LRDG home home






"Inside-Out" Community Development

Return to Ideas

Barrie Day

Yellowknife Presentation, 1999

There is good chance that a baby will be born in the Northwest Territories in the next few days. Shortly this child will leave the hospital to begin a new life in a community. If this child grows and develops within the community and chooses to remain there as an adult s/he will represent a potential investment in excess of $1.3 million if they earn income averaging $25,000.00 per year over a lifetime of work, then begin to receive pensionable benefits.

Doesn’t it make sense then that the community should nurture this potential just as much as it would develop its infrastructure of buildings, roads and grounds.

This session begins with these questions: How much effort are our community leaders putting into protecting this investment? Do these leaders truly value the humans that they serve? How can they maximize this investment?



In the past forty years we have seen great effort expended within our communities designed to provide our citizens with political, economic and social infrastructures. Once specific needs have been identified, these communities then recruit people to specific roles and responsibilities that give rise to a number of structures (departments, agencies, services.) In fact many communities begin to define themselves through these organizations rather though the people themselves. Each community becomes driven by financing, often provided by territorial or federal governments. In a number of instances a long series of budget deficits has impacted on this "outside-in" development process. A return to local autonomy means putting the responsibility for the development of the community back into the hands of its citizens.


Two images come to mind when comparing this structure to that of a living organism

• The image of a SPIDER PLANT

- long stems flowing out from a central source with each stem providing nutrients (economically driven)

• The image of an AMOEBA

- a self-sufficient cell capable of absorbing the nutrients it requires through itself.
- the key component being the NUCLEUS, or heart (values)


Communities should be defined by what they do to support and enhance human development: Human development that values people. This begins with a commitment to develop the people in the community. The growth and development of the community’s citizens begin by identifying what is fundamentally important to them - their values and beliefs.

Six key elements form the basis for this human development. Briefly, they include:


1. Meaning

Establish Meaning
  • ! The commitment to determine meaning (passion for community) and establish a set of core values that reflect people within the community Once the community has clarified a set of values it has the responsibility to make all citizens are aware of them. All decisions and subsequently, all activities can be held against these values to determine their worth.

    2. Identifying Leaders

    Leaders defined:

    A leader is anyone in the community who chooses to take responsibility for actions that involve community development.

  •  Key ingredients: Community leaders:

    -who models the core values created by community members?

    -who rises above political systems?

  • 3. Establishing a Vision (Preferred Future)

    Preferred Future:

    In the best of all worlds what should your community look like 20-30 years from now?

  • ! The commitment to create innovative, inside-out activities that enhance the growth of citizens. This involves a regular review of the community’s preferred future. (And includes a thorough look at the challenges and opportunities that may appear in the community’s future. The action planning strategy that unfolds from this exercise provides citizens the opportunity to "fit" into the preferred future.

    4. How We Look - To Ourselves and Our Visitors


    Determine what we need to do (function) followed by what we should look like (form)


  •  Key ingredients: Community leaders:

    -who energize the community through its people and their participation

    -consistently employ a citizen focus 

  • The commitment to foster diversity within the community. Community leaders reach out and actively engage all citizens in ongoing activities. They are people-oriented and create opportunities for interrelated performance roles from all cultural groups.
  •  Key ingredients: Community leaders:

    - who involve everyone in an effort to promote healthy relationships

    - who create meaning for all citizens

    - who seek out and develop other leaders

    - who are willing to follow those citizens with specific strengths needed by the community

  • NOTE:

    A look back into the anthropological roots of North America reveals First Nations where individuals (holders of the bundle) emerged to assume leadership roles in a variety of critical community functions. They assumed responsibility not power! Community members found meaning in what they were required to do through these leaders.


    5. Building Capacity

    Building Capacity

    The ability to enhance and support people with specific strengths. This includes assisting those with creative ideas that, when mobilized, will add value to the community. All learning systems (formal and informal require support.)


