A new report released by the Social Research and Demonstration Corporation (SRDC) indicates that communities can play an important part in improving local development and helping populations at risk of social exclusion. Engaging Communities in Support of Local Development: Measuring the Effects of the Community Employment Innovation Project on Communities is the latest in a series of reports presenting the results of the Community Employment Innovation Project (CEIP), a demonstration project that is testing an alternative form of income transfer payment for the unemployed, which encourages work and simultaneously supports local community development. While previous reports have focused on how participants have been affected by the project, this report looks at the effects on communities.
In exchange for their entitlements to Employment Insurance or Income Assistance, CEIP offered individuals work on community projects for up to three years, giving them a significant period of stable income as well as an opportunity to gain work experience, acquire new skills, and expand their network of contacts. CEIP’s design emphasized the central role of communities, which were responsible for identifying and prioritizing their local needs and then developing projects that would employ CEIP workers to meet those needs.
Results suggest that, despite some initial early implementation challenges, communities can effectively engage, organize, and mobilize their resources to develop projects that both provide meaningful employment for participants and address a range of locally identified development needs. Each community that participated in CEIP organized a representative and functional board, which developed a strategic plan and made decisions about the community’s use of CEIP resources. Communities then successfully mobilized over 250 local organizations to develop CEIP projects that would employ participants.
In addition to responding to two central needs of non-profit organizations – the availability of human resources and flexible, longer-term funding arrangements – CEIP also appears to have generated improvements in a number of other outcomes critical to community capacity. Residents were better able to preserve their social capital and experienced some improvements in social cohesion and inclusion in local community life. CEIP research findings also suggest that a number of positive changes have taken place for key groups that were of high priority for community boards, including youth, seniors, and those with low incomes.
CEIP was implemented in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality in Nova Scotia beginning in 1999. The project was conceived by Human Resources and Social Development Canada (HRSDC) and is funded jointly by HRSDC and the Nova Scotia Department of Community Services. The project is managed by SRDC, a non-profit social policy research organization that specializes in developing, implementing, and evaluating large-scale, long-term demonstration projects to test innovative social policies and programs.
For more information on CEIP, please contact Eliza Bennett, Communications Manager, at 613-789-9695 or David Gyarmati, Project Director, at 613-237-5298.