Five Wings of Community Development


There is, however, a recognition within CD movement sub-groups exist. But the typology below is my own, although I believe it simply makes explicit the movement distinctions long-evident within CD.

In “As Two Ships”, and in my forthcoming book, “Twilight of Growth“, I argue CD evolved through the 19th and 20th centuries, developing and incorporating a variety of “influences/perspectives” into its approach. I call these CD sub-approaches (the academic in me) “wings”. I think it extremely helpful to better appreciate the historical roots, and the flow of each wing–as well as making explicit the pivotal role of foundations, not only as resource providers, but more as policy innovators.

The CD wings are:

  • the Elect: First Wing
  • the Missionary-Foundation Wing: Second Wing
  • Socio-Economic-Political Mobilization: Third Wing
  • Black Political Culture and Experience: “Fourth” Wing
  • Professionalism and Policy-Specific Siloization on Steroids: Fifth Wing

In this module, we will discuss the first three wings–all of which can be found in 19th century American ED. The Fourth and Fifth Wing both made their initial appearance in the last decade of the 19th Century and solidified in the early 20th. Future Theme 3 and Theme 4 modules will deal with their formation and dynamics.

The ELECT: the First Wing

Bloomberg: aka Neoliberal

Bloomberg: aka Neoliberal

This CD wing was CD’s first, and has proven to be its most durable and adaptable. Philosophically it is indebted to Puritanism. The Elect began with John Winthrop, Massachusetts first governor, and its modern variant was inaugurated by Boston’s second mayor, Josiah Quincy (1823-9). Its appeal has been to large firm business leaders, now corporate elites like Gates, Buffett, Dimon, Zuckerberg, Bezos–and Michael Bloomberg. The simple existence of this wing presents a challenge and tension with other wings. But it is the progenitor of many a CD foundation, and its power provides an umbrella-like protection to others. It is the Elect who have used an activist government most aggressively to accomplish desired social ends.

Poorly understood, this wing dominated hegemonic Big City chambers during the 19th century, were often the social reform mayors/governors of the Progressive Age, and created and led the municipal research EDOs which provided capacity and protection to 20th century municipal government. Robert Moses’s first professional job was with New York City’s municipal research bureau, and his first assignment was the city’s civil service system. After WWI the Elect increasingly transferred its attention and interest to the national government–and to global capitalism. CED, founded to assist FDR during the Depression and War Years was far from the last of a succession of think tanks (Brookings, for example) that arose during the Transition Era. Sage, and Ford foundations provided page-turning leadership in the evolution of CD. It is the Elect that pioneered the first CBD urban renewal in 1944 Pittsburgh.

It should be comforting, and evident, to many that business elites and corporate elites are not all Elect. Nor do they have to be Yankee and of Puritan descent. The Elect have been consistently stronger in the hegemonic North/Midwest/Pacific Coast–but they can be found in any region or state. In the 21st century Elect is a state of mind, a continuum, a philosophic, secular approach to which many a corporate leader is naturally attracted. Most corporate leaders, and the middling business elites, however, display remarkably lower interest and involvement with this wing.  Corporate/business elites and the Elect are not synonymous–to the contrary. Most are the heart and soul of Privatism.

How well does the Elect fit into my above definition–rather uncomfortably I must confess–as will my last wing. Quincy’s charismatic mayoralty did rely on neighborhoods and Boston’s first ward system.  But Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos do not. The link between neighborhoods and the Elect–and its exclusive concern with the municipal level broke down in the 20th century. In many ways, foundations have attempted to close the gap. The Elect’s mission, to preserve and sustain capitalism as a more equitable and viable economic system through concern for rectifying its inequalities, inequities, abuses, and inefficiency/ externalities has been remarkably consistent over the years. Inequality is arguably the gravest threat to system stability. Some of the most aggressive redistributionist policy-making arise from the Elect. Still, that these “Neo-Liberals” are a wing in CD will rest uneasily on many a shoulder.

The Elect distinguishes between political and commercial values, priorities, goals and practices–creating in effect two separate codes of behavior, ethics and policy. Make no mistake, however, the Elect is capitalist, and its political side is firmly rooted in preserving and expanding capitalist growth. The Elects’ political and ED/CD goals call for antidotes to externalities/inefficiencies of market capitalism. The Elect sensitivity to conflicts-of-interest–an inherent feature of Puritanism–is evident, but to many in CD-land is more fiction than reality.

