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Abstract

Rural communities, in the United States and internationally, invest in their community resources in a number of diverse ways to achieve community economic development (CED). These investments yield diverse impacts and outputs. In 2003, the North Central Regional Center for Rural Development (NCRCRD) was contacted by the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation to conduct a review of community and economic development (CED) efforts in rural communities with populations of less than 10,000 people. Together these organizations reviewed rural communities both domestically and abroad to see how external financial investments impact CED. The overriding purpose was to learn how the Foundation could make better use of limited funds to elicit positive outcomes for rural communities in West Virginia. Since rural communities in general have different kinds of assets, the Benedum Foundation and NCRCRD agreed the study should focus on ways these rural communities can use external financial investments to build upon social, cultural, human, political, economic, and environmental assets or capital to improve their overall well-being. Ultimately, the Benedum Foundation wanted to know how financial investments in rural communities could be maximized to bring about the greatest positive CED outcomes. Thus, all 57 communities reviewed in this study used external funding to engage in successful CED. The communities were located in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States; former British colonies were chosen so that the communities could be compared more easily. The methodology for our research involved the Community Capitals Framework and the measurement of community capitals (natural, human, social, cultural, political, financial, and built) throughout the CED process in each community. It is our belief that when strong consideration is given to how to invest well in a community’s capitals (assets) and when CED efforts are participatory and inclusive, CED proves to have greater, more far-reaching impacts on a community.

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