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Evaluating regional economic development initiatives: Understanding the challenges for rural regions in Ontario

Generously funded by:

Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food / Ontario Ministry of Rural Affairs

Meet the research team:

Lead Investigators

Dr. John Devlin, University of Guelph

Dr. Tara Vinodrai, University of Waterloo

Faculty research team

Dr. Paul Parker, University of Waterloo

Dr. Amelia Clarke, University of Waterloo

Dr. Steffanie Scott, University of Waterloo

Research assistants: Brittany Bruce (University of Waterloo)

Current students: Ryan Lipcsei (University of Waterloo), Karen Sander (University of Guelph), Amina Yasin (University of Guelph)

Past students: Brittany Bruce (University of Waterloo), Tamara Bangura (University of Waterloo), Ryan Deska (University of Guelph), Riaz Nathu (University of Waterloo), Danielle Collins (University of Waterloo), Michael Seasons (University of Waterloo)

Project description:

This study examines emerging best practices in the organization, governance and structure of regional development initiatives in rural Ontario and other jurisdictions in North America and Europe. Rural regions represent groups of communities that cross existing jurisdictional boundaries but that share economically significant resources. The study identifies factors contributing to the success of regional development initiatives and as well as barriers, issues, and challenges to participation of rural communities in regional economic development initiatives and how they can be overcome.

Based on a review of existing programs and case studies, with extensive field work in rural regions in Ontario, the research will inform OMAFRA policymakers and program officers about the roles that OMAFRA and other partner organizations can play in fostering the success of regional development initiatives in rural Ontario. It also identifies appropriate frameworks and mechanisms for evaluation of regional programming initiatives. The appropriate design and delivery of regional development initiatives will lead to prosperity and improved quality of life across Ontario’s rural communities.

Advisory Committee:

Research and knowledge transfer/translation activities

The research team has completed an extensive scan of the international literature on regional economic development, examining both broad-based and sector-based approaches. The project is using a paired case study approach to understand the key factors that help or hinder regional economic development initiatives. Over 180 interviews have been completed with key stakeholders in fourteen case study regions. The paired case studies include:

  • Cape Breton, Nova Scotia - Vancouver Island, British Columbia
  • Four Counties, Ontario - North Country, New York
  • Tech Belt, Ohio/Pennsylvania/West Virginia - Research Triangle, North Carolina
  • Thunder Bay, Ontario - Greater Peterborough Region, Ontario
  • Upstate California - Okanagan Valley, British Columbia
  • Windsor-Essex, Ontario – Niagara Region, Ontario

Reports

Bruce, B. and Vinodrai, T, eds. 2015. Evaluating Regional Economic Development Initiatives: Research Brief Series. Prepared for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. (see above)

Devlin, J., Vinodrai, T., Bruce, B., Lipcsei, R., Deska, R., Collins, D., Parker, P., Clarke, A., Scott, S., 2015. Evaluating Regional Economic Development Initiatives: Final Report. Report for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

Devlin, J., Vinodrai, T., Parker, P., Clarke, A., Scott, S., Bruce, B., Lipcsei, R., Deska, R., Collins, D., Bangura, T., and Sanders, K. 2015. Evaluating Regional Economic Development Initiatives: Policy Backgrounder. Report for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, 2 pages.

Theses / Major research papers

Collins, D. 2015. A framework for analyzing collaboration for regional economic development in southwestern Ontario. MAES Major Research Paper, University of Waterloo. (Supervisor: S. Scott)

Bruce, B. 2014. Value-added agriculture and regional economic development: A comparison of North Country, New York and Four Counties, Ontario. MA Thesis, Department of Geography and Environmental Management, University of Waterloo. (Supervisor: S. Scott)

Bangura, T. 2013. Rural innovation and regional economic development: Policy lessons from the Research Triangle Park and TechBelt regions. MAES Major Research Paper, University of Waterloo. (Supervisor: T. Vinodrai)

Deska, R. 2013. Interjurisdictional collaboration for rural regional development: Bridging the gap between individual and collective interests. MSc Thesis, University of Guelph. (Supervisor: J. Devlin)

Nathu, R. 2013. Exploring networks for regional green economic development: A case study of the Waterloo Region clean tech sector. MAES Major Research Paper, University of Waterloo. (Supervisor: P. Parker)  

Presentations and posters

Vinodrai, T. & Devlin, J. 2015. Evaluating Regional Economic Development Initiatives: Overview. OMAFRA Rural Research Day, Guelph, Ontario, May 8, 2015.