Their consistent tendency to apply business logic/rationality/methods to economic development is evident in strategies like planning, marketing-attraction, clusters, and market/community competitive hierarchies seem instinctive–leading to an overlap with many MED strategies, tools, and practices.  Price sensitive by training and experience, they often try to apply fiscal conservatism to community-jurisdictions–with uneven results. The Elect place special emphasis on modernizing infrastructure and logistic advantages.

The Yankee, New England “Elect” underwent a considerable evolution from John Winthrop, through the American Revolution, and its adjustment to the post-1789 American Republic. No longer confined to New England, Yankee Elect diffused across the nation’s northern and east-Midwestern states, and emigrated to New York City.Out of step with the more populist politics of Andrew Jackson, at wit’s end with immigrants, it was forced to contend with other political cultures. In each new state/territory Yankee-Elect redefined itself and exerted a spectrum of impacts in the formation of new policy systems.

Missionary-Foundation Wing: the Second Wing

Russell Sage

It might be somewhat surprising that an Elect faction, more devoutly religious than secular, inspired by the fervor and moralism of the  evangelical Protestant Second Great Awakening, provided the seed capital, legitimization, and moral support to our second CD wing: the Missionary-Foundation wing. These two wings have remained close over the years.  Using chambers of commerce and port authorities Big City northern municipal policy systems, prodded by businessmen mayors supported by Elect-dominated chambers, fought political machines/unions and carried the Progressive Movement into power.

In so doing they transformed urban governments, literally creating/legislating administrative capacity in municipal and state governments to enable them to assume leadership in ED. After 1790 (until about 1830) the  Second Great Awakening, a profoundly intense, evangelical Protestant movement, led to the “birth” of our Second CD Wing: the Missionary-Foundation Wing.

Caught up in the fervor of the Second Awakening, the Elect bifurcated in the first decade of the 19th century. The more religious and socially-committed Elect, unattracted to political involvement and less tied to business (more to the ministry and education), extended the Awakening’s missionary initiatives to include the pre-immigrant rising Big City urban downtrodden. The urban ministry was composed of ministers, educators, an the emerging professional middle-class, all of which were disproportionately of a new generation–the sons and daughters of the Awakening’s initial leadership.

Concern with jurisdictional economic base was totally left behind, as was thoughts concerning the sustainability of capitalism. In the beginning these younger urban missionaries applied religious morals to the deliver of social services and relief to Panic-stricken urbanites, and the urban underclass. Following tenets which came to be known as the “the Social Gospel”, they labored to change the character and decision-making of the “deserving” disadvantaged through the adoption of religious values. MED was irrelevant at best, harmful at worst, to the resolution of poverty, political/economic inequality, and a deteriorated physical landscape personified in the slum, or today’s distressed neighborhood. A Theme 2 module chronicles Big City passage of an urban ministry into a secular Second Wing of CD.

Founders of the Salvation Army: the Booths

The Second Wing, caught up in the tumult associated with the Civil War, returned to Big City urban poor, now predominantly immigrant, during/following the horrendous Panic of 1873. Panics, recessions and Depressions seem closely linked to the often spasmodic surges to Second Wing activism. That these economic downturns also trigger “privatist” forms of CD is also evident. Following the 1873 Panic  more privatist urban CD in the form of a series of business-led CDOs that gave rise to today’s United Way, the Salvation Army/Catholic American Protective Society, and  the YMCA is testimony to the flexibility inherent in loosely-defined CD, and demonstrates the long-standing participation of “faith-based” initiatives in the approach. By mid-1880 the “settlement house movement” was exported from Great Britain to the neighborhoods of American Big Cities. Traditionally, the settlement house is regarded as the formal founding of the Second Wing. Its story is retold in a Theme 2 module.

If not already evident to the reader, it should be observed the Second Wing injects into CD a serious class tension. Second Wing CD has relied over the years–to the present day–on the resources and involvement of upper-middle and upper classes–and has exhibited a strong, consistent linkage to higher education. As previously described, the Second Wing draws from both the Elect and corporate barons searching for salvation in their retirement years.

As will be further detailed in Theme 4 (the Progressive Age), these elements, each in their own way, will infuse the Second Wing with a considerable number of internal “sub-movements”, like playgrounds, housing, and neighborhood planning. A number of foundations/ philanthropies will be created and will commence page-turning urban projects. In this way, the Second Wing will serve as CD’s “big tent” under which any number of 20th and 21st century initiatives and sub-movements will crystallize. In many ways, the Second Wing has been the seedbox of American CD.