  • The commitment to "build capacity." That is, continuous improvement of all citizens regardless of their status or level of formal education. The building of capacity is required to achieve continuous improvement. This "learning community" continuously improves the capacity to function effectively and includes community members who choose, or must, work in other communities.
  •  Key ingredients: Community leaders:

    -who recognize that all citizens can assume some responsibility

    -who support feedback from all individuals and groups

    -that focus on learning rather than formal education

    - who identify "learning points" in the community

  • 6. Support

    Supportive Policies and Procedures

    Policies and procedures should be established to support and enhance the strengths of community members rather than serve as barrier to growth and development.

  •  The commitment to create policies and procedures that maximize every person’s strengths. These procedures will require the formation of groups and teams in which participants come from all subgroups in the community.
  • Key ingredients: Community leaders:

    -who support restructuring to enhance the community regardless of the effect on self

    -celebrate all contributions to the community through participation and personal responsibility

    - who support all ways of working

  • 7. Building Immunity

    Increase Community Tolerance

    A tolerant community is able to attract and maintain diverse individuals. A community that fosters the growth and development of everyone will be better prepared to take advantage of opportunities presented to it.


  • The commitment to "build immunity." The community’s immune system has to develop a tolerance of outsiders or "invaders" when it is recognized that these outsiders can contribute to the health of the community. Outsiders, when invited to become involved, often bring new perspectives, knowledge, skill sets as well as a new level of energy when invited to participate. Tolerance requires an effort to make outsiders feel that they belong.
  •  Key Ingredients: Community leaders:

    - who become involved in the selection of outsiders by looking for specific values that support those of the community

    - who support an attitude of abundance rather than scarcity in the community

    - who welcome back those that leave

  • Thoughts on Community Leadership


    Performance Roles Required in All Communities

    (NOTE: Performance Roles are Present When People are Valued)

    Create and sustain a community purpose

  • involve all citizens in the process of establishing a preferred future communities that foster commitment generate the ability to sustain themselves

    Develop key lead learners

  • identify those people in the community who are committed to learning

    seek out natural helpers in all organizations

    involve teachers in community learning activities


    Model shared community values

  • provide opportunities for natural helpers and leaders to model their values

    seek desired models inside and out of the community: do not shut out those who choose to leave


    Define and pursue a preferred community future

  • facilitate focus groups to identify desired outcomes

    undertake "main street" observations and observe positive patterns of behaviour


    Employ a citizen focus

  • link people together to strengthen social, economic and learning initiatives

    gather information on all community members


    Expand the community from the inside-out by keeping open all perspectives and options

  • take responsibility for tracking trends

    develop an understanding of work alternatives

    organize community functions that host visitors


    Involve all community members in productive change

  • understand that change is constant

    assume the role of follower to support the development of future leaders

    look for and acknowledge positive changes in behaviour


    Develop a change-friendly culture of innovation, healthy relationships and quality of life.

  • build strong relationships

    support health related activities as viable options

    welcome all visitors with grace and style

    build a strong immune system


    Develop and assign responsibility to all

  • maximize volunteer effort

    encourage total participation

    build collaborative partnerships within the business community


    Improve the community’s performance standards (child, student, citizen) and feature the results

  • appreciate and celebrate excellence

    build a network of tutors and teachers

    use local information sources to "spread the news"


    Create and use community-based feedback loops to improve contribution and performance

  • identify individuals with specific skill sets

    use "citizen" service feedback surveys to determine "how we are doing"


