Energize Clinton County’s work is based on the belief that the most sustainable change will not be brought about by our programs themselves, but by the way in which these programs are able to transform the community and its citizens. Long term economic development doesn’t arise from short term solution, but instead unfold over time as a community effectively cultivates its assets and resources in order to build wealth and improve the vitality of community life.
The challenges facing rural America are large, but our solutions should not be. One of the most important lessons we’ve learned is the necessity to develop local solutions based on local assets and local resources. We’ve come to see that the model for addressing the needs of rural America need not be filled with prescribed programs and initiatives (as has so often been the case in the past), and instead should focus on building the capacity of communities to innovate and develop locally grown solutions.
To address both the needs and opportunities presented by small towns like Wilmington, ECC seeks to spark a “mass localism” movement that creates sustainable, “community-up” solutions to the economic challenges facing rural communities. The approach is based on the belief that local solutions to macro issues (e.g. poverty and unemployment, energy, food systems) are often more effective, as they reflect the specific needs and resources of communities and engage citizens in taking action. Yet, governments have generally struggled in the past to support genuine local solutions. We have worked to demonstrate that communities that clearly understand their resources, have the capacity for innovation, and have defined goals can create ground up solutions that address state and national priorities. The collective “mass localism” of communities working to address local needs and achieve local aspirations provides a sustainable, cost-effective approach to tackling some our countries more pressing challenges while strengthening rural communities.