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A Community and Economic Development Section for ASPA

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By William Hatcher
August 2, 2016

In 2012, I started my PA Times column with the goal of encouraging public administration scholars and practitioners to focus on community development. In my opening column, I argued that the fields of public administration and community development can benefit from a cross-pollination of research and practice. The function of community development is inherently an administrative one. Development professionals and scholars can benefit greatly from management research within our field and public administration can learn from community development’s focus on cultivating sustainable communities.

This focus on community development and public administration has led me to examine a wide-range of administrative topics, such as public-funding of sports stadiums, the influence of politics on local development and town and gown partnerships. The diverse nature of the topics addressed by my column demonstrate the fact that a focus on community development can point public administration toward a collection of meaningful research question.

connect-20333_640Since my inaugural column, I have found a group of excellent scholars, who are also interested in studying the intersection of public management and community. These scholars are Dr. Ashley Nickels at Kent State University, Dr. Colleen Casey at University of Texas at Arlington and Dr. Prentiss Dantzler at Colorado College. To help build a network of scholars interested in studying the administrative features of community development, we would like to form a community and economic development section for the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA). Additionally, as scholars involved in studying and teaching community development, we wish to learn how others in our field define development.

To accomplish these goals, our group is currently working on a research project that seeks to survey members of ASPA. With the research, we hope to gauge the membership’s support for a new ASPA section dedicated to community development and learn the membership’s viewpoints on how our field teaches and studies community development. Achieving these two research goals will help us improve community development policy and strengthen our communities.

We have drafted a web-based survey to help us answer our research questions. As individuals involved in public administration, we request your help by completing our research’s survey. The survey can be accessed by clinking the hyperlink below. Please be sure to read the letter of consent before you start the survey.

Take our survey

As mentioned, research focused on community development is a fruitful area of public administration that may help us answer some of the major questions in our field. For instance, my interest in community development and public administration has led me to explore the following in my peer-reviewed research:

By focusing on community development, my colleagues, in our working group, have conducted a number of peer-reviewed studies that have contributed to the public administration literature. Here are a few examples:

We argue that a community development section will help us grow our network of scholars and produce even more relevant studies for public administration. Such collective exchange will help us understand an area of public administration that is very important to the future of our field. Government and nonprofits must practice principles of sustainability to adapt to future governance challenges.

Community and economic development is a growing part of public administration. Today, community as well as economic development is a key function of government, especially at the local level. In 2010, the Census reported that local governments employed approximately 104,000 people in community development and housing. Local economic development professionals are starting to see their work as public administration not business administration.

Our field needs to continue the growth in community development research and teach the topic in our programs so that our graduates can be qualified to work in this exciting area of local administration. By assisting us with our research, you will help inform public administration about community development and contribute to the collective exchanges of ideas in ASPA.


Author: William Hatcher, Ph.D. is an associate professor and director of the Master of Public Administration program at Augusta University. He can be reached at [email protected].  (His opinions are his own and do not necessarily represent those of his employer.)

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The American Society for Public Administration is the largest and most prominent professional association for public administration. It is dedicated to advancing the art, science, teaching and practice of public and non-profit administration.

2 Responses to A Community and Economic Development Section for ASPA

  1. Pingback: Community and Economic Development: The Collaborative Conversation | PA TIMES Online

  2. Brynne Reply

    August 3, 2016 at 10:56 am

    Thank you for spearheading this.

    In my experience, “community development” projects are dominated by developers and Chamber of Commerce types who have their own agendas–which are often at odds with the public interest.

    Most people’s everyday lives are more affected by
    what happens in their communities than by what happens in Washington–or even their state capitols. Fostering involvement by ASPA, as well as offering its expertise, can do much to promote more citizen engagement with local economic development planning as well as creating communities that “work” for regular people. That is, ASPA can help to bring the public back into the process.

    I have taken your survey and you can put me on your list.

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