The mantra of ECC has been "make the most of what we have" by plugging the leaks in our local economy. The historic lack of participation on the economic development process in our community has demonstrated that there are many valuable, untapped assets which now need to be cultivated to spur economic growth. To bring out these assets we have focused on three pillars that promote community participation and greater economic awareness: (1) energy efficiency and maximizing the value of our infrastructure, (2) investing in our community by buying local and supporting locally, independently-owned businesses, (3) developing a local food economy around our strong agricultural base.
Our organization's role is illustrated through three major components: policy development, community capacity building, and education. We see each component as interrelated, and that together they serve as a catalyst towards our organizational mission of creating a model for small, rural communities which lack economic capacity and ownership.
What defines us as a development organization is our emphasis on an empowerment approach to rural development, breaking from typical U.S. "top down" approaches and building on international development models. Economic sustainability will not come from policy or business alone, and will only arise through an empowered community that takes ownership for its economic future. Empowering the community in this way is a complicated process, and requires facilitating a shift that is as much philosophical and cultural as economic. We therefore place equal emphasis on education, capacity building, civic engagement, and policy development to support community empowerment.
We believe that this locally-based, bottom-up approach, that is designed around economic sustainability, and which aims to increase local ownership, will provide a new and innovative approach for economically distressed communities, not only in Ohio, but across the country.