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Using University Expertise to Build Strong Communities
Research Works, March 2001

A Carleton University centre is helping to make the connections between the building blocks of strong communities across Canada.

The Centre for the Study of Training, Investment and Economic Restructuring (CSTIER) is a link between the community and Carleton University, explains Ted Jackson, the Centre’s Director. “We work with Canadians, especially rural but also urban, to help them address economic challenges and develop their own solutions to create jobs and strengthen their communities.”

CSTIER also takes special care to involve groups that are often excluded from economic development plans, like the unemployed, immigrants, youth, and women.

“As a university, the first thing to do when connecting with a community is to listen – and then to act,” says Jackson. “It’s important to not just propose a solution to what we perceive as the problem.”


By using both qualitative and quantitative research to add value to what the community groups were already doing, CSTIER has, for example, helped communities design training programs, done feasibility studies for small business plans and set up a geographic information system to trach social issues like homelessness.

CSTIER has been an action-oriented research unit under the Faculty of Public Affairs and Management since 1993. Because it is multidisciplinary, it brings together faculty and students from various Carleton departments at the same time as it links the University and the community.

“Many of our projects draw together disciplines that don’t normally work together, like social work and business, for example” says Jackson.


CSTIER’s most successful and wide-ranging linking mechanism is the Community Economic Development Technical assistance Program, or CEDTAP.

In past years, CEDTAP has received $3 million for national program funded by the J.W. McConnell Foundation of Montreal. The project has helped over 100 communities access the business and planning advice they need to strengthen local organizations and generate new enterprises and jobs.

In October, CEDTAP received another $5 million from the McConnell Foundation to continue the project for another five years with the goal of helping 500 communities. CSTIER plans to raise an additional $5 million raised from corporations, other foundations and governments.

“We use these funds to remove the barriers of distance and money that usually separates the communities from the specialized expertise they need,” says Jackson.


CEDTAP sets up a three-way contract between the community organization, itself and the technical expert. It can send an expert from Nova Scotia to the Prairies, or vice versa. Once CEDTAP has put the right consultant in touch with a community, using technology for services like on-line coaching keeps the project cost efficient.

One example of CEDTAP’s focus with a local impact for the Ottawa community was the “Investing in Women’ Worth” project. It developed a training manual to set up savings and credit programs for female entrepreneurs – a task that would have been impossible without CEDTAP’s $2,500 grant.

“It’s rare to have a Canada-wide program that enables all citizens – francophones and anglophones – to exchange experiences about community projects, challenges, obstacles, methods, with no politicians or institutions in the middle, so people really learn from each other,” says Jackson.


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