Neil Bradford, of the University of Western
Ontario and the Canadian Policy Research Network, engaged in a conversation
Born of Tamarack.
They discussed the current state of research and learning about place-based
community building initiatives.
On this page you’ll find:
Bradford is currently Associate Professor of Political Science at Huron
University College, University of Western Ontario. He is the author of
Conmmissioning Ideas: Canadian National Policy Innovation in Comparative
Perspective (Oxford, 1999), and of numerous chapters and articles
in the fields of political economy, public policy, and regional economic
development. He is a Research Partner in the Ontario Network on Regional
Innovation Systems and holds a Social Sciences and Humanities Research
Council of Canada (SSHRC) grant to study economic innovation and community
politics in Canadian city-regions. Prior to his academic appointment,
he was a policy advisor to the Ontario government, serving the Ministry
of Labour and the Premier’s Council.
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What do we know?
We know that:
- No one actor (individual or organization) from any one sector can
successfully tackle the complex issues confronting us.
These issues are converging in urban areas, where some 80 percent
of us live and work. They cut across traditional policy categories
or silos to focus on social inclusion and economic innovation.
Place matters to quality outcomes. To resolve these complex issues
we must tap into local knowledge, mobilize local networks, and tailor
solutions to particular contexts.
A new generation of community development projects has emerged, based
on sophisticated understandings of collaboration and networks.
- Community action on its own is not sufficient to make progress:
public policy is also important. Especially key are innovative forms
of policy that combine foundational and enabling supports to people
We need both universal social policies for everyone, and targeted
interventions to distressed localities. This involves federal and
provincial – as well as local – government.
- Canada has not been at the forefront of these new understandings.
We have lagged behind Europe and the US. However, there has been a
remarkably burst of experimentation over the last few years. We are
now uniquely positioned to learn from the promising synthesis of local
and national trajectories from Europe and America.
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What do we still need
We need to know more about how to “scale up”
from local experiments to provincial and federal policy processes. This
is critical because of the concern that place-based policy can leave communities
isolated, without the needed foundational support.
We also need to know more about the role and contributions
of municipal government to place-based policy. Much of the debate in Canada
has happened at the macro level.
- Municipalities are on the front lines, closest to the citizens,
and their need to join up different partners places municipal representatives
in often-unfamiliar roles.
We need to better understand the complexity – the constraints
as well as the opportunities – of this kind of government engagement.
One potential constraint is the need to know more about
appropriate accountability and evaluation frameworks suited to this “joined-up”
We also need to know more about how to effectively build
inclusive local collaborations.
- This is especially important with regards to ethno-cultural differences.
It also pertains to tensions between economic actors, such as business,
labour, and anti-poverty organizations.
- We need to find shared spaces and integrating issues to help local
champions bring these diverse groups together.
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What is emerging?
What issues and ideas are on the horizon, emerging as
central for this movement within Canada?
- There is a growing concern about the capacity of the third sector
to sustain a meaningful role in place-based policy and community development.
While the sector is universally recognized as a critical partner in
these processes, this attention is not matched by investments in the
sector’s capacity for researching, networking, representation,
and advocacy. This situation is not viable, and could threaten the
- With the shift from Liberal to Conservative government in Canada,
there is a need to position the place-based communities agenda to
speak to the Conservative model of “open federalism.”
(It was well-positioned to speak to the Liberal’s New Deal vision
of “multi-level governance.”) Will the Conservative talk
of “fiscal balance” extend to support for community development
through municipalities and third-sector organizations?
- The environment is another key issue, and must be front and centre
in the communities agenda moving forward. How can we use our knowledge,
networks, and capacities to fully engage with the environmental agenda?
Sustainable countries depend on sustainable cities.
The urban-rural divide is particularly key in Canada: what can the
place-based approach deliver in terms of community building in both
distressed city neighbourhoods and struggling remote or rural communities?
What positive synergies exist between these different kinds of places
that can be developed further?
