CDC's Geographical Footprint

by Annee
(New York)

Reviewed: June 12, 2024

Visitor Question: Can CDCs have a national mandate or does it have to be local?

Editors Respond: We suppose this is a definitional question, but in our professional opinions, a CDC does place-based work within a particular geography. This means that a CDC could not reasonably hope or intend to cover an entire country.

The work of a CDC is usually at a block-by-block, building-by-building level of detail. They undertake redevelopment and infill projects for both residential and commercial land use purposes. They also become involved in beautification, attracting the right mix of businesses, running events designed to market a neighborhood or other small area, and social services at a minute scale. Work such as this cannot reasonably be accomplished at national scale, especially when we take into account the responsibility of CDCs to consult with, seek guidance from, and represent the community folks.

Don't let this discourage you from whatever is behind your question, however. If your real question is whether you can form a national organization that would address a particular community development problem, challenge, or idea, of course you can do this. You can even begin on a small scale, based on the ideas of one or just a couple of people.

For examples of this, we point you to organizations such as Strong Towns, Community Heart and Soul, or Incremental Development. We are not giving you the links for these because you can find them readily, and we don't want this answer to consist only of links.

Another group of robust and influential organizations were founded by a single very small firm. Our example is Congress for the New Urbanism.

Yet another group can trace their origin story to a university, where no doubt one or two professors came up with the seminal idea. Examples are the asset-based community development movement (now based from the ABCD Institute) and Everyday Democracy.

You can find many more ideas by reading in our website (see the sitemap and looking at our newsletters (back issues accessed at the newsletter archive page.

So while we don't think it is advisable to spend another minute daydreaming about a national CDC, it is very worthwhile to distill your key idea or ideas into a simple platform or purpose statement, and then start evangelizing in the community development field. Start where you are, in New York, and expand outward, using social media and your LinkedIn network.

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