Communities across the South already have the assets and capacity to build locally grown and owned wealth and protect other assets such as culture and heritage. Funders and donors may not initially view existing community economic development infrastructure as viable investments. But if philanthropy expands its understanding of community assets and supports innovative, accountable economic development that is truly community-controlled, those investments can be transformative.

How can foundations help communities identify existing assets and capitalize on them? How can foundations support communities to build wealth that is inclusive and protective of local culture? How can Southern economic development be controlled more by the communities it will benefit?

This report explores the link between community-driven economic development and equity in the South. From the coalfields of Kentucky to coastal South Carolina, organizations and institutions are adjusting to changing economic realities and using innovative strategies to build lasting wealth within their communities.

Are you ready to invest in just and equitable economic development in the South? Here’s how to get started:

  • Understand structural inequity and its relationship to economic exclusion and exploitation in the South.
  • Embrace an inclusive, optimistic and pragmatic narrative about the linked fate of Southern communities and the prosperous future ahead.
  • Consider the ways community economic development – with equity and an inclusive narrative – is a promising tool for systemic change in the South.
  • Make long-term, flexible commitments of capital, time and capacity

The South’s economic history is dominated by extractive industry, artificially cheap labor, unbridled economic development, and exploitation of the region’s human and natural resources. As different as the region’s mountain hollers and sea islands may seem demographically, politically and economically, they share this history. The fate of Appalachian coal miners and Lowcountry farmers is linked.