We need to consider new governance arrangements for sharing
knowledge and experience about social innovations – what think tanks
in the United Kingdom are calling a “Social Silicon Valley.”
- We need ways of tracking innovations to meet social needs across
a host of priorities, such as poverty, the environment, child development,
budgeting, and so on. In a sprawling, decentralized federation like
Canada, we need to think this issue through, and develop an institutional
locus for such shared learning.
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Works by Neil Bradford
Nexus: Place-Based Public Policy (June 22, 2005) –
In the final issue of Urban Nexus, produced for the CPRN, Neil gathered
a host of resources analyzing various aspects of place-based policy. With
links and summaries for each document, this is a great jumping-off point
for further reading. To access the archived newsletter, click here.
Cities Matter: Policy Research Perspectives for Canada –
In this report, Neil takes stock of current knowledge about the problems
and prospects of our cities. His primary goal is the clarification of
major issues, differing perspectives, and central debates in a rapidly
evolving and complex field of policy inquiry and action. He seeks to provide
a baseline for further public discussion by situating the choices facing
Canadian cities today in their historical context, and in relation to
contemporary intellectual debates about how cities work, and how they
might work better. To read this paper, click here.
and Communities that Work: Innovative Practices, Enabling Policies
– This paper from Neil reviews the literature on cities and communities,
examines a number of Canadian and international case studies, and draws
conclusions on policies and practices to help make our cities work. This
is the second of three papers Neil has written on place-based policy.
To read it, click here.
Public Policy: Towards a New Urban and Community Agenda for Canada
– In the third and final paper in this series, Neil examines the
Canadian setting, finding that a growing recognition of the significance
of “place quality” has not yet been translated into a coherent
policy framework or consistent government action. He proposes four key
elements to a robust place-based framework, and provides case studies
of innovations in Europe and the United States and emerging community-driven
collaborations in Canadian cities. He concludes with proposals for new
intergovernmental and democratic accountability relationships to support
place-based policy. To view this report, click here.
Needs, Challenges, Opportunities – Neil and his colleague
Judith Maxwell took part in a Tamarack tele-learning session to discuss
the issues facing Canadian cities, the importance of place, and repositioning
Canada for urban excellence. To read more, click here.
Neighbourhood Renewal: Towards Creative Neighbourhood Renewal Policies
for Britain – This ANC paper by Duncan Maclennan presents
a study of the Blair government’s “joined-up” approach,
and provides a history of neighbourhood renewal work in Britain over the
last decades. To read this paper, click here.
A Challenge for National and Global Economies – The
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development released this synthesis
paper in 2006. The paper reports on the many challenges facing cities
in the global economy and provides recommendations for tailoring policies
to cities’ unique needs in order for cities to thrive. To read this
report, click here.
Social Role of Local Government – This paper from the
Caledon Institute, produced as a part of the Vibrant Communities initiative,
explores the new and evolving social role of local government. To read
the paper, click here.
Calgary – This organization is an excellent example
of a multisectoral green collaboration, working with a place-based focus
to encourage and support community level actions and initiatives that
move Calgary towards a sustainable future. The group defines sustainable
development as the process of working towards the long-term health and
vitality of the city and its citizens with regard to ecological, social,
cultural, and economic processes. To read more, click here.
Rural Economy Project – Bill Reimer’s work on
the New Rural Economy is an excellent example of policy development on
the rural side of the rural/urban gap. The Project’s goal is to
build capacity in rural communities. It is a collaborative effort bringing
together rural people, researchers, policy analysts, and the business
community. To read more, click here.
Park Plan – Regent Park, in Toronto, has developed
an extensive community revitalization plan. Their unique, decentralized
but place-based process includes the use of community animators who can
engage the culturally diverse residents. Visit the Regent Park Plan website
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| Audio Description:
|Place-Based Policy and the Communities
Agenda: Taking Stock, Moving Forward (runs 01:04:48)
Depending on your internet connection speed, the audio file may
take a few minutes to download.
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was in operation from 2005-2007. This site exists to capture and share
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