Research into "community economic development" initiatives in Gardenton and Winnipeg, Manitoba and on the east coast of Nicaragua reveals some deep misunderstanding about what and whom CED is for. Many CED initiatives paradoxically strive to secure a place within a capitalist economic system for individuals whom the system has already shunted aside on account of their gender, race, and/or culture. An overriding concern for individual economic status causes these initiatives to acquiesce in the social injustice that capitalism metes out to groups.
At a community level, "development" is commonly something done for people who are considered impoverished. Yet people living on the margins may not measure accomplishment merely in terms of individual or material wealth; their vision of a better quality of life is steeped instead in values of family, community, environment, and culture. They may not wish to bring about change so much as to maintain their sense of place. The very idea of "the economy" in these places is different. Why try to reshape them to work within capitalism? We would do better to learn from them how to create sustainable and just alternatives to capitalism.
"The master's tools will never dismantle the master's house." CED has great potential as a strategy of social transformation and empowerment. To achieve this, however, its theory and practice must stay connected to feminism and other streams of anti-oppression analysis.