Wednesday, January 23, 2013


1.0 Introduction
This paper focuses on some critical reviews of strategies to developing the downtowns or inner areas of cities; especially US inner cities. As part of the Urban Planning and Local Economic Development Series, this paper explores the dynamics and intricacies of the strategies for promoting community development in the inner city. Five main articles have been reviewed and implications drawn for urban planning and local economic development. To place the discussion in context, community development has been discussed briefly. Huie (1976) asserts that it is a "process of local decision-making and the development of programs designed to make their community a better place to live and work" while Dunbar (1972) defines community development as "a series of community improvements which take place over time as a result of the common efforts of various groups of people. Each successive improvement is a discrete unit of community development. It meets a human want or need." What is clear about these definitions is that firstly, community development is a process and secondly it involves the collaborative efforts of individuals and groups of a community with the aim of promoting human development. These are the key themes that these five articles espouse and with support from other literature materials the paper examines the various actors, their roles and interest, and the challenges thereof in promoting community development with key emphasis on the inner city of US cities.

2.0 Summary of Articles

2.1 Herbert J. Rubin, Renewing Hope within Neighborhoods of Despair 

In Chapter two; negotiating an Environment for Community Renewal; of his book, Renewing Hope within Neighborhoods of Despair, Rubin (2000) examines the activities of Community-Based Development Organizations (CBDOs) by presenting their activities, challenges and the environment within which they operate and manage development programs. These organizations "attempt to solve complicated problems of physical and economic decline within geographical areas" in the phase of limited funding, complex bureaucratic and regulatory systems, complex interests of stakeholders and the changing opportunities for development interventions with respect to time. By exploring the operational and management activities of these CBDOs, Rubin (2000) espouses a theory of new institutionalism based on organic theory and identifies this as the mechanism that enable CBDOs to manage the complexities of their operations. According to Rubin (2000), "the organic theory offers lessons on how to balance cross pressures that development organizations confront, but builds lessons on realistic experience." CBDOs do this by creating a set of strategies within complicated, inter-organizational environment where resources are constraint by balancing pressures from funders, learning to skillfully leverage resources and ideas and communicating these through networks of similar objectives. Based on this author’s arguments, CBDOs offer a great potential for developing the inner city. Nonetheless, without the requisite capacity especially reliable source of funding, their development ‘complementability’ is constrained and unsustainable.

2.2 Randy Stoecker, the CDC model of urban redevelopment

Stoecker (1997) provides further exposition on the activities of the Community Based Development Organization; Community Development Corporation Model for Urban Redevelopment. The author assesses how viable these CDCs have been and concludes that within the framework of Community and Capitalism lie a constraint in the current model which seeks to facilitate development in the inner city. According to Stoecker (1997) CDCs have failed in this direction because of "limit of comprehensiveness" (poor institutional capacity), "the myth of community control" (community interest and representation, funders and profitability, and affordability and asset control and ownership) and "the development of disorganization" (loss of community power, cohesion and networks). Consequently, Stoecker (1997) recommends CDCs to build a "new model that rest on community organizing, community-controlled planning, and high-capacity multi-local CDCs held accountable through a strong community organizing process." However, the challenge with such an approach is the issue of legal mandates to perform and control planning efforts. Since they do not possess this mandate performing such functions may depend on the prerogatives of local governments to sublet such functions. Nonetheless their full potential are still yet to be adequately integrated into the city planning efforts. They can be conceived to be another level of decision making and implementation and thus integrated fully into the mainstream functions of city planning authorities. In such a case, the legal mandates become critically imperative. This will allow them to have a legal and mandatory concession to tax resources and their plans will be mainstreamed fully into the city planning process.