    Support and manage the community’s VISION

  • use every means possible to reinforce the community’s vision (preferred future)

    keep citizens in the "information" loop to maintain momentum


    Restructure community services to achieve desired results

  • change services to meet the changing needs of citizens

    involve the community in determining services desired


    Establish an effective suggestion system including immediate feedback and action

  • provide an immediate response to citizen suggestions

    involve the citizen making the suggestion in activities requiring action

    consult with elected Territorial and Federal officials on citizen suggestions


  • THE STONY PLAIN (Alberta) Model







    The community of Stony Plain has faced a number of significant financial barriers that developed in the late 70's and early 80's. These barriers slowed the Town’s growth and development especially relating to the ability to compete with surrounding municipalities. The Town needed to position itself proactively in order to respond to the present economic challenges. After several years of unsuccessful attempts to lure businesses to the Town, the Mayor and Councillors made the decision to change its approach to the Town’s growth and development. Rather than target funds towards the creation of an Economic Development Office, the Town created the Mayor’s Task Force on Economic Development chaired by Town Councillor, Barrie Day. The following outline contains the unique approach to community economic development designed by the Task Force that may well serve as a model process for other small communities. The current barriers can be addressed by establishing a coalition approach to development. The strategy should form a base for the ongoing growth and development of the community through the identification and development of people living within the community!


    A Community-Based Model of Economic Development

    The Mayor’s Task Force initiated a process of local consultation that led to the creation of a strategic plan based on a process model designed to foster growth and development from the inside-out. This developmental model was designed to maximize resources identified within Town and the surrounding community. The identified "resources" that exist in plentiful supply are the human resources or base of talented individuals that live in or around Stony Plain!

    Once Task Force members accepted this underlying philosophy, the developmental approach needed to be marketed to community members. The key element of information dissemination to the citizens, organizations and business of Stony Plain included descriptions of the following:

  • Career Development
  • Task Force members spent some time identifying the human resource capacity of people in and around the town. The objective of this exercise was not necessarily to identify those individuals who were in business but to identify the talented people in the community. Of course a number of individuals who did own or operate businesses were singled out in order to determine the business leadership potential currently available. This process was very informal and required no complicated assessment process. Task Force members were simply looking for "experts," or people who excelled in any set of tasks. This list also included a description of the human resources within Town staff, including organizations such as the Ambulance Authority, as well as from voluntary agencies such as the volunteer firefighters.

  • Community Development
  • The Town’s Community Development Director and his committee were tasked with the responsibility of developing an inside-out strategic plan for community growth and development. Keeping the overall philosophy in mind the committee developed a strategy that started with people rather than physical resources and grants.

    Example: A citizen employed in Edmonton in the Tourism Industry was familiar with the process that the Town of Chemainus on Vancouver Island used to "paint" murals on buildings. Using a developmental approach under his direction the Community Development Committee identified local painters, established a five year strategy and began to make Stony Plain, the Town with the Painted Past. The theme was to paint murals on public and private buildings that depicted Stony Plain’s history. All efforts were initiated locally, from the purchase of the paint to the use of a local printer to print the brochures for use by local businesses.

  • The Community Development Director and the Town’s Recreation Director acquired the knowledge and skills required to understand the developmental processes involved in the strategy. A key component was to understand the process that individual’s undergo when making transitions required to launch and expand self-employment or business ventures. This included:

  • Career Development
  • Once the basic philosophy was established, the Town, through the Mayor’s Task Force, needed to alert Provincial and Federal politicians and officials as to the nature of its strategy. As is the case in most jurisdictions in Canada most provincial and federal government incentives and services are aimed at big industry and large businesses. Bureaucratic systems are generally structured and staffed by individuals who offer little in the way of support. This is especially true for small centres that are often unable to access the type of assistance they require. With this in mind, the Task Force assembled information that could assist those that required it. More importantly, the Town’s staff became aware of the sources of this information, especially dealing with employment development and small business start-ups. The committee felt that regular meetings with the Town’s political representatives would be more beneficial.