This involvement of the upper classes in the affairs of the working and lower classes, however, is not without its negative implications. The most obvious, and persistent, is the reaction of the lower classes to the “do-gooder” initiatives. The provision of resources, leadership, expertise and “support” means the initiative is mostly defined and sketched out long before it arrives at a neighborhood doorstop. Second Wing “plans for” and elicits lower class participation “in” Second Wing strategies and programs. This will set it apart from Third Wing neighborhood initiatives.

That these Second Wing strategies and problems reflect and include predominantly upper-class concerns, conceptual baggage, and its often-professional values which stress expertise, planning, efficiency, organization, and a “comprehensive” attack on the poverty/inequality nexus–concerns which for the most part are not shared by their clients–has met an uneven, and tepid response from their target audiences, and not infrequently have stirred up a counter-punch from established political forces. Second Wing strategies and programs viewed in this perspective, seem like an unwanted virus injected by needle into an unwilling arm. If MED can be criticized for its closed, usually self-serving capitalistic bias, Second Wing CD especially is vulnerable to its class-based missionary–almost Jihadist–intrusion into somebody else’s world.

The Second Wing strength has been its openness to social services and concern with social problems broadly-defined. It is little surprise that is a weakness as well. Its initial concerns would today be labeled as “social services”. Presently, its range runs from abortion clinics too inclusionary zoning. Yet, not very central to its focus has been employment and jobs–it has never seen itself as a workforce strategy, preferring to stress assimilation, individual empowerment, and/or correction of group-base discrimination and inequities. Housing on the other hand can be argued as its more consistently applied strategy. Its focus on neighborhoods is also a core characteristic. So is planning and experimentation.

Last and Only Tenement House that survived in West_End Boston–on 42 Lomasney Way

Last and Only Tenement House that survived in West_End Boston–on 42 Lomasney Way

This focus on disparite policy areas has, perhaps inevitably, led to the application of professional expertise to the human environment. Infused with professionalism”, use of bureaucracies, and expertise, the Second Wing has served as the training ground for many a budding profession. First social work, then planning, followed by housing, welfare–and so on. During the Age of Urban Renewal, different professional biases and professional policy initiatives played out in a macro-struggle to contain the suburban “exit” through neighborhood modernization, demolition and public housing. Other Second Wing planning professionals



advocated suburban “new towns”, and an abandonment of the central city.

The need for resources and the necessities of the Depression seemingly compelled the Second Wing’s turn to the federal government. Over the next two decades it was unclear which was the tail and which the dog? Symbolically, perhaps emotionally, much of the Second Wing professional associations and think tanks became based in Washington D.C. This only further reinforced its detachment to working/lower class, solidified its linkage with universities and the federal government, and entrenched its bureaucratic policy biases–all of which distanced the Wing from its clientele. Enter the War on Poverty, the Great Society and the 1970’s to the 1990’s, the Golden Era of the Second Wing.

Rachel Carson

More successful was its embrace of environmentalism, pollution-control, quality of life, and growth management, all of which led to a “new urbanism”, attacks on MED’s “growth coalition”, and a metropolitan battle of CBDs against neighborhoods. CD’s refusal to accept the reality of suburbs, however, its contempt for sprawl and all the evils it spawned, only contributed to the distress of CD’s preferred central city. The Big Cities hegemony collapsed, suburban growth continues to this day, and central cities struggled to restabilize their economies and population base. Eventually, a concern and a conceptualization of “metropolitan urban America” papered over the geographical chasm.

Eventually, America’s definition of growth was rethought, and American economic development was redefined in the process–a formidable achievement indeed. Arising from its academic sub-wing, however, came greatest attack MED had ever experienced. Commencing with deindustrialization, than small business and entrepreneurism, clawbacks, sports stadia, incentive wars, and early warning systems, CD pushed back on MED during the Great Reindustrialization Debate. In the Contemporary Era, CD ‘s already close relationship with the Academy intensified.  Virtually no MED strategy, tool or program was left uncriticized. A decidedly Blue State tilt, heavily anti-growth coalition, pro-neighborhood pervaded the academic literature.

