Current Projects

In addition to our Community Development Institute and training programs we deliver across the state, CCED also provides technical assistance to communities across Arkansas that address specific challenges facing our communities. Below is a list of our current projects that show how we are using our resources to create a positive impact in Arkansas communities.

Community Development Advanced Year: Murfreesboro

Murfreesboro leadership worked directly with a small group of CDI graduates (community and economic development experts) to develop a high-level community assessment during the week of CDI 2023. To develop the assessment, the Advanced Year class conducted online research, interviews with community leaders, an online focus group, a driving tour, and informal interviews with residents. They shared a community presentation that outlines key opportunities and community leaders will be provided with a report that they can utilize in future planning efforts.

CCED staff is continuing to support the community by developing an Advanced Year report and convening leaders to identify next steps.

Community Catalyst Program

Through the Community Catalyst program, our team at UCA in partnership with Entergy Arkansas (Entergy) and the Stennis Institute at Mississippi State University has already assisted five Arkansas communities in Entergy’s service territory ( Wynne, Searcy, Magnolia, Monticello, and Harrison) and is currently assisting two additional communities (Vilonia and Mt. Ida). The program utilizes grassroots citizen engagement and technical assistance training to develop small, actionable community and economic development goals that will serve as a catalyst for longer-term economic development engagements and priorities.

Community Catalyst utilizes a process called Strategic Doing. Strategic Doing is an innovative community development tool that, unlike traditional strategic planning, focuses on immediate, impactful small wins and goals to create transformation in communities. Strategic Doing enables people to form collaborations quickly, guide them toward measurable outcomes and make adjustments along the way. Strategic Doing enables leaders to design and guide new networks that generate innovative solutions. It is a new strategy discipline that is lean, agile and fast – which is what communities need to survive and thrive in our current global economy.

All communities who participate in the Community Catalyst program receive the following services:

  • Initial planning meeting that will include a driving tour of the community and an overview of the process
  • Community survey to identify the strengths, needs, and wants of the community
  • Brainstorming session with key community leaders (the Executive Team) to identify the community’s appreciative question
  • Strategic Doing planning session
  • Assistance with the community’s first 30/30 meeting
  • Assistance developing a communications plan and best practices
  • Short one-year summative report of activities completed through the Catalyst program
  • Coaching for the Executive Team
  • $1,000 towards a Community Catalyst mini-grant
  • Follow up assistance as needed

Learn more about the impact of the program here:

Walk Audits

We partner with Crafton Tull to conduct an interactive walk audit with community leaders of selected communities to develop place-making concepts and solutions for circulation (vehicular, pedestrian and bike), parking, universal access, low impact development concepts, way-finding, beautification and community character improvement. The walk audit will include one full day of one-on-one interaction and assessment of a 3×3 block area of the community’s downtown. Crafton Tull will share a presentation with the community that will focus on accessibility in the built environment to the walk audit attendees. The presentation will discuss best practice site planning methods with respect to complete streets, accessible parking, crosswalks, sidewalks, trails, and other circulation facilities.

FIT Assessment

A First Impressions Tour (FIT) is an assessment tool that can provide a community with an unbiased perspective of its strengths and weaknesses. The assessment is truly a “first impression” of a community. A group of community leaders will swap places with one another to complete an assessment (via a day-trip) of one another’s communities using the First Impressions Tour assessment tool provided by the University of Central Arkansas (UCA). They will then take their findings and share them via a report and virtual debrief meeting. The information gathered can be used to provide general direction for future community development efforts by identifying broad categories of community assets and/or areas for growth.

FIT assessment includes information gathered through various avenues: demographic and market data, discussion with community leaders and citizens, online assessment, and a driving tour of the community. This information is compiled into a simple report that analyzes a community’s online, physical, social, and economic infrastructure and provides a list of possible “Next Steps.” The FIT process is facilitated by CCED, Arkansas Economic Developers and Chamber Executives, Crafton Tull, and the Arkansas Economic Development Commission’s Division of Community Development.