Collins, D. 2015. EREDI: Niagara Region & Windsor-Essex. OMAFRA Rural Research Day, Guelph, Ontario, May 8, 2015.

Bruce, B. 2015. EREDI: The North Country & The Four Counties. OMAFRA Rural Research Day, Guelph, Ontario, May 8, 2015.

Sander, K. & Devlin, J. 2015. EREDI: Northwest Ontario and Greater Peterborough. OMAFRA Rural Research Day, Guelph, Ontario, May 8, 2015.

Lipcsei, R. 2015. EREDI: Cape Breton & Vancouver Island. OMAFRA Rural Research Day, Guelph, Ontario, May 8, 2015.

Deska, R. 2015. EREDI: Upstate California & Okanagan Valley. OMAFRA Rural Research Day, Guelph, Ontario, May 8, 2015.

Vinodrai, T. & Bangura, T. 2015. Bringing rural communities into regional economic development? Lessons from the Research Triangle & TechBelt Regions. OMAFRA Rural Research Day, Guelph, Ontario, May 8, 2015.

Devlin, J. & Vinodrai, T. 2015. Evaluating Regional Economic Development Initiatives: Policy Lessons. OMAFRA Rural Research Day, Guelph, Ontario, May 8, 2015.

Bruce, B. 2014. Evaluating regional economic development initiatives: A comparison of North Country, New York and Four Counties, Ontario. New Realities, New Relationships: National Rural Forum, Canadian Rural Revitalization Foundation (CRRF) and Community Development Institute (UNBC) Conference, Prince George, British Columbia, September 25-27, 2014.

Bruce, B., Lipcsei, R., Scott, S. & Vinodrai, T. 2014. Evaluating regional economic development initiatives, OMAFRA Rural Research Day, Guelph, Ontario (April). Awarded second place in the student paper competition.

Devlin, J.F. 2014. Evaluating regional economic development initiatives: The EREDI Project, OMAFRA Rural Research Day, Guelph, Ontario (April).

Devlin, J.F. 2014. Collaborative potential: Evaluating regional economic development initiatives. New Realities, New Relationships: National Rural Forum, Canadian Rural Revitalization Foundation and Community Development Institute (UNBC) Conference, Prince George, British Columbia, September 25-27, 2014.

Bruce, B., Lipcsei, R., Scott, S. & Vinodrai, T. 2013. Evaluating regional economic development initiatives, OACFDC Annual Conference, Sarnia, Ontario (September).

Deska, R. 2013. How others cooperate in regional economic development, Southwest Economic Alliance (SWEA) Assembly, Goderich and Huron County, Ontario (June).

Devlin, J.F. 2012. Evaluating regional economic development collaborations in the food sector: Comparative cases from the Okanagan and Sacramento Valleys. Creating Rural Connections, Canadian Rural Revitalization Foundation (CRRF) and Alberta Rural Development Network (ARDN) Conference, Olds, Alberta, October 11-13, 2012.

Articles and media

Bruce, B. 2015. Rural Research Day 2015: What can we learn about collaboration and regional economic development? REAP Ontario Blog (May).

Bruce, B. 2015. Bigger is not always better when it comes to collaboration. REAP Ontario Blog (January).

Bruce, B. 2014. Four lessons to consider when engaging in regional collaboration. Higher ED Blog (December).

Bruce, B. 2014. Ontario's Four Counties Region: Collaboration and economic development. REAP Ontario Blog (December). 

SSTI. 2014. Recent research: Is bigger better in economic development? SSTI Digest (October).

Bangura, T. 2013. What does regionalism mean for innovation in rural communities? The Higher ED Blog (December).

Beattie, S. 2013. Mobilizing regional resources for rural development. Research Magazine: 2012-13 Agri-Food Yearbook Edition. 27:1 20.

Internal working papers

Bangura, T. 2012. Innovation and regional economic development: A scan of the international literature. EREDI Working Paper.

Deska, R. 2012. Value-added agriculture and regional economic development: A review of the literature. EREDI Working Paper.

EREDI Research Team. 2012. Evaluating regional economic development initiatives: Review of contemporary literature and case study discussion. Presentation to the EREDI  Advisory Committee, Waterloo, Ontario (April 25, 2012).

EREDI Research Team. 2012. Evaluating regional economic development initiatives: Project overview and case study selection. Presentation to the EREDI Advisory Committee, Waterloo, Ontario (May 23, 2012).

Nathu, R. 2012. Regional approaches to developing the green economy. EREDI Working Paper.