    The Model and Its Implementation

    The basic assumption underlying the implementation of this inside-out model is that the majority of economically viable initiatives will already exist within the community. The role of the Task Force, and the citizen volunteers within the community was then to foster and assist in the development of any initiative that fit comfortably with the Vision and Mission of the Town. Without discussing the details of the Town’s vision, it is probably worth mentioning that the Town would not encourage any initiative that, for instance, would endanger the environment or the quality of life expectations of its citizens. This strategy is almost directly opposite to economic practices that involve community efforts to seek out business initiatives and then compete vigorously (through land cost and tax concessions) to convince businesses to locate or relocate in its community. This outside-in strategy is common throughout North America. That is not to say, however, that the Town of Stony Plain would turn its nose up to those businesses who sought the town out as an ideal location for its business. These individuals and organizations would probably seek out residence in the Town for who was here rather than for what the Town could offer by way of financial incentives.


    The Town’s philosophy of marketing therefore changed from:


    Who can we convince to come to our Town to set up an enterprise and how can we convince them to come?, to

    Why would anyone want to come to Stony Plain? For our people!

    How can we promote this theme? Through our people!


    In order to capitalize on the talent base within Stony Plain the Mayor’s Task Force proceeded to identify citizens and local area residents who could assist in the identification of this talent. Once the talent was identified, the committee implemented a career development approach generally used to identify employment opportunities to identify the economic sectors that appeared to possess a significant number of the Town’s citizens and other neighbouring residents. This informal assessment of talent uncovered a number of potential facts that led to a number of significant opportunities.

    The two sectors that held the greatest available talent were the Craft and Agricultural Sectors. A survey of the Craft Sector identified 480 craftspeople who lived in Stony Plain or vicinity. Most of the individuals who lived in the surrounding area used Stony Plain as a service centre. The Agricultural Sector was also populated by a large number of individuals who used the Town as a service centre, especially for the agricultural services they required. With this information, the Task Force began to implement a strategy of involvement that focussed on the development of the strengths of the people in each of these sectors. This strategy began with another career development strategy that included the offer to assist individuals to become better at what they did? The Task Force noted that there are few flexible learning systems in place that provide individuals or small groups (e.g., organizations or associations such as the Potter’s Guild) with the mechanisms to further develop the talent required to produce, serve or expand their markets. They also are unable to receive assistance to increase their potential to produce the quantities of product required for distribution beyond the local marketplace. Additionally it was determined that private sector, college or government services themselves do not possess the capacity to provide individuals or firms with the necessary expertise and assistance for their specific learning requirements required for researching new technologies.

    Additionally a number of residents and neighbours could be found in a number of economic sectors that would be of interest to the Task Force. Using the Craft and Agricultural Sectors as a starting point for development, the following sectors could be developed when time and opportunity became available.

    Additionally the Task Force carefully reviewed the potential for partnerships with neighbouring communities. A rural focus that included two counties, Parkland and Lac Ste. Anne especially offer joint venturing opportunities. Based on discussions with a number of people living and working in these jurisdictions Town employees and several Task Force members considered opportunities in the following sectors:

    It should be noted that this list is not all-inclusive. The committee agreed that any sector can be added at a later date. Initiatives would be pursued when the potential partnering community demonstrated an interest. The potential partnership would then proceed with the undertaking of an "inventory" of talent in each community. Once the ball was rolling this activity did not need to be formalized. It began to happen on its own.


    Community-based initiatives often fail to take advantage of the financial assistance that is available to support and expand operations. Individuals, agencies, associations and small businesses are often unaware of the financing that is available to eligible groups and individuals. For this reason the Task Force spend an amount of time with Town employees (Community Development, Recreation and Public Works) to ensure that any information that was available would be circulated throughout the community. This information requirement was not an essential element within this inside-out initiative but any additional information that does exist should be available to those who could profit from it.


    The old saying, the proof is in the pudding! is quite appropriate. A visit to the Town today would demonstrate the success of the initiative. Although the economy did improve, the Town remained in a competitive position with other communities. Two councils have come and gone since the plan was activated but each council supported the basic inside-out approach. It has stood the test of time. The Town of Stony Plain is there for you to see. Welcome!!!!!