2.3 Michael E. Porter: Location, competition, and economic development – local clusters in a global economy.

Porter (2000) on the other hand stresses the role of the private for profit sector in promoting development in the inner city. Underpinning this argument is the concept of clusters that builds on the potential of locational attributes of the geographic concentration of interconnected companies "linked by commonalities and complementarities" (Porter 2000). He argues innovation and not low cost of productions drives competiveness in the current globalizing economies. Thus the issues of "productivity and prosperity of a location rest not on the industries in which its firms compete but rather on how they compete" (Porter 2000). In this context, the potential of clusters is the panacea to promoting economic development as clusters leads to competition, innovation, productivity and new business formation. In addition, "clusters represent a new and complementary ways of understanding an economy, organizing economic development thinking and practice, and setting public policy (Porter 2000). He subsequently identifies the key conditions and actors to ensure this in his Locational Competitive Advantage Model. Despite the evidences that support the potentials of this approach, several challenges do emerge that bears relevance for urban planners in promoting economic development in the inner city. One significant issues is the disregard for the social development of inner cities as a critical factor for economic growth.

2.4 David S. Sawicki and Mitch Moody: Deja-vu all over again – Porter’s Model of Inner-City Development

This article is a critique of Porter’s Model of Inner-City Development presented in the "The Competitive Advantage of the Inner City," published in The Harvard Business Review (May-June1995). Sawicki and Moody (1996) contend the recommendations made by the former. Six expositions were made in relation to Porter (1995) assertion namely, "economic initiatives should be preferred over social initiatives; market forces should replace government subsidies; non-profits should not specialize in business development; export-based development is superior to local-serving economic development; the inner city has four areas of competitive advantage; and agglomeration economies and clusters can spawn more development". Sawicki and Moody (1996) argue on the contrary that while past intervention on economic development have not been effective, these recommendations by Porter are semblance of past strategies and does not offer new approaches to inner city development. At the same time, the application of a place placed theory rather a people based theory by Porter fails to understand the causal issues of inner city problems and how they can be ameliorated. They therefore provide substantial evidences to substantiate the linkages between social development and economic development, the limitations of promoting economic development in the inner city when most business are moving out, the poor human resource at the inner city and their effects on promoting local economic development which Porter ignored. These arguments suggests that urban planning must aim to promote local economic development operating in tandem with other sectoral interventions including socio-cultural, environmental and most especially the institutional and legal contexts of the inner city.

2.5 Louis Winnick, New People in Old Neighborhoods

This discussion paid attention to the role immigrants play in shaping the inner city. According Wnnick (1990), immigrants are key to the revitalization process of inner cities and using New York City as an example, the author identifies how they facilitated employment creation through commerce and retail business, housing rehabilitation and the promotion of entertainment in the inner city. Even though these immigrants are low income citizens, living in high occupancy housing and poverty stricken neighborhoods, Wnnick (1990) notes that "throughout the metropolitan area, especially in the déclassé sections, the revitalizers have tended to be new immigrants. Thus promoting local economic development entails the management of the economic potentials of immigrants.

3. Implications to Urban Poverty and Local Economic Development

3.1 Implication to Urban Poverty 

One implication that can be drawn from the discussions is the nature or characteristics of urban poverty and those who are normally affected. For most cities poverty is endemic in the city center, downtown, and manifest in terms of poor housing, unemployment, low income levels, and high among minority groups and immigrants (Wnnick 1990 and Rubin 2000). These individuals also do not have the adequate skills and education to gain entry level occupation and thus finds interventions by community based organization and government social programs as key to their survival (Wnnick 1990, Sawicki and Moody 1996 and Rubin 2000). Thus in understanding and analysis urban poverty, the questions: who are the poor, where do they live, why are they poor and what interventions are being done about the poor are critical (Baker and Schuler 2004). These readings provide historical overview and answers to these questions. Secondly, the strategies for ameliorating poverty levels are evident in these articles. One critical implication is that urban poverty reduction is a complex challenge that adopts a multifaceted orientation rather than singular approaches (Thomas 1996, Baker and Schuler 2004). Programs cutting across housing, employment, education, health as undertaken by CBDOs, CDCs, and governments provides credence to this observation. Apparent in these articles is the challenge of raising funds for such programs as these are relative economically ‘non-regenerative’ in nature. That is they are mostly non-profit interventions. Despite these, poor people are not able to pay for them limiting their capacity and presenting issues of program sustainability.

