By Carl W. Treleaven, Past District Governor

President/Chair of the Rotary Action Group for Community Economic Development and the Rotary Club of Saint Petersburg, Florida, USA

October is the month in which Rotary celebrates Community Economic Development as one of its seven areas of focus.  What exactly is Community Economic Development, and why is it so important to Rotary members?

Simply put, Community Economic Development involves two key things:
  1. Supporting the creation of sustainable businesses locally; and
  2. Creating or enhancing sustainable jobs that go with those businesses. 
Sometimes these are single-employee businesses that are operated out of one’s home or small farms, and in other cases, they could have hundreds, even thousands, of employees. 
Rotary and Rotaract clubs focus on several different types of Community Economic Development projects. These include:
  1. Village savings groups (self-managed groups that meet to save their money and access small loans from those savings)
  2. Microfinance
  3. Vocational training and professional development
  4. Graduate scholarships related to Community Economic Development
  5. Agricultural development/training
  6. Mentorship and support for business owners
  7. Community youth/leadership development
  8. Enterprise incubation/development
  9. Community-based basic emergency preparedness
  10. Community resilience and adaptation
Rotary is built upon the idea of creating networks to help each other out and solve problems.
The brilliant insight of Paul Harris, Rotary’s founder, was that you could bring a broad range of business and professional people together to help each other and use the very same group to help their communities. Your Rotary or Rotaract club includes members with vocational expertise who can help your community with local and sustainable economic development. And you can cast a wider net by connecting with regional experts from the Community Economic Development sector through your District’s Resource Network.
Support from the Rotary Action Group for Community Economic Development
The Rotary Action Group for Community Economic Development is Rotary’s worldwide community of experts in community economic development. We can help your club or district address the economic development needs of your local community. Beyond that, we can help you do the same beyond your local community by supporting you through meaningful and sustainable partnerships.
Everywhere I go in the world, I see incredible, innate entrepreneurial ability. Even in the poorest, remotest villages, people show an amazing capacity to create businesses that sustain their families. We – Rotary and Rotaract members – can help unleash and empower that innate entrepreneurial ability in so many ways and make communities better.
What can you and your fellow club members do? 
I suggest four things:
  1. Invite a speaker to talk about some aspects of community economic development. 
  2. Get members of your club’s leadership to talk with other local leaders in your community about economic development. What are the key economic development needs in your community? Does your community develop and support community-based emergency preparedness services to assist in improving economic resilience?  How could your Rotary or Rotaract club play an important role in addressing those?
  3. Visit the Rotary Action Group for Community Economic Development website to learn more about what we’re doing. If your Rotary or Rotaract club is particularly interested in economic development, we can help you. Likewise, if you or your fellow club members are especially interested in this subject, we welcome you to join our group.
  4. Encourage your fellow Rotary and Rotaract club members with expertise in economic development to get involved, sharing their expertise to make your community, and others around the world, a better place.

Rotary’s commitment to community economic development is a testament to our belief that everyone deserves the opportunity to prosper. By supporting sustainable businesses and jobs, we can help to create more vibrant and equitable communities around the world.