Foundation-neighborhood initiatives continued, but evidence of Second Wing concern regarding their performance and effectiveness was mounting. After the Great Recession a number of foundations conducted extensive and intensive analysis. Other foundations/think tanks tried to fashion a CD niche in MED innovation and knowledge-based ED using entrepreneurism and neighborhood-level seed capital. Pushed more to the sidelines by new CD mobilization movements such as Occupy and Black Lives Matter, and ethnic neighborhood groups–and shunted aside by a rising identity politics, the Second Wing seemingly had begun a search for new meaning and relevance in a period of economic, social and political change.

Socio-Economic-Political Mobilization:  Third Wing:

The Third Wing is where the CD “action” almost always gravitates to in nearly every period of American ED. This Wing captures the headlines, conducts the marches and protests, advocates for political, economic and social change, and from ED’s perspective extends democracy and ED to the neighborhood level. Broadly speaking there are three distinct Third Wing “types” that have permeated into the substance of American ED:  (1) social-economic reform movements; (2) unions and political machines, and (3) neighborhood-level (sub-municipal) CDOs. Each type relies on “mobilized” participation, i.e. people recruited or attracted to seek change, be it economic, political, physical or social. In this sense they are activist/membership-based CDOs composed of individuals demanding change.

Third Wing CD aggregates or mobilizes people so they can achieve their desired political, social, and economic ends. Social mobilization uses the political process to change a policy system, alter behavior of its economic base firms, and in the Contemporary Era frequently extends political, economic, social and civil rights of CD-targeted groups. However, every so often a social movement imparts such a serious effect on ED, one must acknowledge its impact.

Social Reform Movements–Social reform movements grab the headlines and mobilize hordes. The list is seemingly endless–but that’s ok because while many have serious indirect effects on American ED, most social movements are not ED in nature and need not be dealt with in our history. That social reform movements can alter a community policy system or distort its policy processes–or even “suck the wind” out of usually powerful ED-relevant dynamics–means they cannot be ignored completely. They can usually be considered as an external or systemic environmental factor.

Civil Rights, for example, is a social/political movement we cannot ignore. The City Beautiful Movement–arguably the first national movement in American ED contained substantial Third Wing neighborhood and First Wing adherents. Contemporary identity politics (gender identity in San Francisco politics, Occupy, and Black Lives Matter)  has exerted some interesting community-level impacts. Sanctuary Cities could remind one of the North’s reaction to the Dred Scott Decision.

Dorothea Dix

Social/ political movements may be a sort of substitute for “third parties” which cannot quite jell; frequently they can actually organize into one such as Ross Perot, George Wallace, and NYC’s Working Family Party, Green Party, etc. Abolitionism led directly to the Civil War, and temperance to constitutional amendment. Women’s suffrage certainly was critical–but we could go on, and on.  Let’s focus here on several that exerted acknowledged impacts on ED. When these social reform movements enter into ED, they usually have serious implications. Consider Transition Era environmentalism.

Environmentalism first intruded into ED with the onslaught of baby boomers (end of the Classical Era) and Kennedy-Johnson federal activism. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring had within a decade created the EPA, and triggered brownfield/superfund legislation and the Clean Air and Water Acts (and other legislation as well). Nixon gave us NEPA. Less remembered today was early western state quality of life and environmental awareness that spawned many neighborhood-based CDOs, and inspired “growth-management” urban-level strategies such as San Diego’s Pete Wilson’s initiatives. Third Wing movements in these years were the essential participants in this transformation. They also had the indirect effect of redefining urban renewal in younger western major cities.

California was ground zero for growth management, and regional planning; Portland and Seattle–and tons of other cities–followed suit. Environmentalism as practiced by the U.S. Department of Interior arguably triggered the Sagebrush Rebellion. We then moved on to Smart Growth and New Urbanism. Whether or not we want to think of the Sierra Club, and zillions of like-minded interest groups, as CDOs, a nation-wide think tank and advocacy complex came into existence.

By the time we entered into our Contemporary Era, Classical Era definitions of economic growth had been radically altered–and the day to day exercise of MED profoundly reshaped.  The potential of climate control to redefine economic growth is huge–it certainly has changed ED in California. Environmentalism as a social movement was one of the two or three most important dynamics of the Transition Era.