In the face of all these interventions, it is observed that there are multiple actors or stakeholders with varied interests in the urban poverty and community development efforts. Citizens whether poor or not are affected by these activities and are concerned about how key decisions of housing for low income dwellers in their neighborhoods and their ramifications (Rubin, 2006). Funders are interested in seeing results in their investments and are often inclined towards productivity rather than the communal nature of such programs. Federal and state governments though interested in promoting community development are also interested in making sure that CBDCs and city authorities are accountable for whatever funding they receive thus imposes lots of restriction and requirement on accessing funding. Four main actors are identified namely: the private for profit of organizations, the non-profit organizations, public agencies (federal, state and municipal governments), and the citizens of communities are identified as the key actors in the process. The understanding of these interests and their influence determine the availability of funding, the timing of funding, and the ease with which implementation is undertaken. It thus behooves on the community development planner to understand these complexities of interest groups and integrate them in the process of urban poverty reduction and community development.

3.2 Implication to Local Economic Development (LED)

One critical observation from these articles particularly Porter (2000) and Sawicki and Moody (1996) is the focus of local economic development for the inner city. Local economic development must focus on promoting competiveness, innovation, competition, create new jobs and contribute to efforts at improving the standard of living of city dwellers (Sawicki and Moody 1996, Porter 2000 and Bartik 2003). These emphasis whether being facilitated by people based theories (Sawicki and Moody 1996) or place based theories (Porter 2000) must ensure reduction in poverty levels and growth in the inner city (Bartik 2003 and World Bank 2009).

The adoption of any of these approaches should reflect the dynamic nature of the inner city and the synergy between the private and the public sector as these two complement each other. Excessive reliance on the public sector reduces innovations whereas unregulated private sector leads to segregation and increase impoverishment for the underprivileged as evidence from urban redevelopment efforts have shown. Therefore promoting local economic development should also be complemented by social development strategies of access to education and vocational training, health, housing, and adequate security.

Similarly, promoting local economic development "require sustained efforts to develop a common platform between the private and public sectors to systematically formulate problems, undertake diagnostics and analyses and design reforms on both micro and macro front" (World Bank 2009). Thus research and practice must be linked together to ensure that best practices are documented and past efforts appreciated in new approaches to local economic development.

Baker, Judy and Nina Schuler (2004). Analyzing Urban Poverty; A Summary of Methods and Approaches, World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 3399, September 2004 

Bartik, Timothy J. (2003). Local Economic Development Policies, Upjohn Institute Staff Working Paper No. 03-91, January 2003, [Accessed on September 22, 2012]

Dunbar, J. (1972). Community Development in North America. Journal of the Community Development Society. Vol. 7, No. 1: 10-40.

Huie, J. (1976). What Do We Do About It? – A Challenge to the Community Development Profession. Journal of the Community Development Society. Vol. 6, No. 2: 14-21.

Porter, Michael E. (2000). Location, competition, and economic development: local clusters in a global economy. Economic Development Quarterly, 14 (1), February 2000, pp. 15-34.

Rubin, Herbert J. , Renewing Hope within Neighborhoods of Despair, Albany: SUNY Press, 2000, pp. 21-42

Sawicki, David S. and Mitch Moody (1997). Deja-vu all over again: Porter’s model of inner-city development,in Thomas D. Boston and Catherine L. Ross, eds. The Inner City. New Brunswick: Transaction, 1997, pp. 75-94.

Stoecker, Randy (1997). The CDC model of urban redevelopment, Journal of Urban Affairs, 19(1) (1997), 1-22.

Thomas, June Manning (1996). Rebuilding inner cities: Basic principles Review of Black Political Economy; Fall 1995/Winter 1996; 24, 2/3; ProQuest pg. 67

Winnick, Louis (1990). New People in Old Neighborhoods. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, pp. 61-69.

World Bank (2009). Clusters For Competitiveness: A Practical Guide &Policy Implications for Developing Cluster Initiatives, International Trade Department, 2009

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