Too Small for Economic Development? 5 Strategies for Teeny Tiny Places.

Hastings downtown streetYou’re a small community in rural Ontario. You have a stable or declining population, no downtown core, no economic development officer and no strong drivers of economic activity. Give up, right? Not so fast…

Economic development is a means to an end goal, which is community well-being. And Teeny Tiny Places can improve community well-being as much as any other place. They simply work on a different scale and with a different toolkit.

 Five strategies for Teeny Tiny Places:

  1. Work from your strengths. There are assets that are unique to your community. These could include:
    • Natural features
    • Historical assets
    • Agricultural products and history
    • Skills, knowledge and expertise of your residents. Community mixers and social gatherings can suddenly reveal a wealth of experience right in your backyard. Exceptional designers and artists, grant writers, community organizers, craftspeople, fundraisers, and elders who may have firsthand accounts of historical events are probably a part of your community.
  2. Make a plan. What is a reasonable, achievable goal you can work towards? How will you get there? What resources do you need? Doing this work will pay dividends when it’s time to involve others, or access funding. There are many resources to guide your planning process, including OMAFRA’s strategic planning guide to help focus your economic development direction.
  3. Make meetings fun. A part of community development is improving community cohesion and relationships. If your group enjoys getting together, they will be more likely to stay involved over time and to bring other volunteers to the project. Food, drinks, and a lighthearted social environment will leave your volunteers with a sense of connection and positivity about the project.
  4. Cultivate leadership and continuityAvoid a situation where only one person has the necessary information on your current projects. You may wish to have two or three people co-chair your efforts, to divide responsibilities and ensure that there is continuity if someone needs to step away for a while.
  5. Know who you need to work with. Cultivate good relationships with municipal staff, and work to understand their point of view. Collaborate with neighbouring municipalities that might have similar interests. Seek out provincial staff who are involved with programs that could help you. Being well-connected will lead to stronger projects and broader support. Ask for help and you might find it!

Want to join our Teeny Tiny Places Community of Practice? Link to similar communities and find out what has worked for them. Access resources that are tailored to your needs. We will be holding webinars throughout the province starting this fall, and in-person meetings once a year in Eastern Ontario. Email Katie.nolan@ontario.ca for more information.