Martin Lomasney

Unions and Political Machines–The failure of unions to organize into permanent national political parties and rise of ward-based ethnic-racial political machines have been noticeably important to American ED. Neither are conventionally regarded as a “social movement” per se, but they are “people-based”, embraced serious CD-related strategies and programs, profoundly affected urban and state policy-making, and have been (are) serious ED players for whom a place must be made at the ED table.

That 19th century ethnic machines seriously bedevilled the settlement house Second Wing, and rejiggered the transportation infrastructure of Big City America–not to mention precipitate early suburbanization–are just some examples of machine impact on ED. It strains the imagination, for example to think of the neighborhood bar/social club of Boston’s fabled ward-heeler Martin Lomasney as a CDO, but I think it was. Viewed from a functional perspective Tammany Hall and Richard Daley created distinctive municipal policy systems with associated MED/CD policy consequences.

In the first CD-relevant article in this series ” 19th Century CD: Birth of Three Wings“, we will ignore ethnic political machines, and instead focus on a snapshot of Early Republic urban craft unionism. It is little-known, highlights the first example of a third wing to show up in our history, lays the foundation for unions as CD-related, and explains why, unlike in the European experience, labor political parties did not develop. Unions became an interest group. That distinction is major in recognizing differences in European and American ED. The rise of unions, their admittance into the S&L policy systems, will also exert major impact on the flow of regional ED cultures, policy-making and strategies to the present.

Unions, certainly very germane to economic development, generally fall into the interest group classification–not a CDO. One wonders, how they differ from a chamber of commerce, however (they, after all, represent economic interests of their members) which everyone concedes are an EDO? Unions are self-evidently “economic” and are the flip side of MED’s industrial workforce. Right-to-work laws are arguably the most powerful single element of an “attractive” state business climate. Suffice it to say, our history must find a place for these powerful players in our history. I believe they are examples of CD’s Third Wing.

Neighborhood-Level (sub-municipal) CDOs— Without doubt the most numerous of all CDOs in America are those that operate on the sub-municipal level. Neighborhood-level CDOs are the most important CDO dealt with in As Two Ships–and they are the heart and soul of post-Classical Era community development. “Back to the Neighborhood” was an early Transition Era call to arms, and boy did people listen. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

First, let’s recognize that Big City neighborhood CDOs existed as early as the 1850’s. Students of 19th century urban politics know how important these entities were to Gilded and Progressive Age Big City policy systems–there was often a war between ethnic ward organizations and middle-class neighborhood CDOs. Lost in the fog of history was two serious CD neighborhood movements that eventually jelled into the so-called Parks Movement and by the end of the century folded into the City Beautiful Movement (which BTW will be found in the future Theme 2, 3 and 4).

Saul Alinsky

The fellow most identified with CD and neighborhoods is Saul Alinsky. But before him, and from which he drew resources and insight, was a University of Chicago-led “school” of neighborhoods, a recreation/ playground movement that fostered the University of Chicago’s Robert Park’s School of Sociology, the neighborhood succession transition, and a nation-wide relook  at neighborhood affairs. Alinsky, the father of modern neighborhood mobilization carried it to new levels (heavily influenced by unions and using the Catholic Church), and his derivative the Fourth Wing Woodlawn neighborhood association launched the first CDO resistance to urban renewal–itself a Second Wing venture supported by the University of Chicago.

Immigration, a transformational Transition/Contemporary driver of change in American ED, provided the the inspiration and the muscle for probably thousands of ethnic/racial CDOs that crystallized to deal with residential areas/neighborhoods populated by immigrant groups. Municipal politics was revolutionized–and power, across the nation, was brought down to the neighborhood level. Cesar Chavez, Jane Jacobs, Gale Cincotta, Gino Baroni, Barbara Mikulski, ACORN, NHS, South Shore Bank/CDFI,  are commonly recognized major Transition Era  CD neighborhood-level leaders and initiatives.

Gayle Cincotta

Many, maybe most urban policy systems by the Contemporary Era included neighborhoods as major players. Seattle and San Antonio–San Francisco– are well-known examples. The Big Sort, Privatopia/ common interest and homeowner residence associations, Nehemiah housing projects, various faith-based neighborhood initiatives, CRA–and on and on–are Transition Era examples of neighborhood level dynamics, strategies and programs. Gentrification has become a national policy focus. Main Street is found in hundreds of American cities and towns. Third wing generated issues and initiatives are now a pervasive feature of Contemporary Era S&L ED.