implied communal resources through a program. which in turn provides an opportunity for students to participate in a project of great importance. and translate it into defined results. The Third Option. First.

The following organizations are but a mere example of mediating structures:  Community development corporations  Non-profit and notfor-profit initiatives  Worker co-ops  Credit unions  Universities  Community centres  Land trusts  Neighbourhood associations  Communitysupported agriculture Usnick. have identified the more common forms of mediating structures which support the pre-professionalization of CED. to make available. Each has been formed with specific objectives in mind and to accomplish a specific outcome. The simple fact here is that mediating structures shift the community problem solving focus from that of a reactive nature. once the community has conquered its’ basic challenges so too can they confront and defeat its more complex issues at hand (Berger and Neuhas. there are basic. Diversification of approaches will be dictated by the situation a particular community is facing. to a proactive environment. at the university level which include: student technical assistance. necessary needs that must be met before higher order functions can be addressed. there are numerous types of mediating structures that have developed in order to enhance this process. and university department research service assistance. As Maslow’s hierarchy of needs illustrates. the resources for individuals and communities to enhance their quality of life and increase their societal value. it must be understood what such a program can do for the community. Shove. This phenomenon creates a potential need to diversify among the previously mentioned types of projects. CED is no different.needs have been met. As it relates to the pre-professionalization of CED and the relationships that educational institutions maintain with a given community. In order to successfully develop and deliver a program. These structures serve as the beginning step in the 6 . Some formed intentionally. others organically. class-based technical assistance. and Gissy (1997). 1977). At the root of these mediating structures is a simple premise.

This is a win-win situation for both the student and CED initiative. but each does have its advantages. By having a succession plan for an ongoing initiative. The advantage to this approach is that its timeline can range anywhere from few months to a few years. and at the same time it is usually a cost-effective way for a community to tap into leading edge knowledge. as the student is able to fulfil program requirements to satisfy their educational requirements. Student technical assistance relies on graduate level students with expertise in a particular field.process of the pre-professionalization of CED. and with the additional input of a diverse group of people. and credible projects with measurable outcomes are an essential guidepost for the student on the journey to becoming a successful professional practitioner of CED. As each semester is completed. In many cases. If at all possible these efficiencies will be maximized by this structure and will help to minimize delays in progress. It would also be reasonable to assume that over time. Similar to the use of a business plan. but this can be overcome if the project maintains a routinely updated succession plan. in fact it can be of significant value to CED projects which do not require a lengthy incubation period. by maintaining interest and the sense of urgency for all involved. There is no one ideal structure. Students will eventually become practitioners. This helps to reinforce the fact 7 . the direction of an initiative may change. There is inherently less sustainability within a class-based structure. This is not to say that this type of mediating structure is any less valuable. These graduate level projects will ideally satisfy a thesis requirement while contributing to the solution of a variety of CED problems which require a vast amount of dedication and research. or spur a new project all together. a shortened initiative period can improve the results. a succession plan can minimize the time the next class must spend to simply become familiar with the progress and direction of an initiative. there is a continuous feedback loop which will enable the optimization process to occur regularly. so too must each project come to an end. and the CED project allows the student to apply their theoretical knowledge. Class based technical assistance can be another valuable approach to integrate theory with practice.

Again. implies that the partnership is wholly supported from the leadership of the institution. these successful relationships tend to benefit the school financially. a graduate student will commit to a paid internship and enter into an agreement that they perform specific tasks which lead to a known goal of the community. is an imperative to look at organizations and CED programs on the leading edge of the movement. This is most true because unique and creative people bring unique and creative perspectives to each potential solution available. To remain at the forefront. In these cases. Under the supervision of a faculty member. As an added benefit. from government and industry as well. University department research service agreements take the community-institution partnership to another level. successful programs may also attract faculty and students. Over time there is the potential for participating institutions to become known and sought after to provide quality research services. In these cases. the students fulfil program requirements and communities see an objective accomplished. Also. Due to the constant need for increased resources in the educational system. Through an agreement with an educational institution. There is clearly a wide variety of potential partnerships whereby students’ skills and abilities can be leveraged to create win-win relationships. but by operating under the guise of a university or college. a graduate level student will be retained to see it accomplished. the community generally has a defined need but lacks resources. At the heart of this pre-professionalization of CED. A successful initiative may lead to future partnerships or grow into something larger. 8 . the feedback loop that must exist within each CED initiative.that one of the most valuable inputs in any initiative is the people. not only do the students and communities have reason to succeed. that same process of optimization should be implemented by the ‘safe places’ within which students are applying their theoretical knowledge. these programs have the ability to attract such funds.

Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) will be examined. To provide a focused and thorough look at a successful organization with CED as its mission. the key characteristic of the pre-professionalization of CED. Not only does SIFE operate with CED in mind. There are teams in Africa sharing irrigation knowledge to underprivileged communities in order to empower locals in the development of sustainable community agricultural initiatives. and so on. However. In collaboration with a given community. an advisory 9 . teams adapt their approach to the diverse needs of people in different communities. While focussing on a defined community need. they are also growing a credible platform for the pre-professionalization of CED. and execute a variety of projects in order to improve the lives of those in the community in which they serve. They have established governance structures which generally include faculty advisors. teach the unemployed skills to find quality employment. the students at a particular university or college will invariably enter into collaborative partnerships with many of the structures mentioned earlier. SIFE projects span a variety of topics including market economics. develop. promotion of literacy. but culturally rich regions. projects focus on serving the underrepresented in society. There are numerous university based programs that move forward community economic development. Among the objectives of teams. but it is also an incubator for future professionals in the business world. the students conceive. such as textiles in remote. financial literacy. There have been projects in Canada which resurrected once forgotten industries.SIFE as a Mediating Structure for CED While it is valuable to be aware of the range of mediating structures. will occur with the university as a central anchor. such as homeless teen. and bring economic development to struggling neighbourhoods. and allowing it to build momentum. entrepreneurship. SIFE teams are led by student groups and operate as non-profit organizations. or financial awareness. With an emergence of the third sector as a popular destination for graduates. personal success skills. In more developed regions. are aiding aspiring entrepreneurs to achieve success. environmental sustainability and business ethics.

