Community Development Philosophy, Strategies and Programs
CEI strives to be a leader in sustainable community development. The 1987 Brundtland Commission report, Our Common Future, defines sustainable community development as "meeting the needs of the current generation without compromising the ability or opportunity for future generations to meet their needs." This widely accepted definition is inherent in CEI's mission.
We also describe our work in sustainable community economic development as 3E investing - achieving economic, equitable, and environmental outcomes from our work. CEI seeks to integrate the 3Es into all of its programs. By providing business loans or venture capital financing, we help local companies either start or continue operations (economic). By requiring the company to hire low-income individuals to fill a portion of new jobs created, we provide jobs for people in need (equity). We also offer assistance and expertise in environmental best practices for businesses (environment). Achieving all 3 Es in every investment or project may not be realistic, but it is our goal as we work with businesses and communities and in our own internal practices.
As a community development entity, most of our successes will be project-specific, at the local or regional level. Our initiatives include financing businesses and affordable housing, developing natural resources like fisheries, forests and farms, creating sustainable communities, developing Maine's workforce and brokering employment opportunities, and creating policies that build on our mission and our 3E approach.
Sustainable community and economic development is also a global issue, and we participate in policy and development activities at the international level. CEI Development Services provides consulting services and training to community economic development practitioners and policymakers in the US and abroad. In 2002, CEI President Ron Phillips attended the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa. The event highlighted the disparities between industrialized and developing countries, the correlation between environmental degradation and poverty, and the impacts of economic policies (e.g., agricultural subsidies) on rural developing nations.
At the national level, CEI works with other community development organizations to broaden the practice of 3E investing. In 2003, we took part in a peer learning exchange with Shorebank Enterprise Pacific, in Ilwaco, WA. We shared experiences and the assumptions underlying our approaches to community development, how we measure our impact, and ideas for furthering a 3E perspective with other community developers around the country. The experience was so helpful that we are working to broaden the peer learning exchange concept to other similar organizations throughout the country. In the spirit of sharing, CEI will be updating its introspective case study, Sustainable Development in Practice: A Case Study Analysis of Coastal Enterprises, Inc.'s Experience, in which we examine our theory of community development, our approach to this work, and implications for ourselves and the field.