New Tool for Challenged Neighbourhoods

Edmonton has a new tool for the task of ending poverty in a generation. The methodology has been around for decades and City Council took the enabling action over the past year. In response to the End Poverty Edmonton task force, Edmonton Community Foundation (ECF), United Way and Homeward Trust were asked to form the Edmonton Community Development Company.

This new organization (usually called a CDC for “Community Development Corporation”) was created to bring together several activities under one roof. The individual activities are not unique or unprecedented in themselves, but bringing them together and putting them at the disposal of Edmonton’s challenged neighbourhoods is. For the first time commercial development, social
enterprise, employment training, job creation and the financing to make them happen will work together.

Access to financing is the particular piece that ECF brings to the table — our 10-year experience with the Social Enterprise Fund (SEF). Over the past decade the SEF has made more than 50 successful loans, totalling tens of millions of dollars, to charities, non-profits and social purpose businesses. We are bringing that expertise and at least 10 million dollars of financing to the work of the new CDC. This matches the City’s contribution of a similar value of surplus land in core neighbourhoods.

Over the next few months, the CDC will begin working in what we usually call Edmonton’s “inner city,” neighbourhoods like McCauley and Alberta Avenue, bringing them rare capacity to direct their own economic development. The CDC will be their development organization, able to address the needs and opportunities they identify. Outcomes could include: more locally-owned businesses delivering products and services neighbours need, employment for residents, new spaces for community activities, housing on top of redeveloped strip malls and accessible home
ownership for families.

As we know, there are no magical solutions for ending poverty. But the work of the CDC — community economic development, access to living-wage jobs and social purpose real estate — can contribute to the growth and development of Edmonton’s inner city and therefore to improved prospects for people living there. It’s only one of many strategies that End Poverty Edmonton will
be implementing over the next decade. But decades of experience in several Canadian cities (and thousands of communities south of the border) demonstrate that a CDC can be an important part of the solution.

The dream was conceived in Edmonton more than 40 years ago and has been renewed several times since. Edmonton Community Development Company has finally been born and you can expect to hear more from this little one very soon indeed. ECF is proud to be one of its parents!