If per se. These results would be measured using participant surveys and seek to root out the understanding and behaviours before and after the conference.board comprised of local entrepreneurs. advisors and 3 http://sife.asp#bio 10 . To take a simple example such as this seems benign. solves a need in the community. that is another outcome.gc. Teams compete for the right to have their efforts labelled as. to present the program and its results to the National Task Force on Financial Literacy. By contributing their talents to projects that improve the lives of people worldwide. SIFE participants are demonstrating that individuals with a knowledge and passion for business can be a powerful force for change. more sustainable world through the positive power of business. and has measurable outcomes. that conference is attended by 100 people. If 50 of those 75 successfully create. This platform enables the students to apply their knowledge. professionals and academia. adhere to and improve their budget. Jim Flaherty. this is deemed an output. consider a conference on financial literacy and student budgeting will be used. and are part of a global network of teams from all corners of the world. The critical factor which determines a successful project is one which meets its defined objectives.”3 The competitive nature of enterprise is celebrated and showcased. academic professionals and industry leaders around the shared mission of creating a better. however this project was so successful. best in breed in a series of competitions. National and International competitions. through regional. all with the goal of developing projects to improve the lives and empower the members in the communities in which they serve. For example. According to promotional literature. that it led to an invitation by the office of Finance Minister. leverage the skills and peer-networks of their universities.aspx 4 http://www. “SIFE brings together a diverse network of university students.

they are franchiseable. If the leader has no following. however. there is an added value to this platform. it must be experienced. SIFE projects are scalable. Establishing a new program by learning from the successes of another is a simple way to accelerate the progress of such initiatives. it increases the need for strong institutional memory in order to maintain the vision of the team. but additional learning will occur in the field. The potential for project-fitting -where a project is developed and pushed to the community. While this leads to increased opportunities to expose more students and delegate increased responsibilities. these initiatives.While this is single example of the success a project can accomplish. such as overcoming community-specific challenges or objections. Where community economic development is concerned with the pre-professionalization of CED. In the shift towards the pre-professionalization of CED. the community must guide the projects which are to be implemented. what should be mentioned is that for the most part. As is stressed in CED theory. some limiting factors on the effectiveness of SIFE as a platform for the pre-professionalization of CED. SIFE target communities simply require a shared meaning and the most successful teams will determine their programmes once an invitation is made by the community to do so. organizations. This institutional memory cannot be learned or taught. it is apparent that SIFE members are given a safe place to apply what they have previously learned. There is a 3 or 4 year cycle from the time an undergrad starts and completes a program and because of this. meaning that with some minor modifications other SIFE teams have the capability to implement them within their own respective ever present. There are. Not only is the application of theory facilitated. meaning they can be broadened out to a wider audience in the same community. there is 11 . is vitally important for all SIFE initiatives. or communities can only be as good as their management. Similar to any professional endeavour. there is constantly a churn of team members. The succession planning mentioned earlier. The resulting outcome is a program that has a global perspective with the flexibility and responsiveness of a community-based organization. Also.

Without this buy-in from the community and SIFE team members. numerous participants can become potential future employers for today’s learners. Once this is established. The fundamental requirement of all mediating structures is a focus on the people. it should be clearer now that its role will become more prominent in the future. but the viability of CED as a career path. The field of CED will be advanced through the eventual professionalization of the field. While this pre-professionalization of CED may be something of a new phenomenon. not only to the beneficial relationships between students and organizations. Focusing on one particular organization highlights a platform for the pre-professionalization of CED. to professionals in CED. The Value of Mediating Structures in the Pre-Professionalization of CED It is apparent that there is a great amount to be discovered about the various mediating structure which enable the pre-professionalization of CED. or organization must be perpetually leader at all. 12 . all aspects of an initiative. but through continuous improvement and optimization. The critical platform for this to occur will be the availability of quality mediating structures for students to transition into professionals. With such a wide variety of organizations being involved in CED. This is due. Each mediating structure will have its advantages and deficiencies. This will enable the progression from students. community’s needs may be addressed and the necessarily varied points of view will provide creative solutions. to pre-professionals. the relationships will deteriorate until they are no longer productive. partnership. but there are numerous similar organizations waiting to be discovered.

Francine. Gissy. & Neuhaus.J. 13 . New directions for adult and continuing education. Usher. M. Alex. January 29. The nature of community and adult education. Maximizing community development through collaboration. Usnick. Chris.BIBLIOGRAPHY Berger. 2009. Will the recession have an impact on higher education? Globe and Mail. To empower people: the role of mediating structures in public policy. Russell. New directions for higher education. (1997). R. American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research Galbraith. (1977). (2009).L. #97. (1990). Shove. #47. P.